Coronado, Juan Vázquez de (1523–1565)

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Coronado, Juan Vázquez de (1523–1565)

Juan Vázquez de Coronado (b. 1523; d. October 1565), conquistador and governor of Costa Rica (1562–1565). Founder of the Costa Rican city of Cartago (1564), Coronado headed a series of expeditions that brought most of Costa Rica under Spanish control by 1565.

Born in Salamanca, Spain, of noble parents, Coronado left Spain in 1540 to seek his fortune. He traveled to Mexico, joining his uncle, conquistador Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. In 1548, Juan Vázquez de Coronado departed for Guatemala with a cedula real (royal letters patent) recommending him to the audiencia. Upon his arrival he was named alcalde mayor (royal governor) of El Salvador and Honduras. In subsequent years Coronado distinguished himself as a capable administrator and an adept conquistador. He was made alcalde mayor of Nicaragua in 1561. One of his first acts in this post was to subvert a rebellion of Spanish soldiers led by Lope de Aguirre.

In 1562, King Philip II designated him alcalde mayor of the provinces of Nueva Cartago and Costa Rica. Coronado began an extended campaign, tending to administrative problems in the cities of León, Nicoya, and Garcimuñoz, and pursuing the rebel cacique (local ruler) Garabito. In interactions with caciques, he proved to be a skillful negotiator and was far more moderate in his treatment of the Indians than were many of his contemporaries.

Coronado journeyed to Quepo and through the Guarco Valley in 1563, encountering strong Indian resistance in the town of Cuoto. A prolonged and bloody battle there ended in a Spanish victory. Coronado remained in the valley briefly, negotiating a peace with neighboring caciques and founding the city of Cartago, which became the capital of Costa Rica. After overseeing the provisioning and settlement of the city, he headed north, taking possession of the valley of Guaymi and the provinces of Texbi and Duy. He discovered gold in the Estrella River and in 1564 organized a registry of mines to facilitate the exploitation of the river's wealth.

In 1565, Coronado traveled to Spain to give Philip II a personal account of his progress. The Spanish monarch named him adelantado (governor) in perpetuity of the province of Costa Rica. In addition, Coronado received an annual salary, royal recognition of Cartago, and a three-year appointment as governor of Nicaragua. He was never to enjoy these privileges, however; on the return voyage, his ship, the San Josepe, was wrecked in a storm, leaving no survivors.

See alsoConquistadores; Costa Rica.


Academia De Geografía E Historia De Costa Rica, Juan Vázquez de Coronado: Cartas de relación sobre la conquista de Costa Rica (1964).

Carlos Meléndez Chaverri, Juan Vázquez de Coronado: Conquistador y fundador de Costa Rica (1966).

Victoria Urbano, Juan Vázquez de Coronado y su ética en la conquista de Costa Rica (1968); Revista del Archivo Nacional de Costa Rica 33, nos. 1-12 (January-December 1969): 13-17, 45-64.

Ricardo Fernández Guardia, El descubrimiento y la Conquista (1975), pp. 107-127.

Additional Bibliography

Bray, Warwick. The Meeting of Two Worlds: Europe and the Americas, 1492–1650. Oxford: Published for the British Academy by Oxford University Press, 1993.

Molina Montes de Oca, Carlos. Garcimuñoz: La ciudad que nunca murió: Los primeros cien días de Costa Rica. San José: Editorial Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 1993.

                                            Sara Fleming

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Coronado, Juan Vázquez de (1523–1565)

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