Spanish Exploration and Settlement
Spanish Exploration and Settlement
Exploration and settlement of the New World (the European term for North and South America) began in the late fifteenth century as a direct result of events in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. One of the most significant influences was the Crusades (1095–1291), a failed Christian movement to recapture the Holy Land (a region in the Middle East comprising parts of modern Israel, Jordan, and Egypt; today known as Palestine) from the Muslims (followers of the Islamic religion). During four hundred years of interaction with Middle Eastern cultures, Europeans discovered the learning of the Muslims, which enabled them to make significant advances in exploration. For instance, they drafted more accurate maps of the known world, built swifter ships, and charted sea routes by observing the position of the Sun. Another important development was the introduction of luxury goods, such as silks and spices, that came from China and the East Indies (India and adjacent lands and islands in the Far East), which created a thriving market in Europe.
Motivated by visions of huge profits, adventurers were willing to take risks in searching for trade routes to previously unknown lands. At that time, the only way for Europeans to reach the Far East was to sail south along the west coast of Africa and then east into the Indian Ocean. The most direct route was through the Mediterranean Sea, but the eastern end of that waterway was controlled by Turkey, a Muslim foe of the Europeans. Portugal was the first country to send explorers eastward. Financed by merchants, they traveled down the African coast in search of gold and ivory. The Portuguese also became involved in the small but lucrative business of buying African slaves from Muslim traders. Soon Spain began competing with Portugal to find the best trade routes. The Spanish had also assumed the role of defender of Roman Catholicism throughout the world, and they seized the opportunity to conquer new lands and convert "pagans" to Christianity. (Roman Catholicism is a branch of Christianity that is based in Rome, Italy, and headed by a pope who has supreme authority in all church affairs.) Thus the stage was set for the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus (1451–1506), an Italian navigator who sailed for Spain.
After Columbus opened the way into the New World, the Spanish moved into Peru and Mexico, where they conquered wealthy native civilizations. Then in the 1530s they began exploring the southeastern and southwestern regions of North America in hopes of finding more treasure. Spanish settlement in North America was limited to these areas, which are often called the borderlands, by the French (see Chapter 3) and the English (see Chapters 4 and 5). Consequently, Spain did not settle in any of the original thirteen colonies that became the United States. Nevertheless, the Spanish presence in the borderlands—especially on the Atlantic coast and near the Gulf of Mexico—significantly shaped the history of the colonial period.
Columbus finds the "East Indies"
In the early 1480s, Columbus began to seek a sponsor for a voyage of exploration to prove his theory that he could reach China and the East Indies by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean. If he succeeded, he would also confirm a long-held European belief that the world was round. (Contrary to popular belief, Columbus was not the first European to speculate that the world was round. Rather, he was the first to have an opportunity to prove it.) For several years Columbus failed to sell his idea to the king of Portugal, primarily because Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias (c. 1450–1500) had found a sea passage from Europe to India, which was considered the best route at the time. Undaunted, Columbus decided to try his luck in Spain. He first met with Queen Isabella I in 1486. Finally, in April 1492, Isabella and her husband, King Ferdinand V, agreed to finance Columbus's expedition.
On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail from Cádiz, Spain, with three ships—the Santa Maria (with Columbus as captain), the Niña, and the Pinta. At first the expedition made rapid progress. By October 10, however, the crew had turned mutinous (rebellious) because they had not come in sight of land. Luckily for Columbus, two days later they reached a small island in the present-day Bahamas (a group of islands south of Florida). Columbus mistakenly assumed he had reached the East Indies. After going ashore, he spent several weeks meeting the native peoples, the Taino, and exploring the islands. On December 25, 1492, he founded the first European settlement in the Americas on an island he named Hispaniola. Called La Navidad ("the birth"; in commemoration of being founded on Christmas Day, or the birthday of Jesus), it stood on the site of present-day Limonade-Bordde-Mer, Haiti. Columbus returned to Spain in early 1493, leaving twenty-two men at La Navidad.
Becomes harsh ruler
Columbus had no difficulty persuading Ferdinand and Isabella to sponsor a second voyage. When the expedition reached La Navidad in November 1493, however, they found the settlement in ruins. Either the Native Americans had turned against the Europeans or the Spaniards had fought among themselves—no one had survived to tell what had happened. Columbus decided to move 75 miles east, where he started building a settlement called Isabela. He immediately sent a party of men in search of gold while he explored the nearby islands.
Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy, where his family had been textile merchants for three generations. As a young man Columbus served as a sailor on merchant ships and warships in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1476 he went to Lisbon, Portugal, to study mathematics and astronomy, subjects that were vital for navigation. During this time he made several voyages, including one to Iceland. Two years later he married and settled on the island of Madeira, where his son Diego was born. In 1488 he had another son, Fernando, with his Spanish mistress, Beatriz Enriquez. Since the early 1480s Columbus had been trying to find a sponsor for an expedition to prove that he could reach Asia by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean. Finally the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand V and Isabella I agreed to support the venture. Columbus made his first voyage in 1492, when he "discovered" the New World, which he mistakenly assumed was the East Indies. Yet his triumph was short-lived. While he was governor of Hispaniola, he was accused of mistreating Native Americans and he failed to fulfill his promises of huge supplies of gold for Spain. Although Ferdinand and Isabella funded three other expeditions, they eventually lost confidence in him. Columbus spent his final years as a wealthy but disappointed man in Valladolid, Spain, where he died in 1506.
When Columbus returned to Isabela in late September 1494, he learned that his men had found very little gold. He also faced mounting tensions between the Native Americans and the Spaniards. Having been mistreated by the colonists, the Native Americans were organizing an army to drive the Europeans off the island. In retaliation the Spanish took drastic measures, which led to the near-extermination of the native inhabitants of Hispaniola. During the next three years Columbus ruled harshly, imposing heavy taxes on the Native Americans and forcing them into slavery. While he was exploring the islands around Isabela in 1496, a curious incident took place: Columbus assembled his men and made them take an oath that they had been sailing along the mainland of Asia, not the coast of an island. Apparently he was still convinced—or was trying to convince himself—that he had found the "Indies." If he suspected he had made a geographical error, he did not want the news to come from his men.
Spanish Abuses of Native Americans
Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474–1566), a Spanish missionary, witnessed many horrible abuses of Native Americans on Hispaniola. In a report to Ferdinand and Isabella around 1514, he revealed that Spaniards "made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow.... They tore the babes from their mother's breast by their feet, and dashed their heads against the rocks. . . . They spitted [impaled like meat over a fire] the bodies of other babes, together with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords." Las Casas also described the psychological impact of the mistreatment: "In this time, the greatest outrages and slaughterings of people were perpetrated, whole villages being depopulated. . . . The Indians saw that without any offence on their part they were despoiled [robbed] of their kingdoms, their lands and liberties and of their lives, their wives, and homes. As they saw themselves each day perishing by the cruel and inhuman treatment of the Spaniards, crushed to the earth by the horses, cut in pieces by swords, eaten and torn by dogs, many buried alive and suffering all kinds of exquisite [extreme] tortures, some of the Princes . . . decided to abandon themselves to their unhappy fate with no further struggles, placing themselves in the hands of their enemies that they might do with them as they liked. There were still those people who fled to the mountains."
Source: Sale, Kirkpatrick. The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy. New York: Knopf, 1990, p. 157.
Sees South America
Soon reports about the terrible conditions on Hispaniola were reaching Spain. Ferdinand and Isabella were already displeased because they were receiving little gold from the New World and very few Native Americans had converted to Catholicism. No longer confident of Columbus's ability to govern the colony, the monarchs recalled him to Spain in 1496. Columbus tried to persuade Ferdinand and Isabella to send him on a third voyage to Hispaniola. During that time he wore the coarse dress of a Franciscan friar (member of the Roman Catholic monastic order of Saint Francis). His strange attire has never been completely understood. Some historians speculate that he may have adopted it to express regret for wrongdoing, to show humility, or to use as a disguise. In 1498 he succeeded in persuading the king and queen to send him back. On this third voyage Columbus sailed along the coast of Venezuela, thus becoming the first European to see the continent of South America.
New World Named for Vespucci
Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci (1454–1512) led two voyages to the New World for Spain. On the first (1499–1500) he discovered the mouth of the Amazon River, but his second trip was more historic. In 1501 and 1502, when he explored South America, he realized that the two continents in the New World were not part of Asia. In 1507 German mapmaker Martin Waldseemüller published a map showing that North America and South America were separate from Asia. He named the land "America" in honor of Vespucci.
When Columbus returned to Spain in 1496, he had left his brother Bartholomeu in charge at Isabela. Bartholomeu had subsequently moved the settlement to the south side of the island, to a place called Santo Domingo. Upon reaching Santo Domingo in August 1498, Columbus was beset by problems. The Spaniards could find only small quantities of gold, and they no longer had enough native workers. Friction had also continued between the surviving Native Americans and the colonists. Death and sickness were rampant, supplies were scarce, and living conditions were poor. Soon the Spanish colonists were openly challenging Columbus's authority.
Sent back to Spain in chains
Finally Ferdinand and Isabella sent Francisco de Bobadilla to replace Columbus as governor of Santa Domingo. When de Bobadilla arrived in 1500, he found the colony in chaos. The bodies of seven rebel Spaniards were hanging in the town square, and Columbus's brother Diego was planning to hang five more. Columbus himself was trying to put down a rebellion on another part of the island, and Bartholomeu was making similar efforts elsewhere. After arresting all three men, Bobadilla ordered that they be put in chains and sent back to Spain for trial. Although Columbus subsequently lost all of his titles except admiral, during his years in Hispaniola he had become a wealthy man. In 1502 he set out on a fourth voyage to the Caribbean, but the trip ended in humiliation: he had to be rescued after spending a year stranded on the island of Jamaica. Ferdinand refused to send Columbus on another expedition, so the explorer spent the last three years of his life in splendid retirement at Valladolid, Spain.
Conquistadors invade Mexico and Peru
Although Columbus's career ended in personal disappointment, the explorer opened the way for European conquest of North and South America. During the early 1500s Spanish settlement spread to other Caribbean Islands—present-day Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba—that Columbus had visited. While Columbus's wild promises of huge deposits of gold and other riches failed to materialize, the Spanish still made comfortable profits from tobacco, sugar, and ranching in the Caribbean. Soon they moved onto the mainland of South America and set up trading posts in Venezuela and Colombia. Then in 1519 Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) led an expedition into Mexico in Central America, conquering the Aztec empire ruled by Emperor Montezuma II (1466–1520). In Mexico the Spaniards found advanced civilizations that had perfected sophisticated architectural and agricultural techniques. They also discovered an abundance of gold and silver, which enticed other Spanish conquistadors (conquerors) to mount expeditions to the continent. Francisco Pizarro (c. 1475–1541) invaded the Incas of Peru (a country in South America) in 1531, and in 1541 Spaniards conquered the Maya in Central America.
They Came from the East
The following poem was written by the Maya in 1541, after the Spanish conquered the native peoples of Central America.
They came from the east when they arrived.
Then Christianity also began.
The fulfillment of its prophecy is ascribed [attributed] to the east . . .
Then with the true God, the true Dios,
came the beginning of our misery.
It was the beginning of tribute [a form of taxation],
the beginning of church dues, the beginning of strife with purse-snatching,
the beginning of strife with blow-guns [European weapons];
the beginning of strife of trampling people,
the beginning of robbery with violence,
the beginning of forced debts,
the beginning of debts enforced by false testimony,
the beginning of individual strife,
a beginning of vexation [worry].
Reprinted in: Elliott, Emory, and others, eds. American Literature: A Prentice Hall Anthology. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1991, p. 25.
Balboa Sees Pacific Ocean
In 1510 Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa founded a settlement called Darien on the isthmus (a narrow strip of land connecting two larger land masses) of Panama. Three years later he led a small party across the mountains in the center of the peninsula. Legend has it that on the morning of September 25, 1513, Balboa and his dog climbed a peak and looked out over a vast ocean. Balboa thus became the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from its eastern shore.
Spanish move into Southeast
While conquistadors were conquering rich empires in Peru and Mexico, the Spanish were also pursuing tales of riches farther north. Beginning in the late 1530s, they simultaneously explored two principal regions: the Southeast (modern-day Florida, Alabama, and South Carolina) and the Southwest (modern-day New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, and Texas). The Spanish initially moved into Florida and several years later were accidentally made aware of possible treasures in the Southwest.
The first European explorer to venture into present-day Florida was Juan Ponce de León (1460–1521), who had founded a colony in Puerto Rico in 1508. In March 1513 he led an expedition in search of the "Fountain of Youth," which he had learned about from Native Americans. According to their myths, anyone who drank from the fountain would be restored to youth. The following month Ponce de León arrived on the west coast of a peninsula, which he mistakenly thought was an island, and claimed it for Spain. Since his discovery occurred during the Easter season, he called the new land La Florida for the Easter feast Pascua Florida. Ponce de León spent some time exploring the coast down to present-day Key West (an island at the western tip of Florida) before returning to Puerto Rico. In 1514 he was granted a commission (authority) to colonize "the isle of Florida." Seven years later he took two vessels, two hundred men, fifty horses and other animals, and farm implements to La Florida. The expedition landed on the west coast near present-day Charlotte Harbor or Tampa Bay. They were immediately attacked by Native Americans, who wounded Ponce de León with an arrow. The Spaniards escaped to Cuba, where Ponce de León died soon afterward.
Stranded party explores Southwest
By 1521 Spanish explorers had traveled along the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and Spanish slave traders had gone as far north as the Santee River in present-day South Carolina. Seven years later Pánfilo de Narváez (c. 1480–1528) set out with four hundred men to conquer and settle La Florida. The Spanish ships landed on the west coast in April 1528. Disregarding his captain's advice, Narváez abandoned the ships and marched into the interior in search of gold. The expedition was attacked by Native Americans near the site of present-day Tallahassee. The Spaniards made their way to a bay on the Gulf of Mexico and constructed five boats, in which they hoped to travel along the coastline to a Spanish outpost in Mexico. They set sail in September. Commanding two of the vessels were Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (c. 1490–1560) and Andrés Dorantes de Carranca. Sailing with Dorantes was his African-Moroccan slave, Estevanico (c. 1500–1539).
In November the small fleet was hit by violent storms. The only survivors were the parties led by Dorantes and Cabeza de Vaca, who wrecked off the coast of Texas, possibly on Galveston Island. They spent the winter on the island, and by spring 1529 only fifteen men of the original eighty were still alive. Thirteen of them, including Estevanico and Alonzo de Castillo, another survivor, left Galveston to try to reach Mexico by walking overland. Cabeza de Vaca was too sick to travel and was left behind, presumably to die. The party led by Dorantes headed west and south. Several men died along the way. The rest, including Dorantes and Estevanico, were captured by Native Americans at San Antonio Bay on the Texas coast. They were harshly treated by their captors, and by the autumn of 1530 only Dorantes, Estevanico, and Alonzo de Castillo were still alive. Dorantes managed to escape, traveling inland to a village of the Mariame tribe, where he was held captive. In spring 1532 Estevanico and Castillo also escaped and joined Dorantes at the Mariame village.
During the winter of the following year, the men were surprised to encounter Cabeza de Vaca. He had not only survived but had also been working as a trader among various Native American tribes. The four Europeans were not allowed to stay together, so before parting they planned to meet in September 1534 at the annual Native American festival that celebrated the harvest of prickly pears. From there they would escape back to Mexico. Their plan went according to schedule, and they managed to flee from a site near the present-day city of San Antonio, Texas. They encountered a camp of the Avavares people, where they were warmly greeted as medicine men (spiritual healers) with special powers, probably because of their foreign appearance.
Tales of golden cities
Estevanico, Cabeza de Vaca, Dorantes, and Castillo performed healing rituals for the Native Americans. Estevanico was especially noted for his ability to learn other languages and to use sign language. When the four men left the Avavares in spring 1535, they found that their reputation as healers had preceded them and they were welcomed wherever they went. As they traveled farther west, they saw evidence of many different cultures. Visiting the Pueblo groups in the area that is now New Mexico, they saw metal bells and medicine gourds the Pueblo had made. Estevanico kept one of the gourds (a vegetable similar to a pumpkin or squash) to use in his healing rituals. When they reached the Rio Grande (a river that runs between Texas and Mexico) at the end of 1535, Castillo and Estevanico headed upstream, where they came upon the permanent towns (pueblos) of the Jumano tribe. When Cabeza de Vaca and Dorantes joined Castillo and Estevanico, they found Estevanico surrounded by Native Americans, who treated him like a god.
As they traveled toward Mexico, the men heard tales of fabulously rich cities in the interior called the "Seven Cities of Cíbola." From the Rio Grande they traveled to what is now the Mexican state of Chihuahua. As they moved south, they began to see more and more evidence of contact with Europeans, and they even met a party of Spaniards in March 1536. They reached Tenochtitlán (presentday Mexico City) the following July, more than eight years after they had landed on the coast of La Florida. Viceroy (governor) Antonio de Mendoza welcomed the three Spaniards and Estevanico in Mexico with generous hospitality. Eventually Dorantes sold or gave Estevanico to Mendoza. Intrigued by the tales Cabeza de Vaca told of wealthy cities to the north, the viceroy commissioned two expeditions. He sent the first to La Florida under the command of conquistador Hernando de Soto (c. 1500–1542), who left Spain in 1538. (Mendoza received all funding, explorers, and supplies for major expeditions from Spain.) The second was a small party led by a Franciscan missionary, Marcos de Niza (1495–1558), that set out from Mexico in 1539. Both arrived at their destinations around the same time, initiating the settlement of regions that would be dominated by the Spanish until the late seventeenth century.
De Soto lured to La Florida
De Soto had only recently returned to Spain after participating in the conquest of Peru when he heard of Cabeza de Vaca's stories about the "Seven Cities of Cíbola." Although Cabeza de Vaca had failed to find any treasure, de Soto felt that he might discover riches elsewhere in the unexplored territory around the Gulf of Mexico. He sailed from Spain in April 1538, with six hundred men and two hundred horses. After stopping in Cuba for supplies, his party landed on the western coast of Florida, at the site of modern-day Tampa Bay, in May 1539. They then traveled overland along the coast.
Hernando de Soto
Hernando de Soto was born around 1500 in Estremadura, a Spanish province near the border of Portugal. Embarking on a life of adventure as a young man, he joined an expedition to Nicaragua led by Spanish explorer Francisco Fernández de Córdoba in 1524. De Soto participated in founding the city of Granada. Sometime after their arrival in Nicaragua, de Soto sided with Córdoba's adversary, Pedro Arias, in a dispute that resulted in Córdoba's death. De Soto then settled in Nicaragua and began to prosper, partly through his involvement in the slave trade. Once again lured by adventure, he joined Francisco Pizarro in an expedition to Peru, where they conquered the Inca Empire. De Soto stayed in Peru until 1536, when he returned to Spain. In 1537 the king of Spain appointed him governor of Cuba, granting him the right to conquer and colonize the territory north of Cuba on the mainland of North America. In 1539 de Soto was the first European to explore Florida, and his party became the first Europeans to see the Mississippi River. He died on the voyage from Florida to the Gulf of Mexico in 1542.
Five months later the Spaniards reached the town of Apalachen near the present-day city of Tallahassee. Ignoring a hostile reception from Native Americans, the explorers spent the winter in the area. When spring came, de Soto and his party left in search of a place called Cofitachequi, which they heard was ruled by a powerful and wealthy queen. In April 1540 they reached Cofitachequi, which was located 75 miles north of the Savannah River in territory that is now eastern Georgia. The Spaniards discovered that the city was indeed ruled by a queen, but they were disappointed to learn that her treasure consisted of a few freshwater pearls (small gems that are formed in the shells of oysters).
Again fails to find gold
De Soto's party left Cofitachequi two weeks later, moving north to the land of Chiaha, which was also rumored to be rich in gold. In early June, after crossing the Appalachian Mountains, the Spaniards reached Chiaha. Once again they had been led astray: Chiaha turned out to be simply an island (now called Burns Island) in the middle of the Tennessee River, and it offered no wealth. From there de Soto led his men south. Along the way they met two great Native American chiefs, Cosa and Tuscaloosa. Cosa lived on the Coosa River north of the site of present-day Childersburg, Alabama. Tuscaloosa lived in a village on the shores of the Alabama River.
At Mabila (possibly near present-day Choctaw Bluff, Alabama) de Soto received word that his ships had sailed into the Gulf of Mexico to meet him. As the Spaniards continued to move south toward the Gulf, they engaged in a fierce battle with a group of Native Americans. During the conflict they were pushed to the north and west and forced to set up a winter camp about 125 miles east of the Mississippi River. The following spring they were attacked by members of the Chickasaw tribe, who killed twelve of de Soto's men.
First Europeans to see Mississippi River
Leaving winter camp in late April 1541, the Spaniards reached a site south of Memphis, Tennessee, on the Mississippi River in early May. They were the first Europeans to sight the great river, which explorers had been hearing about for decades from Native Americans. By June, de Soto and his men were again searching for treasure. This time de Soto had heard rumors of gold and silver in the Ozark Mountains, so he built some barges and crossed the river. The party spent several months traveling through the region that is now the state of Arkansas, but they found no riches. After spending a difficult winter near modern-day Camden, they found themselves in a desperate situation by spring. Several men had died, and they had lost most of their horses. De Soto decided to turn back and sail down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.
Upon reaching the river, the Spaniards raided a Native American village so they would have a place to build boats for the trip down to the Gulf. During the night of May 21, 1542, however, de Soto fell ill with a fever and died. His men reportedly tossed his body in the river so it would not be discovered by Native Americans. Led by Luis de Moscoso, the survivors completed seven barges. In July they went down the Brazos River (in present-day Texas) to the mouth of the Mississippi. After sailing along the Gulf to the settlement of Pánuco in northwestern Mexico, they embarked for Spain. It was now September 10, 1543—more than five years since de Soto's expedition had set out for La Florida. Of the 600 men in the original party, only 311 had survived. Moreover, their leader had died without ever finding treasure. Nevertheless, de Soto is remembered today as the leader of the first Europeans to sight the Mississippi River.
Menéndez drives out French
The Spanish returned to La Florida sixteen years later when explorer Tristán de Luna y Arellano led an expedition to the site of modern-day Pensacola, on the Gulf of Mexico. They started a colony, but it failed and the survivors finally left in 1561. Four years later the Spanish became alarmed at the presence of the French north of La Florida. French Huguenots (members of a Protestant religious group) had founded Fort Caroline, a settlement on modern-day Parris Island off the southern coast of South Carolina (see Chapter 3). In 1565 Spanish military leader Pedro Menéndez de Avilés arrived in the area with a small party and built a fort called Saint Augustine on a site less than seventy-five miles south of Fort Caroline. It was the first permanent European settlement in what would become the United States.
The Founding of Saint Augustine
Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales, a member of the Spanish force led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, gave the following account of the founding of Saint Augustine, Florida. The first permanent European settlement in the present-day United States, Saint Augustine is the oldest city in the United States.
On Monday, August 27, while near the entrance to the Bahama Channel, god showed to us a miracle from heaven. About nine o'clock in the evening a comet appeared, which showed itself directly above us, a little eastward, giving so much light that it might have been taken for the sun. It went towards the west,—that is, towards Florida,—and its brightness lasted long enough to repeat two Credos [Catholic oaths]. According to the sailors, this was a good omen [sign].
Wednesday morning, September 5, at sunrise, so great a storm arose that we feared we should be shipwrecked. The same evening, about sunset, we perceived a sail afar off, which we supposed was one of our galleys [ships], and which was a great subject of rejoicing; but, as the ship approached, we discovered it was the French flagship Trinity we had fired at the night before. At first we thought she was going to attack us; but she did not dare to do it, and anchored between us and the shore, about a league [a unit of measure] from us. That night the pilots of our other ships came on board, to consult with the Admiral. The next morning, being fully persuaded that the storm had made a wreck of our galley, or that, at least, she had been driven a hundred leagues out to sea, we decided that so soon as daylight came we would weigh anchor and withdraw to a river which was below the French colony, and there disembark, and construct a fort, which we would defend until assistance came to us.
Our fort is at a distance of about fifteen leagues from that of the enemy. The energy and talents of these two brave captains, joined to the efforts of their brave soldiers, who had no tools with which to work the earth, accomplished the construction of this fortress of defence; and, when the general disembarked, he was quite surprised with what had been done.
Reprinted in: Colbert, David, ed. Eyewitness to America. New York: Pantheon Books, 1997, pp. 9–10.
Menéndez then led ships up the Atlantic to attack Fort Caroline. They were chased away by a French fleet under the command of Jean Ribault, who then tried to stage a counterattack on Saint Augustine. Ribault's move left Fort Caroline undefended, so Menéndez led his troops overland and slaughtered most of the French colonists. During this time Ribault's ships wrecked on an island south of Saint Augustine, where he and his men were captured by Menéndez. Nearly all of the Frenchmen, including Ribault, were killed.
Spanish remain in Southeast
The Spanish had scored a decisive victory against the French. Yet the following winter they endured disease and starvation at Saint Augustine, which was little more than a ditch. In 1566 the Spanish began building a town, laid out in a grid with narrow streets and small blocks, and constructed narrow houses. As Saint Augustine grew, it was constantly vulnerable to attack by the French and English. For instance, in 1669 the English pirate John Davis killed sixty settlers. The Spanish constructed eight or nine wooden forts, and in 1672 they started work on the great stone presidio (fort) Castillo de San Marcos, which still stands.
By 1700 Saint Augustine had a population of around one thousand, but the town was totally dependent upon support from Spain to keep it going. In 1702 South Carolina Governor James Moore attacked Saint Augustine with a combined force of English, Creek, and Yamasee troops, destroying everything outside the walls of the fort. Nevertheless the Spanish held the town. In 1740 they also fought off an attack led by James Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia, who was trying to claim Florida for Great Britain. As part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the French and Indian War, Florida was finally granted to Britain. A year earlier, however, France had secretly given "the Isle of Orleans" and the area west of the Mississippi River to Spain in the Treaty of Fontainebleau (see Chapter 3). Therefore the Spanish maintained a presence in the Southeast and would play an important role in American history during the nineteenth century.
"All the reputation and honor himself"
While de Soto was exploring Florida, Spanish friar Marcos de Niza was leading his small party to the Southwest in search of the "Seven Cities of Cíbola." De Niza had appointed Estevanico to be a guide on the expedition. They began their journey on March 7, 1539. Two weeks later de Niza decided to set up camp while Estevanico went ahead to scout the trail. After four days Native American messengers returned to de Niza to report that Estevanico was within thirty days' march of Cíbola and he wanted de Niza to join him. De Niza immediately started north, but Estevanico did not wait for him. As the friar entered each new village, he found a message from Estevanico saying he had continued on. De Niza chased after him for weeks but was unable to catch up.
In the meantime Estevanico had been traveling through the vast desert region of the Mexican state of Sonora and the area that is now southern Arizona. He was the first Westerner to enter the area of Arizona and New Mexico. In May he reached the Zuni pueblo of Hawikuh, which was supposedly the first of the Seven Cities of Cíbola. Estevanico was captured and killed by the Zuni, who thought he was a spy. Later Pedro de Casteñeda, a member of the expedition led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (1510–1554) in 1540, gave an explanation for Estevanico's actions. According to Casteñeda, Estevanico left de Niza behind because he "thought he could get all the reputation and honor himself, and that if he should discover those settlements with such famous high houses, alone, he would be considered bold and courageous."
"Of How They Killed the Negro Estevan at Cíbola, and Marcos de Niza Returned in Flight"
Pedro de Casteñeda, a member of the Francisco Vásquez de Coronado expedition, recorded a Zuni eyewitness account of the killing of Estevanico in The Narrative of the Expedition of Coronado (published 1896):
After Estevan [Estevanico] had left the friars, he thought he could get all the reputation and honor himself, and that if he should discover those settlements with such famous high houses, alone, he would be considered bold and courageous. . . . Estevan reached Cíbola loaded with the large quantity of turquoise . . . and some beautiful women. . . . These had followed him from all the settlements he had passed, believing that under his protection they could traverse the whole world without any danger. But as the people in this country [the Zuni] were more intelligent than those who followed Estevan, they lodged him in a little hut they had outside their village, and the older men and the governors heard his story and took steps to find out the reason he had come to that country. For three days they made inquiries about him and held a council. The account which the negro gave them of two white men who were following him, sent by a great lord, who knew about the things in the sky, and how these were coming to instruct them in divine matters, made them think that he must be a spy or a guide from some nations who wished to come and conquer them, because it seemed to them unreasonable to say that the people were white in the country from which he came and that he was sent by them, he being black. Besides these other reasons, they thought it was hard of him to ask them for turquoises and women, and so they decided to kill him.
Reprinted in: Gunn, Giles, ed. Early American Writing. New York: Penguin, 1994, pp. 48–49.
Coronado continues search for gold
De Niza returned to New Galicia, a province on the west coast of Mexico, alone after Estevanico was killed at Hawikuh. De Niza said he had seen the very rich and very large city of Cíbola from a distance. It is believed that he was referring to Hawikuh, which in actuality is a small pueblo. Since his own journal was contradictory, de Niza embellished the tale, impressing the governor of New Galicia, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. Coronado traveled with de Niza to Mexico City and submitted the report to Mendoza. The viceroy had long been interested in exploring the territory north of Mexico, so he decided to equip an expedition at royal expense and appointed Coronado to head the venture. Coronado assembled a force of about three hundred soldiers, six Franciscan friars, one thousand Native Americans, one thousand horses, and six hundred pack animals at the western coastal town of Compostela. Mendoza traveled to Compostela to review the expedition in person as it started out on February 25, 1540. The viceroy then sent two ships up the Gulf of California under the command of Hernando de Alarcón to support the expedition from the sea. But the fleet soon lost contact with Coronado.
Grand Canyon sighted
Coronado traveled with his army to Culiacán. On April 22, he left with an advance force of about one hundred Spaniards, a number of Native Americans, and four friars. They proceeded up the Yaquí River valley (in present-day New Mexico), where they founded the town of San Geronimo. Leaving one of his officers, Melchor Díaz, in charge, Coronado took a group of soldiers toward the Gila River (in New Mexico and Arizona). Díaz went up the Colorado near present-day Yuma, Arizona, and crossed into territory that is now California, becoming the first European to explore this region. Meanwhile, Coronado and his men had crossed the Gila River and entered the Colorado Plateau. They reached Hawikuh in early July. The Spanish had no difficulty in capturing the town, but once inside they realized it did not come close to matching de Niza's glowing description. As a result, Coronado sent the friar back to Mexico in disgrace. One observer reported, "[S]uch were the curses that some hurled at Fray Marcos that I pray God may protect him from them."
At that point Coronado sent expedition members Pedro de Tovar and Fray Juan Padilla northwest to a province called Tusayan. They found the ancient villages of the Hopi (a Native American tribe) in what is now northern Arizona. Then they heard about a great river—the Colorado—to the west. The following month Garcia López de Cárdenas, another explorer under Coronado's command, led a group in search of the river. Finally, they reached the edge of a great canyon and became the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon, one of the world's natural wonders.
Duped yet again
In late August 1540 Coronado sent out another party to the east under the command of Pedro de Alvarado (c. 1485–1541). They reached the pueblo of Acoma, perched high on a rock, where the inhabitants gave the Spaniards food. Alvarado then went to Tiguex in the Rio Grande valley (near present-day Bemalillo). When he reported back that Tiguex had plenty of supplies, Coronado decided to make his headquarters there. During the winter of 1540–41, the demands of the Spaniards for supplies and friction over women led to the "Tiguex War." After seizing one pueblo, the Spanish burned two hundred of their captives alive. During various other engagements, several Spaniards were also killed and Coronado was wounded many times.
Alvarado then traveled east to Cicuye (on the Pecos River), where he captured a Native American (perhaps a Pawnee), whom the Spanish named "the Turk." The Turk told stories of the land of Quivira, which was ruled by a
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado
Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was born in 1510 in Salamanca, Spain, into a family of minor nobility. He sailed to Mexico in 1535 as a member of the party of Antonio de Mendoza, the first viceroy of New Spain, as Mexico was then called by the Spanish. Coronado married Beatriz de Estrada, the wealthy heiress of the former treasurer of New Spain. He took part in putting down an uprising in the Spanish royal mines and in October 1538 was named governor of New Galicia. In 1538 he headed an expedition to locate the fabled "Seven Cities of Cíbola" and claim their treasures for Spain. On two different occasions, however, Coronado was misled by two different men. During his three-year search for riches, he explored parts of the Rio Grande River valley and Kansas, and he became the first European to reach Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. He was later accused of brutal treatment of Native Americans in his army but was exonerated (found innocent) of the charges. Coronado died in Mexico City in 1554.
powerful king and contained abundant quantities of gold. In April 1541 Coronado left Tiguex to find Quivira and headed east into the Great Plains, where they saw enormous herds of buffalo. When they finally observed the meager material possessions of the nomadic Plains tribes, the Spanish realized they had been tricked once again. A frustrated Coronado sent his main force back to the Rio Grande with large supplies of buffalo meat. He then took command of a small detachment that headed north and east for forty-two days, probably reaching central Kansas near the present-day town of Lyons. A member of the party reported that "Neither gold nor silver nor any trace of either was found." When the Turk confessed that he had lied in order to draw the Spaniards farther into the interior so they would be ambushed, some of the soldiers strangled him to death. (It is said that Coronado opposed his execution.)
Coronado charged with brutality
Now completely defeated, Coronado returned to Tiguex in October 1541. Shortly thereafter he was seriously injured in a riding accident and lingered near death for some time. By early 1542, however, the Spaniards were ready to return to Mexico. They left Tiguex in April and arrived in Mexico City in late autumn. Mendoza was angry that the expedition had not resulted in the discovery of treasure, but he gradually concluded that Coronado had done his best. Mendoza reappointed Coronado governor of New Galicia in 1544. Soon, however, a royal judge began a formal investigation of accusations that Coronado was guilty of brutality toward the Native Americans. He was relieved of his duties as governor but was cleared of all charges two years later. He then became an official in the municipal (city) government of Mexico City, where he served until his death in 1554.
Spanish colonize Southwest
The first major colonizing effort in New Mexico was headed by Juan de Oñate (d. 1614), who had grown up in a wealthy family in New Spain. In 1598 Oñate set out with 400 soldiers, colonists, missionaries, and Native Americans for the Rio Grande valley. Upon reaching their destination they started a settlement. They soon had conflicts with the Pueblo, however, when Oñate demanded food and other goods. The Pueblo revolted, and in 1610 Oñate was replaced as governor by Pedro de Peralta. The Spaniards then moved to Santa Fe, establishing the third-oldest permanent European settlement in the United States after Saint Augustine and Jamestown (see Chapter 4). By the 1630s there were 250 Spaniards, 750 Native Americans, and about 24 Franciscan friars who served 75 Catholic missions.
The Pueblo initially accepted the Spanish presence, even adopting European innovations in cooking, architecture, and town planning. They also offered the Franciscans the same respect they gave their own spiritual leaders because they considered the white friars to be assistants of their gods.
Pueblo turn against Spanish
The Spaniards soon found that land in the Southwest offered few mineral resources, and the only way to get rich was to use the Pueblo as forced labor for tasks that included herding, farmwork, blacksmithing (shaping iron), silver crafting, and domestic chores. Spanish-Native American relations were thus based on exploitation (using another person for selfish purposes). Over time, the Pueblo came to resent the Spaniards, who profoundly disturbed the ecology (pattern of relations between living things and their environment) in New Mexico. For instance, they brought cattle and sheep that consumed large amounts of prairie grasses. Spanish baking ovens greatly increased the need for firewood, depleting local supplies. To expand the existing network of irrigation (watering system) canals, the Spanish had to rely even more heavily on forced labor. When the Acoma Pueblo finally refused to submit to the intruders, the Spanish killed or enslaved hundreds of Native Americans.
In 1680, after eighty-two years of Spanish occupation, the Pueblo revolutionary leader Popé (c. 1625–1690) led a revolt against the Spanish. Popé urged the Pueblo to return to their traditional religion and way of life in defiance of Spanish law. He organized a massive force of followers at Santa Fe and led a siege in which 434 Spanish missionaries and colonists were killed. The 1,946 surviving colonists fled south to El Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juárez across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas). As the new leader of the Pueblo, Popé set about removing all traces of Spanish influence. He outlawed the Spanish language, destroyed Catholic churches, and cleansed the people who had been baptized by missionaries. Within a decade, however, Popé's power was weakened by Apache raids, internal Pueblo dissension, and his own harsh rule.
Franciscans Convert Pueblo
By the 1630s the Spanish had made progress in colonizing the Southwest. They were also fulfilling their Old World destiny of spreading Christianity among the "pagans" and "heathens" of the New World. While military leaders created New Mexico, Franciscan friars founded missions for the conversion of the Pueblo peoples. One of the Franciscans, Fray Alonso de Benavides, reported on the success of their venture:
... All the Indians are now converted, baptized, and very well ministered to, with thirty-three convents and churches in the principal pueblos and more than one hundred and fifty churches throughout the other pueblos; here, where scarcely thirty years earlier all was idolatry [worship of idols as gods] and worship of the devil, without any vestige [trace] of civilization, today they all worship our true God and Lord. The whole land is dotted with churches, convents, and crosses along the roads. The people are so well taught that they now live like perfect Christians. They are skilled in all the refinements of life, especially in the singing of organ chants, with which they enhance the solemnity of the divine service.
Reprinted in: Kupperman, Karen Ordahl, ed. Major Problems in American Colonial History. Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath, 1993, p. 43.
Spain needs California
During the late 1600s the Spanish turned their attention to present-day California. Although Spain had already claimed land in the region, it had not yet been explored. By that time, mapping and settling the territory had become crucial. The Spanish conquest of the Philippines in the 1650s had opened trade between Mexico and Manila across the Pacific Ocean. But the present route from Mexico to the Philippines skirted California because ships had to avoid dangerous currents. Moreover, English and Dutch pirates lay in wait, hoping to plunder heavily laden Spanish ships. Spain therefore needed a harbor on the coast so the voyage would be safer and more direct. The Spanish government also wanted to take advantage of the abundant pearl fishing in California waters.
Eusebio Francisco Kino was a pioneering Jesuit missionary. Born around 1645 in Tirol, Austria (now Italy), he was also an explorer, mathematician, mapmaker, astronomer, and businessman. In 1665 Kino joined the Jesuits, and he later participated in an expedition to establish Spanish settlements in Mexico. Beginning in 1687, he spent almost twenty-five years in Primería Alta, the area that is now northern Mexico and southern Arizona. He built missions and explored the southwestern region of North America. His explorations led to the Jesuits' return to the present-day Baja Peninsula in 1697. Kino was also responsible for establishing ranching as a viable economic enterprise in Primería Alta. He died in 1711, during a visit to dedicate a chapel at the mission of Santa Magdalena.
Kino explores Southwest
In 1683 the Spanish government sent two Jesuit missionaries to California. One of them was an Austrian, Eusebio Kino (c. 1645–1711), who became an important explorer of the Southwest. The party was given the assignment of exploring the area, befriending the Native Americans, and establishing missions. When a drought forced the cancellation of the enterprise in 1685, Kino was sent to Primería Alta (now northern Sonoma, Mexico, and southern Arizona). After reaching Primería in March 1687, he lived and traveled among the Yuma and Pima tribes. At this time there were no European settlers remaining in the Southwest because the Pueblo had driven them out. Kino explored the area, built missions, and attended to his religious duties. Moving from his previous mission at the town of Cucurpe, he founded the mission of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. Kino remained at Dolores from 1687 until 1711, from that location establishing missions in the Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Magdalena, San Pedro, Sonóita, and Altar River valleys. Some of these missions eventually grew into modern-day towns and cities. For instance, in April 1700 he founded San Xavier del Bac, which is now Tucson, Arizona.
Confirms Baja is a peninsula
Kino did more than build missions. He also led explorations that pushed as far north as the Gila and Colorado Rivers. His discoveries ultimately encouraged the Jesuits to settle on the Baja Peninsula of California in 1697. Up until this time the area was believed to be an island, but Kino confirmed that it was actually a peninsula and could therefore be reached by land. Kino traveled thousands of miles on horseback, sometimes with Europeans and other times with Native Americans. In 1695 he rode to Mexico City, taking fifty-three days to make the 1,500-mile journey.
Introduces ranching to Southwest
Kino was also a skilled businessman. He is credited with introducing ranching as a viable economic enterprise in Primería Alta. The older missions had supplied him with a few animals, but he went on to establish cattle ranches in at least six river valleys in northern Mexico. The missions bred cattle, horses, mules, and sheep. The animals not only fed Native Americans but also enabled the missions to be self-sufficient. This was an important factor because it meant that the missions could survive regardless of what was happening politically and economically elsewhere in the Spanish domains. In addition, it allowed Kino to develop new missions without relying on outside help. For example, when founding San Xavier del Bac, he was able to send along seven hundred animals—a large herd for the time. He also originated the idea of building a road around the head of the Gulf in order to shorten the water route for shipping livestock. One historian has credited Kino with establishing the cattle industry in at least twenty places where it still exists today, including Tucson.
Spanish return to New Mexico
In 1692 the Spanish again conquered the Pueblo tribe and began moving back into the Southwest. They resettled Santa Fe the following year. This time they made the town a presidio guarded by one hundred soldiers. In 1695 several Spanish families left to establish Santa Cruz de la Cañada; eleven years later Albuquerque was founded and twenty-one missions were reestablished. By 1749 New Mexico's European population had risen to about forty-three hundred inhabitants. Meanwhile, the Native American population had declined dramatically, from seventeen thousand in 1679 to about nine thousand in 1693, the year the Spanish returned in full force.