The Explorers: Francisco Vasquez De Coronado
Francisco Vasquez De Coronado is the thirteenth figure in the exploration of North America by non-indigenous people. This was a continuing effort to map and explore the continent and advance the economic interests of said non-indigenous peoples of North America. It spanned centuries, and consisted of efforts by numerous people and expeditions from various foreign countries to map the continent.
The European colonization of the Americas describes the history of the settlement and establishment of control of the continents of the Americas by most of the naval powers of Western Europe. This began with the Norse colonization of North America in the late 10th century CE when Norsemen explored and settled areas of the North Atlantic including the northeastern fringes of North America. The Norse settlements in the North American island of Greenland lasted for almost 500 years though there is no evidence of any lasting Norse settlements on mainland North America.
Systematic European colonization began in 1492, when a Spanish expedition headed by the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sailed west to find a new trade route to the Far East but inadvertently landed in what came to be known to Europeans as the “New World”. He ran aground on December 5, 1492 on Cat Island (then called Guanahani) in The Bahamas, which the Lucayan people had inhabited since the 9th century. Western European conquest, large-scale exploration and colonization soon followed.
Columbus’s first two voyages (1492–93) reached Hispaniola and various other Caribbean islands, including Puerto Rico and Cuba. In 1497, Italian explorer John Cabot, on behalf of the Kingdom of England, landed on the North American coast, and a year later, Columbus’s third voyage reached the South American coast. As the sponsor of Christopher Columbus’s voyages, Spain was the first European power to settle and colonize the largest areas, from North America and the Caribbean to the southern tip of South America.
The Spaniards began building their empire of the Americas in the Caribbean, using islands such as Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola as bases. The North and South American mainland fell to the conquistadors, precipitating an estimated 8,000,000 deaths of indigenous people, primarily through the spread of Afro-Eurasian diseases. Some authors have argued this demographic collapse to be the first large-scale act of genocide in the modern era. Florida fell to Juan Ponce de León after 1513. From 1519 to 1521, Hernán Cortés waged a campaign against the Aztec Empire, ruled by Moctezuma II. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, became Mexico City, the chief city of what the Spanish were now calling “New Spain”. More than 240,000 Aztecs died during the siege of Tenochtitlan, 100,000 in combat, while 500–1,000 of the Spaniards engaged in the conquest died. Other conquistadors, such as Hernando de Soto, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, and Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, pushed farther north. To the south, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire during the 1530s. The centuries of continuous conflicts between the North American Indians and the Anglo-Americans were less severe than the devastation wrought on the densely populated Meso-American, Andean, and Caribbean heartlands.
The British colonization of the Americas started with the unsuccessful settlement attempts in Roanoke and Newfoundland. The English eventually went on to control much of Eastern North America, the Caribbean, and parts of South America. The British also gained Florida and Quebec in the French and Indian War.
Other powers such as France also founded colonies in the Americas: in eastern North America, a number of Caribbean islands and small coastal parts of South America. Portugal colonized Brazil, tried colonizing the eastern coasts of present-day Canada and settled for extended periods northwest (on the east bank) of the River Plate. The Age of Exploration was the beginning of territorial expansion for several European countries. Europe had been preoccupied with internal wars and was slowly recovering from the loss of population caused by the Black Death; thus the rapid rate at which it grew in wealth and power was unforeseeable in the early 15th century.
Eventually, most of the Western Hemisphere came under the control of Western European governments, leading to changes to its landscape, population, and plant and animal life. In the 19th century over 50 million people left Western Europe for the Americas. The post-1492 era is known as the period of the Columbian Exchange, a dramatically widespread exchange of animals, plants, culture, human populations (including slaves), ideas, and communicable disease between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres following Columbus’s voyages to the Americas.
Henry F. Dobyns estimates that immediately before European colonization of the Americas there were between 90 and 112 million people in the Americas; a larger population than Europe at the same time. Others estimate that there were about 60.5 million people living in the Americas immediately before depopulation, of which 90 per cent, mostly in Central and South America, perished from wave after wave of disease, along with war and slavery playing their part.
Francisco Vasquez De Coronado
Francisco Vasquez De Coronado (1510 – September 22, 1554) was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who led a large expedition from Mexico to present-day Kansas through parts of the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542. Vázquez de Coronado had hoped to reach the Cities of Cíbola, often referred to now as the mythical Seven Cities of Gold, which is a term not invented until American gold-rush days in the 1800s. His expedition marked the first European sightings of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, among other landmarks. His name is often Anglicized as “Vasquez de Coronado” or just “Coronado”.
Francisco Coronado began his expedition in February 1540. He had about 300 Spanish soldiers, several hundred natives, and herds of horses, cattle, and other livestock. They were traveling to lands northeast of New Galicia. This area had yet to be explored by the Spanish, even though they controlled much of the land. They began by heading north, along the West Coast of Mexico. They then went through Culiacan, the Yaqui River, and crossed the mountains into present day Southeast Arizona.
In July 1540, Coronado and his men came upon what they thought was their first discovery of the golden cities of Cibola. What they actually came upon was the Native American pueblos of present day New Mexico Zuñi tribe. Pueblo is Spanish for “village” or “town.” Pueblos were a group of homes lived in by Native Americans, especially the Pueblo people. Coronado came in and conquered the town of Hawikuh where he set up camp. Cibola fell short of Coronado’s expectations. There were none of the gold or other riches he had expected to find.
In the fall of 1540, they moved their base to the Rio Grande in what is now central New Mexico. Coronado soon sent out two scouting parties. One party, led by Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, became the first Europeans to discover the Grand Canyon. The other party found more pueblos in the Rio Grande Valley.
In the Tiguex area (near modern day Albuquerque and Bernalillo, New Mexico) they began a battle agains the Pueblo natives. This battle lasted several months before it ended. After his men re-joined Coronado, they settled in for winter near what is now present day Santa Fe, New Mexico. Coronado was still disappointed that he had found no treasures. But his hope was restored in 1541 when he heard stories of a new land filled with riches.
After winter ended, Coronado was ready for the second part of his expedition. One of the native slaves had told Coronado of a new land to the northeast. The capital of this land, called Quivira, was said to be very rich.
In April 1541, Coronado and his army marched toward Quivira. They crossed the Pecos river and Palo Duro Canyon. They soon arrived at the Great Plains where they saw herds of buffalo. They continued across the Northwest part of present day Texas and Oklahoma, and finally arrived at Quivira in present day Kansas. Coronado spent about a month exploring. They found a village of the Wichita Native American tribe, but found none of the riches his slave had told him. The slave confessed that he made up the story, so Coronado had him executed. Coronado returned to Cibola, where he spent another winter. After winter passed, they began their journey back to Mexico.
Vázquez de Coronado returned to the Tiguex Province in New Mexico from Quivira and was badly injured in a fall from his horse “after the winter was over”, according to the chronicler Castañeda—probably in March 1542. During a long convalescence, he and his expeditionaries decided to return to New Spain (Mexico).
Vázquez de Coronado and his expedition departed New Mexico in early April 1542 leaving behind two friars. His expedition had been a failure. Although he remained governor of Nueva Galicia until 1544, the expedition forced him into bankruptcy and resulted in charges of war crimes being brought against him and his field master, Cárdenas.
Vázquez de Coronado was cleared by his friends on the Audiencia, but Cárdenas was convicted in Spain of basically the same charges by the Council of the Indies. Vázquez de Coronado remained in Mexico City, where he died of an infectious disease on September 22, 1554. He was buried under the altar of the Church of Santo Domingo in Mexico City.
Francisco Vázquez de Coronado caused a large loss of life among the Puebloans, both from the battles he fought with them in the Tiguex War and from the demands for food and clothing that he levied on their fragile economies. However, thirty-nine years later when the Spanish again visited the Southwestern United States, they found little evidence that Vázquez de Coronado had any lasting cultural influences on the Indians except for their surprise at seeing several light-skinned and light-haired Puebloans.
Next Explorer: Hernando De Soto
Previous Explorer: Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo
- Cibola – The seven cities of gold. (2015, June 4). Ancient History Encyclopedia. https://www.ancient.eu/article/804/cibola—the-seven-cities-of-gold/
- Council of the Indies. (2018, August 22). 403 Forbidden. https://pares.mcu.es/Bicentenarios/portal/en/consejoDeIndias.html
- Francisco Vazquez de Coronado. (2002, August 15). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_V%C3%A1zquez_de_Coronado
- The kingdom of Quivira, Kansas – Legends of America. (n.d.). 403 Forbidden. https://www.legendsofamerica.com/kingdom-of-quivira-kansas/
- PBS – THE WEST – The journey of Coronado. (n.d.). PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. https://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/one/corona1.htm
- Timeline 1540-42 – Coronado explores the Southwest, Cardenas discovers the Grand Canyon. (n.d.). HIDDEN HISPANIC HERITAGE. https://www.hiddenhispanicheritage.com/timeline-1540-42—coronado-explores-the-southwest-cardenas-discovers-the-grand-canyon.html