Francisco Vasquez de Coronado

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado




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Francisco Vasquez de Coronado


Coronado was born in Salamanca, Spain, the son of noble parents. After years of haggling over his family's estate Coronado left Spain penniless and settled in Mexico City. Francisco did not remain poor for very long. Before long, he married the daughter of a royal treasurer whose father was the son of King Ferdinand. Coronado now moved in the same circles as the viceroy's court. After only a short time he found himself appointed acting governor of “New Galicia,” or Mexico as we call it today.

At this time, all of Mexico City was excited about the prospects of another wealthy Native American kingdom that was just waiting to be conquered. Then, when Cabeza de Vaca arrived after walking across North America everyone went crazy. Cabeza told tales of great wealth in the interior of North America. Viceroy Mendoza immediately sent out an expedition to see if the stories of great wealth were true. He assigned Fray Marcos lead the small group of men. They were told to find the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola.

Finally, after a great deal of time had passed Fray Marcos returned. Marcos said that he had seen the fabled Seven Cities and its great riches. Now everyone wanted to go. The news of the padre's discovery spread through Mexico City like a sickness. Governor Coronado spent over fifty thousand ducats to help finance the venture, and Viceroy Mendoza contributed over sixty thousand ducats.

On February 22, 1540, 336 men, and 1,000 Natives Americans left Mexico City traveling northward in search of riches. Along the way they found very little food, and largely they survived on corn bread. The trip was so strenuous that both horses and men died on the way. Mostly they followed a trail, but at times they were forced to blaze their own way. Eventually, Coronado passed through the Sonora Valley, and then moved west through what we now call Arizona. They were now in the heart of Zuni territory, when suddenly in front of their eyes was the first of the cities. It was an adobe pueblo called Hawikuh and it had nothing of value. Before long, they discovered that the Seven Cities were seven small villages, and that the word Cibola pertained to the province where they were found. One by one Coronado and his men explored the neighboring villages looking for gold, silver, or jewels. The finest of the villages called Tiguex. Some of the homes they found here stood as high as seven stories. They were made of stone and adobe brick. Almost everyone was naked except for a loin cloth that covered their private parts. Very little of value was found. It didn't take long before Coronado realized that Father Marcos had lied.

Before long, the people of Tiguex rebelled against the Spaniards. The siege lasted for 50 days. Their weapons were mostly stones and crude bows and arrows. They were no match for Spanish steel. Over two hundred Native Americans died. Eventually, they ran out of water and had to give up and surrender. In order to make an example out of them, Coronado's men decided to burn them at the stake. However, the people of Tiguex would have no part of it and again they put up a valiant fight. In the end all of them died. Before he and his men returned home, Coronado saw buffalo on the Kansas plains, and discovered the amazing Grand Canyon.