1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Coronado, Francisco Vasquez de

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 7
Coronado, Francisco Vasquez de
14092411911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 7 — Coronado, Francisco Vasquez de

CORONADO, FRANCISCO VASQUEZ DE (c. 1500–c. 1545), Spanish explorer of the south-western part of the United States of America. He accompanied Antonio de Mendoza to New Spain in 1535; by a brilliant marriage, became a leading grandee, and in 1539 was appointed governor of the province of New Galicia. The report presented by Fray Marcos de Niza concerning the “Seven cities of Cibola” (now identified almost certainly with the Zuñi pueblos of New Mexico) aroused great interest in Mexico; Melchior Diaz was sent late in 1539 to retrace Fray Marcos’s route and report on his story; and an expedition under Coronado left Compostela for the “Seven Cities” in February 1540. This expedition consisted of a provision train and droves of live-stock; several hundred friendly Indians, Spanish footmen, and more than 250 horsemen. Coronado, with a part of this force, captured the “Seven Cities.” The fabled wealth, however, was not there. In the autumn (1540) Coronado was joined by the rest of his army. Meanwhile exploring parties were sent out: Tusayan, the Hopi or Moki (Moqui) country of north-eastern Arizona, was visited; Garcia Lopez de Cardenas discovered and described the Grand Canyon of the Colorado; and expeditions were sent along the Rio Grande (Tuguez), where the army wintered. The Indians revolted but were put down. The army, reinspirited by the tales of a plains-Indian slave[1] about vast herds of cows (bison) on the plains, and about an Eldorado called “Quivira” far to the N.E., started thither in April 1541, and, with a few horsemen, penetrated at least to what is now central Kansas. Here Coronado found a few permanent settlements of Indians; in October he was again on the Rio Grande; and in the spring of 1542 he led his followers home. Thereafter he practically disappears from history. The first description of the bison and the prairie plains, the first trustworthy account of the Zuñi pueblos, the discovery of the Grand Canyon, a vast increase of the nominal dominion of Spain and Christianity (the priests did not return from Cibola), and a notable addition to geographical knowledge, which, however, was long forgotten, were the results of this expedition; which is, besides, for its duration and the vast distance covered, over mountains, desert and plains, one of the most remarkable expeditions in the history of American discovery. In connexion with it, in 1540, Hernando de Alarcon ascended the Gulf of California to its head and the Colorado river for a long distance above its mouth.

All the essential sources with a critical narrative are available in G. P. Winship’s The Coronado Expedition (in the 14th Report of the United States Bureau of Ethnology, for 1892–1893, Washington, 1896), except the Tratado del descubrimiento de las Yndias y su conquesta of Juan Suarez de Peralta (written in the last third of the 16th century, republished at Madrid, 1878). See also especially Justo Zaragoza, Noticias historicas de la Nueva España (Madrid, 1878), the various writings of A. F. A. Bandelier (q.v.); General J. H. Simpson in Smithsonian Institution Report (Washington, 1869), with an excellent map; and Winship for a full bibliography. H. H. Bancroft’s account in his Pacific States (vols. 5, 10, 12) is less authoritative.

  1. He was later killed for deception, and confessed that the Pecos Indians induced him to lure Coronado to destruction.