Coronado, Francisco Vázquez de (1510–1554)

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The late 1530s and early 1540s witnessed a remarkable series of encounters between Spanish explorers and native North Americans. In the Southeast, Hernando de Soto cut a path of death and destruction through parts of ten future states. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sailed and charted over 1,000 miles along the Pacific coast. And, in the Southwest, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led a huge expedition from 1540 to 1542, which traveled from the northern part of New Spain into present-day Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Coronado was born in Salamanca, Spain, in 1510. Since he was the second of four sons, and the family estate had already been promised to his older brother, his chances for advancement at home were slim. In 1535, he moved to Mexico as part of Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza’s retinue. Through his relationship with the viceroy, Coronado gained the governorship of Nueva Galicia, which contained parts of the modern Mexican states of Sinaloa and Nayarit and most of Jalisco. Inspired by the incredible journey of Cabeza de Vaca, in 1538, Mendoza and Coronado sent the Franciscan Fray (Father) Marcos de Niza at the head of a small exploring party, which contained Cabeza de Vaca’s famous slave Esteban, through the unknown territory to the north. Esteban was killed at Cíbola a Zuni town but Marcos returned to tell a fantastic story, comparing the material wealth of New Mexico with that of Mexico and Peru. It is now likely that Fray Marcos never actually visited Cíbola, fearing his fate would be the same as Esteban’s. On his glowing recommendation, however, Coronado outfitted a much larger expedition. It consisted of 300 Spaniards, more than 1,000 conquered Native Americans from throughout Mexico, and about 1,500 horses. A group of Franciscans, led by Fray Marcos, accompanied the expedition as well. Many of the young Spaniards, including Coronado, had never engaged in a journey of reconnaissance or conquest before. Upon reaching Cíbola, Coronado was shocked by the discrepancy between Marcos’s description and the actual situation; he branded the Franciscan a liar and sent him back to Mexico. Coronado’s large army proceeded to attack and subdue the town, which was turned into a base of operations for future exploration. One Spanish party seized a Hopi pueblo. When they heard word of a great river to the west, another party struck out in that direction. Although they came upon the Grand Canyon, they did not find anything they termed of value there. Other members of the Coronado expedition explored the vast territory to the east, including the pueblos of New Mexico. In this depiction by nineteenth-century artist Frederic Remington, the Spanish conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado leads a massive expedition north from New Spain in search of gold. The Spanish traveled throughout the American Southwest, but the legendary cities of gold were nowhere to be found. (Private Collection/Bridgeman Art Library) During the winter of 1540–1541, Coronado moved his headquarters to the Rio Grande near Albuquerque, where already tense relations with the Pueblo people took a turn for the worse. Tired of having their food, clothing, and women appropriated by the Spanish, the Pueblo revolted. The Spanish, led by Coronado’s first lieutenant, García López de Cárdenas, retaliated by burning the pueblo at Arenal, smoking out the inhabitants, and burning them at the stake. Some thirteen native towns were destroyed, but the Pueblo people still refused to submit. In the spring of 1541, Coronado moved his main force to the northeast, in search of an allegedly rich kingdom called Quivira, in present-day Kansas. Coronado relied on the word of a native of that country, whom the Spanish called the Turk. The expedition wound its way through the plains of West Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, finding no cities of note, and no visible signs of the country’s alleged wealth. As it turned out, the Turk had been instructed by the Pueblo to lead Coronado’s army to a place where it would starve to death. Discouraged, the Spanish strangled the Turk and then retraced their steps back to the south. The expedition was deemed a failure, and Coronado spent years defending his actions in Mexico City. He died there in 1554, perhaps as the result of a riding injury sustained on the expedition. His right-hand man Cácrdenas was tried in Spain for crimes against the American natives, and he died in prison. Although Coronado did not succeed in finding huge inland empires or great wealth, he did increase Spanish knowledge of the Southwestern region immensely. In the process, however, the Spanish irreparably damaged their reputation and relationship with the Pueblo people. Matthew Jennings See also: Exploration; Spanish Colonies on Mainland North America (Chronology). Bibliography Flint, Richard, and Shirley Cushing, eds. The Coronado Expedition to Tierra Nueva: The 1540–1542 Route Across the Southwest. Niwot: The University Press of Colorado, 1997. Weber, David J. The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992. PPT – Francisco Vazquez de Coronado PowerPoint Presentation – ID … student 18’s blog: Francisco Vazquez Coronado PPT – Francisco Vasquez de Coronado PowerPoint Presentation – ID …

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