In 1561 he seized Margarita Island and held it in a grip of terror. When he crossed to the mainland in an attempt to take Panama, however, his open rebellion against the Spanish crown came to a swift end. In due course he was surrounded at Barquisimeto, Venezuela, where he desperately murdered his own daughter and last follower to keep her from being captured. Shortly after this he surrendered and was shot.
He has been seen as a precursor of the Spanish American independence.
Aguirre has twice been represented in the movies: first by Klaus Kinski in Aguirre, Wrath of God in 1973, then by Omero Antonutti in El Dorado