Francisco Vásquez de Coronado Biography
Francisco Vazquez de Coronado was a Spanish conquistador who became one of the first Europeans to discover the Grand Canyon and sight many other important landmarks. As an explorer he led extensive expeditions to faraway lands primarily in the hope of finding the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. Even though he could never find the precious treasures he sought, he did discover several important physical landmarks in the American Southwest while searching for the legendary cities of gold. Born into a wealthy aristocratic family in Salamanca, Spain, he received a comfortable upbringing. As a young man he travelled to New Spain where he found the support of Antonio de Mendoza, the viceroy of Mexico. He soon landed a government position and married the daughter of a prominent and influential man. Eventually he settled into a life marked by power and prosperity when he heard rumors of a faraway land abundant in gold and riches located to the north of Mexico. He set out on an expedition to seek out these lands himself. Over the course of his extensive explorations, members of his party became the first Europeans to sight the Grand Canyon. They continued their search for the Seven Cities of Gold through what is now Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. However, the expedition could not find the riches they sought and returned home disappointed
- Francisco Vazquez de Coronado was born into an aristocratic family in Salamanca, Spain c.1510. He was the second son of Juan Vázquez de Coronado y Sosa de Ulloa and Isabel de Luján. His father held various government positions.
- Coronado travelled to New Spain (present-day Mexico) in 1535 as a young man of 25 with the support of his friend, Antonio de Mendoza, who was the first viceroy of New Spain.
- While in New Spain he got married to the daughter of the colonial treasurer and managed to land a position with the government. Eventually he rose up through the ranks and was appointed as the Governor of the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia (New Galicia), a province of New Spain located northwest of Mexico in 1538.
- In the 1530s, stories were rife that there were cities abundant in gold and precious gems located to the north of Mexico. Coronado sent Friar Marcos de Niza and Estevanico on an expedition in 1539 to see if there was any truth to these tales.
- Only de Niza returned alive from the expedition and he told the governor about a golden city called Cibola whose residents were assumed to have killed Estevanico. De Niza mentioned that the golden city was very wealthy and stood on a high hill.
- Excited about the existence of such a wealthy place, Coronado started planning for an expedition to seek out the riches. He, along with Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, invested their own money in funding the expedition with the mission of finding the fabled Seven Cities of Gold.
- Coronado set out from Compostela with around 300 Spanish soldiers and some 1,000 to 2,000 Mexican Indians in February 1540. They travelled up the west coast of Mexico to Culiacán. Eventually they came to the Sinaloa River which they followed till it led to the course of the Yaqui River.
- After travelling alongside the Yaqui River, the explorers crossed to the Rio Sonora. Further explorations led them to a place which may have been either the present-day Santa Cruz or the San Pedro. Finally after months of travelling through mountains and wilderness, the party reached the city of Cibola.
- However, Cibola was nothing like what Coronado had envisioned—it was not a great golden city but just a village of simple pueblos constructed by the Zuni Indians. Meanwhile, a side exploration led by García López de Cárdenas also failed to find any riches though the group became the first Europeans to view the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River (in modern Arizona).
- Coronado then proceeded to search for another supposedly wealthy region, Quivira. Disillusioned by now, he sent back most of his men and took only about 30 horsemen with him. The search for Quivira also ended in disappointment when the men realized that the fabled land was just a semi-nomadic Indian village. Coronado returned to Mexico in 1542 a disheartened man and resumed his governorship of Nueva Galicia.
- He remained the governor till 1544. The failed expedition forced him into bankruptcy and during an investigation into the expedition, he was charged with several offenses related to his conduct, including neglect of duty. He was eventually cleared on all counts.
- The expedition led by Francisco Vazquez de Coronado from Mexico to present-day Kansas between 1540 and 1542 marked the first European sightings of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. Even though the expedition failed to find the cities of gold it primarily sought, it was of significant historical importance.
- He married Beatriz de Estrada, the daughter of Treasurer and Governor Alonso de Estrada y Hidalgo, Lord of Picón, and his wife Marina Flores Gutiérrez de la Caballería. The couple had eight children.
- Francisco Vazquez de Coronado died of an infectious disease on September 22, 1554, in New Mexico.
- In 1952, the United States established Coronado National Memorial near Sierra Vista, Arizona to commemorate his expedition.
- The Coronado Road in Phoenix, Arizona, was named after him.
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