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Conquistadores

CONQUISTADORES

CONQUISTADORES. Spain authorized military expeditions by conquistadores (conquerors) in the Americas. The conquistadores were armies typically numbering a thousand soldiers, but the term denotes primarily the intrepid leaders of these expeditions. Driven by an insatiable booty mentality reminiscent of medieval crusaders, they expected to secure entitlement, land, power, and tributes during the Spanish entrada (entrance) of the sixteenth century.

As the Spanish penetrated the American mainland, fantastic stories of Cíbola, Gran Quivira, El Dorado, fountains of youth, and amazon women fired their imaginations. Hernán Cortés in 1519 vanquished the Aztecs of Tenochtitlán with the assistance of rival Natives. Juan Ponce de León, who sailed around Florida in 1513, was encouraged by Cortés's triumph to undertake a return expedition to the peninsula in 1521. He died from wounds received in a fight with the Calusas. To the south, the conquest of the Incas by Francisco Pizarro in 1532 revivified the visions of grandeur.

In 1528, Pánfilo de Narváez surveyed the Gulf Coast from Florida to Texas, but Apalachee archers and a tempest brought the mission to an end. Four castaways, including Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alonso del Castillo, Andrés Dorantes, and the black slave Esteban, survived and managed to reach Galveston Island. They traveled among the Natives until 1536, when Spanish slave hunters found them in the province of Sinaloa, Mexico. In 1539, their observations became entangled with the claims of the Franciscan Fray Marcos de Niza regarding the treasures of Cíbola to intensify the allure of the "northern mystery."

Further expeditions pushed the frontiers of the Spanish empire from Georgia to New Mexico. In 1539, Hernando de Soto, a seasoned veteran of the Incan conquest, maneuvered nine ships and more than six hundred soldiers on a journey in search of another Cuzco. After landing in Florida, De Soto and his companions literally fought their way through the woodlands. They crossed the Mississippi River about twenty-five miles below Memphis and advanced into Arkansas and Oklahoma. However, De Soto died from an illness in 1542. His men left his body at the river before returning to New Spain empty-handed. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1540 commanded an army that crossed the Rio Grande and attacked the Pueblo Indians. Coronado dispatched several reconnaissance parties, and after a two-year quest that ended in the midcontinent grasslands, he conceded that there were no golden cities in North America. In 1598 the last conquistadore, Juan de Oñate, directed a colonization venture into Pueblo lands, thus initiating a new phase of mission building and permanent occupation.

From the Andes Mountains to the Grand Canyon, the conquistadores unleashed a catastrophe of a magnitude unknown before the sixteenth century. Although the Spanish Orders for New Discoveries in 1573 curbed the atrocities, the explorers left behind smallpox, malaria, measles, and sexually transmitted diseases. Their discoveries unveiled the physical and cultural geography of Native America, but their presence turned the New World upside down.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Stannard, David E. American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Thomas, Hugh. Who's Who of the Conquistadors. London: Cassell, 2000.

Weber, David J. The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1992.

Wood, Michael. Conquistadors. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Brad D.Lookingbill

See alsoCoronado Expeditions ; Explorations and Expeditions: Spanish ; Oñate, Juan de, Explorations and Settlements of ; Western Exploration .

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conquistador

conquistador (kŏnkwĬs´tədôr, Span. kōng-kē´stäŧħôr´), military leader in the Spanish conquest of the New World in the 16th cent. Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru, and Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, were the greatest of the conquistadors. The name is frequently used to mean any daring, ruthless adventurer.

See P. Horgan, Conquistadors in North American History (1963); F. A. Kirkpatrick, The Spanish Conquistadores (2d ed. 1967).

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conquistador

con·quis·ta·dor / ngˈkēstəˌdôr; känˈk(w)istə-; kən-/ • n. (pl. -quis·ta·do·res / -ˌkēstəˈdôrēz; -ās; -ˌk(w)istə-/ or -quis·ta·dors ) a conqueror, esp. one of the Spanish conquerors of Mexico and Peru in the 16th century.

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conquistador

conquistador Leader of the Spanish conquest of the New World in the 16th century. Conquistadores (‘conquerors’) were often ex-soldiers unemployed since the completion of the Christian reconquest of Spain. The most famous were Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro.

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conquistador

conquistador a conqueror, especially one of the Spanish conquerors of Mexico and Peru in the 16th century.

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conquistador

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