Spanish Exploration in North America

Among the earliest Spanish expeditions to the North American mainland were Juan Ponce de Lon’s expeditions in 1512 1513 and 1521 and Pnfilo de Narvez’s in 1528. Both expeditions began their journey in present-day Florida. Ponce de Lon’s expedition, although often portrayed as carried out in search of a fountain of youth, was, in fact, in search of gold and slaves. Ponce de Lon was not well received by the native peoples he met, and he died in 1521 after having engaged in battle with a group of natives. The innovative cylindrical projections of Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator in the latter half of the sixteenth century, collected in his landmark Atlas (1595), coincided with the peak of early European exploration. (The Stapleton Collection/Bridgeman Art Library) Narvez’s 1528 expedition from Santo Domingo to the Gulf Coast of North America in search of gold was even more ill-fated. Some 600 men were reduced to just 80 after a series of shipwrecks stranded them on the Texas coast. An arduous overland journey back to Mexico killed off all but four members of the original expedition. They were received quite differently, at least through part of their travels, than Ponce de Lon’s expeditions had been. No doubt, part of the reason was that this small band of explorers could not risk making enemies of the native peoples they met, as the larger Ponce de Lon expedition could. According to one of the expedition members, lvar Nº±ez Cabeza de Vaca, the Native Americans he and his fellows met as they traveled through Texas and on to Mexico regarded the Europeans as godlike people or children of the sun. Another Spaniard who visited the North American mainland in search of gold was Hernando de Soto, who traveled through the U.S. Southeast from 1539 to 1542. De Soto and his men began their expedition in Florida, and they saw the Savannah River, the southern Appalachians, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River, and parts of eastern Oklahoma during their travels. Having read the accounts of earlier Spanish expeditions, de Soto knew that some Native Americans regarded the Spanish as godlike. He tried to use this knowledge to his advantage upon encountering new groups of native peoples, claiming that he and his men were also children of the sun. This strategy proved of little advantage to de Soto, as he and his men meant resistance from Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws they encountered during their travels. De Soto responded with a brutal campaign of destruction and murder. One of the reasons that the Spaniards faced resistance from native peoples was because they carried weapons with them in their expeditions to find gold and slaves for the Spanish Crown. This militaristic approach often made the very first encounters between native peoples and the Spanish explorers especially violent ones. Besides using a militaristic approach, the Spanish and later Europeans were able to conquer the indigenous peoples they encountered largely through the diseases brought from Europe, which proved deadly to many natives. Native Americans did not have antibodies to protect them from smallpox, influenza, and other illnesses. In some cases, whole communities were completely wiped out by these diseases, the diseases sometimes reaching native communities even before Europeans did. The Spanish also sent expeditions to the New World to establish settlements. In 1565, they established St. Augustine in Florida. In 1568, Spanish Jesuit missionaries set up missions in Georgia and South Carolina. And in the early 1570s, the Spanish tried and failed to establish a mission in Virginia. In addition to Spanish Jesuits, Spanish Franciscan missionaries also explored the North American mainland. Above all, Franciscan missionaries came to convert the native peoples to Christianity and to use them as laborers for the colonies the Europeans hoped to establish. After Juan de O±ate’s successful establishment of a settlement in present-day New Mexico in 1598, Spanish Franciscan missionaries soon arrived and converted many eastern Pueblos to Christianity. Hernando de Soto – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia The four chapters of this fun and colorful comic tell the story of … Explorers of America ***

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