Francisco Vásquez de Coronado

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Coronado Sets Out to the North, by Frederic Remington, 1861-1909

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Luján (1510 – 22 September 1554) was a Spanish conquistador, who visited New Mexico and other parts of what are now the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542. Coronado had hoped to conquer the mythical Seven Cities of Gold.



Coronado was born in Salamanca, Spain, the brother of Diego Vásquez and 2nd son of Juan Vásquez de Coronado y Sosa de Ulloa (d. 1532), 5. Señor de Coquilla and 5. Señor de la Torre de Juan Vásquez, Majorats of his family, Corregidor of Segovia and Jerez de la Frontera and Captain General of the Frontier, Prefect of Granada, who was at the service of the Catholic Kings and Charles I of Spain, Regidor of Salamanca and Founder of the Majorat of his House on December 16, 1522, and wife Isabel de Luján (b. Madrid), Dame of the Queen Isabel I of Castile. He was an uncle of Juan Vázquez de Coronado y Anaya, Conqueror, first Governor and first Adelantado of Costa Rica. <ref> [ Origin of Vázquez de Coronado family] </ref>

The most distinguished scion of his family, Coronado went to Mexico in 1535 at about age 25, with the entourage of Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza his partner and a rising star. In Mexico, he married Beatriz de Estrada, called the Saint (la Santa), sister of Leonor de Estrada, ancestor of the de Alvarado family and daughter of Treasurer and Governor Alonso de Estrada y Hidalgo, Lord of Picón, and wife Marina Flores Gutiérrez de la Caballería, from a converso Jewish family. <ref> estrada1 (</ref> Coronado inherited a large portion of a Mexican estate from Beatriz and had five children by her an they also had 5 more children later.

Mounting the expedition

Coronado was the conqueror and Governor of the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia (New Galicia, a province of New Spain located northwest of Mexico and comprising the contemporary Mexican states of Jalisco, Sinaloa and Nayarit). In 1539, he dispatched Friar Marcos de Niza and Estevanico, a survivor of the Narváez expedition, on an expedition north from |Compostela, in present state of Nayarit, towards New Mexico. When Marcos de Niza returned, he told about a city of vast wealth, a golden city called Cíbola, and that Estevanico had been killed by the Zuni citizens of Cíbola. Though he did not claim to have entered the city of Cíbola, he reported that the city stood on a high hill, that it was made of gold, and that he could see the Pacific Ocean off to the west.

Based on this report, Coronado assembled an expedition with two components. One component carried the bulk of the expedition's supplies, and traveled by sea under the leadership of Hernando de Alarcon.<ref>Winship. P. 39-40</ref> The other component traveled by land, along the trail Friar Marcos de Niza had used. Coronado and Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza invested large sums of their own money in the venture. Mendoza, Coronado's friend and fellow investor, appointed him as the commander of the expedition with the mission to find the seven golden cities and take their gold. This is the reason why he pounded his wife's estates and was lended 70,000 more pesos.

"In the autumn of 1539," Viceroy Mendoza orders Melchor Diaz, the commander of San Miguel de Culiacán, to investigate Friar de Niza's findings and on November 17, 1539 Diaz departs on the trail to CÍbola, with fifteen horsemen.<ref name="autogenerated1">Winship. P. 38</ref> At the ruins of Chichilticalli he turns around because of "snows and fierce winds from across the wilderness".<ref name="autogenerated1" /> Diaz encounters Coronado before he has departed San Miguel de Culiacán, and reports that initial investigations into Friar de Niza's report disprove the existence of bountiful land. Diaz's report is delivered to Viceroy Mendoza on March 20, 1540.<ref name="autogenerated1" /> Second hand anecdotal accounts of the existence of Cíbola are facts are verifiable, yet the existence of wealthy cities are not supported, and Coronado tells him not to let this news reach the ears of the men in his expedition.

Coronado set out from Compostela in February 23 1540 at the head of a large expedition composed of 335 Spaniards, 1300 natives, four Franciscan monks (the most notable of whom were Juan de Padilla and the newly appointed provincial superior of the Franciscan order in the New World, Marcos de Niza), and several slaves, both natives and Africans<ref>Winship. P. 32-4, 37</ref>
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The Coronado Expedition 1540–1542

He followed the Sinaloan coast northward, keeping the Sea of Cortez to his left until he reached the northernmost Spanish settlement, San Miguel de Culiacán, about March 28 1540, whereupon he rested his expedition before they began trekking the inland trail on April 22 1540.<ref>Winship. P. 38, 40</ref> Aside from Diaz's mission to verify Fray de Niza's report he also took notice of the forage and food situation along the trail, and he reported that the land along the route would not be able to support a large concentrated body of soldiers and animals. Coronado decides to divide his expedition into small groups and time their departures so that grazing lands and water holes along the trail could recover. At intervals along the trail, Coronado established camps and garrisoned soldiers to keep the supply route open, for example in September, 1540 Melchior Diaz along with "seventy or eighty of the weakest and least reliable men in Coronado's army remained at the town of San Hieronimo, in the valley of Corzones or Hearts.<ref>Winship. P. 60</ref> Once the scouting and planning was done, Coronado led the first group of soldiers up the trail. They were horsemen and foot soldiers who were able to travel quickly, while the main bulk of the expedition would set out, at intervals, later.

After "leaving Culiacan on April 22, Coronado followed the coast, "bearing off to the left," as Mota Padilla says, by an extremely rough way, to the Cinaloa. The configuration of the country made it necessary to follow up the valley of this stream until he could find a passage across the mountains to the course of the Yaquimi. He traveled alongside this stream for some distance, then crossed to Sonora river. The Sonora was followed nearly to its source before a pass was discovered. On the southern side of the mountains he found a stream - the Nexpa, he calls it which may have been either the Santa Cruz or the Pedro of modern maps. The party followed down this river valley until they reached the edge of the wilderness, where, as Friar Marcos had described it to them, they found Chichilticalli.<ref>Winship. P. 40-1</ref> Chichilticalli is in southern Arizona in the Sulfur Springs Valley within the bend of the Dos Cabeza and Chiricahua Mountains which fits the chronicle of Laus Deo description which reports that "at Chichilticalli the country changes its character again and the spiky vegetation ceases. The reason is that the gulf reaches as far up as this place, and the mountain chain changes its direction at the same time that the coast does. Here they had to cross and pass the mountains in order to get into the level country".<ref>Winship. P. 143</ref> Though not address they had to have crossed the Gila River, then the Mogollón Rim which generally runs in an east west direction as opposed to the general north-south orientation of the western mountains of Mexico and the United States, and finally the Little Colorado River. Then, they followed the Zuni River drainage into the Cíbola region, in the western part of present-day New Mexico. There he met a crushing disappointment. Cíbola was nothing like the great golden city that Marcos had described. Instead, it was just a complex of simple pueblos constructed by the Zuni Indians. The soldiers considered killing Marcos for his mendacious imagination, but Coronado intervened and sent him back to Mexico in disgrace.

Conquest of Cíbola

Coronado traversed Arizona's Mogollón Rim and from the head waters of the Little Colorado he continued on until he came to the Zuni River. He followed the Zuni until he found the region inhabited by the Zunis. The members of the expedition were almost starving and demanded entrance into the village of Hawikuh. The natives refused, and denied the expedition entrance to the village or trade. Coronado and his frustrated soldiers entered Hawikuh on Coronado's demands when the Spanish requested intelligence and resources. This constitutes the extent of what can be called the "Conquest of Cíbola." During the battle at Hawikuh, Coronado was injured and he had to stay with the Zuni while healing. From the knowledge gathered during this time he sent out several more scouting expeditions.

The first scouting expedition was led by Pedro de Tovar. This expedition headed to the Hopi villages, with the expectation that this region may contain the wealthy Cíbola. Upon arrival, the Spanish were denied entrance to the they cae across, and once again resorted to using force to enter. Afterwards the remaining villages dared to fight the Spanish, but held a meeting and decided not to. Materially, the Hopi region was just as poor as the Zuni, but the Spanish did find out that a large river (the Colorado) lay in the west.

The scouting party returned to Zuni territory and reported their findings. Coronado sent another scouting expedition led by Garcia Lopez de Cárdenas to find the Colorado River. This expedition returned to the Hopi territory to acquire scouts and supplies that could be used to find this river. Members of this expedition reached the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, and became the first Europeans to see the magnificent canyon.

After trying and failing to climb down into the Grand Canyon to reach the river below, the expedition reported that they would not be able to use the Colorado to link up with their ships. After this, the main body of the expedition began its journey to the next populated center of pueblos, which were located along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico.

The Hopis probably purposely mislead the Spanish (already their enemies) by leading them, by a circuitous route, to a high, dry overlook on the Grand Canyon rim. They themselves used far easier, shorter routes from Hopi to the river. The Hopi guides were likely instructed not to volunteer any information of value to the Spanish parties. If this was the Hopi intent, the ruse worked. <ref> Micheal F. Anderson, Living at the Edge, 1998, Grand Canyon Association. ISBN 0938216554 </ref>

Template:Spanish colonization of the Americas

Exploration of the Colorado River

Three leaders affiliated with the Coronado Expedition were able to reach the Colorado River. The first was Hernando de Alarcón, then Melchior Díaz and lastly Don Garcia Lopez de Cardenas. Alarcón's fleet was tasked to carry supplies and to establish contact with the main body of Coronado's expedition, but was unable to do so because of the extreme distance to Cibola. He traveled up the Colorado river until the river entered the lower half of the Grand Canyon. In this exploration he hauled some supplies for Coronado, but eventually he buried them with a note in a bottle. Melchior Díaz was sent down from Cibola by Coronado take charge of the camp of Corazones and to establish contact with the fleet. Soon after arriving at the camp he set out from the valley of Corazones in Sonora and traveled overland in a north/northwesterly direction until he arrived at the junction of the Colorado River and Gila River. There the local natives, probably the CocoMaricopa (see Seymour 2007b), told him that Alarcón's sailors had buried supplies and left a note in a bottle. The supplies were retrieved and the note stated that Alarcón's men had rowed up the river as far as they could, searching in vain for the Coronado expedition. They had given up and decided to return to their departure point because worms were eating holes in their ships. Díaz named the river the "firebrand" river because the natives used fire brands to keep their body warm in the winter. Díaz died on the trip back to the camp in the valley of the Corazones. Don Garcia Lopez de Cardenas saw the Colorado River from the rim of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon while looking for a route that would connect them with Alarcón's fleet.

The Tiguex War

Hernando de Alvarado was sent to the east, and found several villages around the Rio Grande. Coronado set up his winter quarters in one of them, Tiguex, which is across the river from present-day Bernalillo near Albuquerque, New Mexico. During the winter of 1540-41, his army found themselves in conflicts with the Rio Grande natives, conflicts which led to the brutal Tiguex War. This war resulted in the destruction of the Tiguex pueblos and the death of hundreds of Indians.

The search for Quivira

A Native American, whom Coronado called "The Turk," had told him about Quivira, a rich country in the northwest. Deciding to look for Quivira, he took the Turk as his guide and traversed the Llano Estacado and what is now the Texas Panhandle. However, Coronado suspected the Turk was lying about the route and executed him. Other guides led him further north to Quivira, and he reached a village near present-day Lindsborg, Kansas. But his disappointment was repeated: the Quivira people (later known as Wichita) were not rich at all. The village consisted mostly of thatched huts, and not even small amounts of gold could be found. Coronado returned to Tiguex, where his main force had remained behind. Here he spent another winter. Near present day Dodge City, Kansas, Coronado held the first Christian mass in the interior of North America. The site of this mass is currently marked by a large concrete cross called Coronado's Cross to commemorate the event, which took place on June 29, 1541.

In 1542 Coronado was ordered back to central Mexico so that his troops could help put down the The Mixtón Rebellion. He left with two of the Franciscan missionaries who insisted that they stay. Coronado returned to Mexico by the same route he had come. When he arrived in Mexico, the Mixtón Rebellion was already over. Only 100 of his men made it back. The expedition was a complete failure, and though he remained governor of Nueva Galicia until 1544, the expedition forced him into bankruptcy. Coronado retired to Mexico City, where he died on September 22 1554.


Also see Coronado (disambiguation)
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Castle on top of Coronado Heights in Kansas

Dodge City (KS) Community College's nickname is the Conquistadors, in honor of Coronado's expedition, which passed through the future Dodge City area in 1541.

There is a large hill just northwest of Lindsborg, Kansas that is called Coronado Heights. The former owner of the land built a small castle at the lofty summit to commemorate Coronado's 1541 visit to the area. The castle and the area around it is now a public camping and recreation area. The soft sandstone rocks at the peak of the hill are covered in the names of past visitors to the area.

In 1952, the United States established Coronado National Memorial near Sierra Vista, Arizona to commemorate his expedition.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade references a Cross of Coronado. According to the film, this gold cross, discovered in a Utah cave system, was given to Coronado by Hernán Cortés in 1521. It is unclear if any such item ever existed. In addition to this, when Indy captures the cross from robbers aboard a ship off the coast of Portugal, the name of the ship can be seen as 'Coronado'.

In 1992, underground found footage filmmaker Craig Baldwin made the film "O No Coronado!" ( detailing the expedition of Coronado through the use of recycled images from Westerns, Conquest films and The Lone Ranger television series.

In the Western video game Gun, Coronado's fabled golden cross is a central part of the plot. The game's villain, Thomas Magruder, stops at nothing to retrieve the cross he believes leads to Quivira. In addition, Coronado's "second search" for Quivira in 1542 is shown in a graphic prologue at the beginning of the game; however, Coronado and his associates are slaughtered by the Wichita tribe. In the cutscene showing this , Coronado was portrayed as a priest , but in reality he was a soldier.

There is a shopping mall in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that bears his name: Coronado Mall.

A Southwestern-themed hotel in Orlando, Florida is named the Coronado Springs Resort (

High schools in El Paso and Lubbock, Texas, Scottsdale, Arizona, Henderson, Nevada and Colorado Springs, Colorado bear his name: Coronado High School.

A middle school in Kansas City, Kansas is named after Coronado: Coronado Middle School.

A K-8 school in Gilbert, Arizona bears his name as well: Coronado Elementary School.

The Coronado National Forest is located in southeastern Arizona, named in honor of the explorer.

At Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, (southeast of present day Amarillo, Texas) on May 23 1541, his group celebrated the first Thanksgiving in North America, after finding food supplies.

There is also a small "island" (it is really a peninsula) near San Diego named Coronado. Most visitors cross the Coronado Bridge to get there.

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