Francisco Vasquez de Coronado

By Colby K

Life Before Expeditions

Before his explorations, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was born to a wealthy family in Salamanca, Spain; 1510. As a teenager, he left home due to anger towards his parents, who had given his brother their fortune. In 1535, he left Spain for New Spain (Present day Mexico). A man named Antonio de Mendoza accompanied him on this journey, for he had been named viceroy of New Spain and needed to travel there. Within a year of his reaching New Spain, he was married to Beatriz, the young daughter of a former very important treasurer. In the year 1538, Mendoza named Coronado governer of an area in New Spain which currently covers three Mexican states. As governer, he and Mendoza remained friends.

Hunting for Cibola

At such a high point of power, the friends often communicated with the Native Americans there. During a talk, Coronado heard of the legend of the 7 cities of Cibola. He and Mendoza decided to go on an expedition to find Cibola. Mendoza made Coronado leader because he believed that Coronado was responsible and would treat the natives with kindness. Coronado gathered an army of 300 Spainiards, over 1000 natives, and 4 priests, one of which was named Fray Marcos had been brought along for a special reason. He had claimed to have seen Cibola. The men started of on their journey in 1540. However, the men were disapointed soon after the journey started. Marcos said the roads were smooth and easy to travel on, but the opposite was true. Many men soon died from their ignorance from the new land. Poisonous plants, extreme tempertures, and snake bitesled the remaining of the company begin to call it "The Journey Of Death". They soon reached the supposed first city of Cibola, Hawikuh. It bore no riches, and Coronado conquered it in an hour. Marcos, hoping for his life, fled back to New Spain. The six other cities of Cibola were as plain as the first. Coronado wrote a letter home saying, “...Fray Marcos has not told the truth in a single thing he said. The Seven Cities are seven little villages.”

Hope for Quivira

Coronado felt let down, but he did not want the journey go to waste. He sent several scouting parties out in surrounding areas. One party led by García López de Cárdenas discovered a deep gash in the Earth, and another party, led by Pedro de Tovar sighted a huge rock with a flat top. This was today’s Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau. Coronado was pleased by the information. Soon, he met a Native American nicknamed the Turk. The Turk told them about a city named Quivira, which was filled gold and jewels. This made Coronado overjoyed. The company set off, led by the Turk, in search of Quivira. They were soon disappointed, for it was just another Native American village. Coronado executed the Turk, and they began a long and perilous journey filled with native attacks and more deaths. When the reached New Spain, many people felt the journey was a failure. Coronado was later accused of cruelty to the Native Americans and died in disgrace. Today, Coronado is remembered best for the discovery of the Grand Canyon and Colorado Plateau, but mostly because of his brave adventures exploring the American southwest. He may have died in disgrace, but is far being remembered that way.

Picture Credits

Picture in Hunting For Ciblola:

PIcture in Hope for Quivera:

PIcture in Life Before Expeditions:

Francisco Vazquez de Coronado - Mini Biography