Esteban (?–1539)

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Esteban (?–1539)

Esteban (Estevan; d. May 1539), guide and explorer of New Spain. Esteban, a black Arab from the Atlantic coast of Morocco, traveled across Florida, Texas, and northern Mexico from 1527 until 1536 with his owner and Andrés Dorantes, Alvar Núñez Cabeza De Vaca, and Castillo Maldonado, all fellow survivors of Pánfilo de Narváez's ill-fated expedition to Florida. He was then purchased by the viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, who was eager to take advantage of his knowledge of the largely uncharted north country. In 1539, Esteban guided Franciscan friar Marcos de Niza in his search for the Seven Cities of Cíbola. The travelers departed from San Miguel de Culiacán in Sinaloa, Mexico, where they had been accompanied by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, governor of the province of New Galicia. On the journey north into Sonora, Arizona, and New Mexico, Esteban and a number of Indian allies ranged far ahead of Niza, sending back reports of their progress. Esteban apparently angered the Pueblo Indians by demanding women and turquoise. He was killed at Hawikuh, the southernmost of the six Zuni pueblos.

Niza's report of his travels with Esteban helped persuade Vásquez de Coronado to launch his 1540 expedition to find the great cities and untold riches implied in Niza's descriptions. Among the Zunis, Esteban is known as an ogre kachina, or evil spirit.

See alsoExplorers and Exploration: Spanish America .


Cyclone Covey, Cabeza de Vaca's Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America (1983).

Cleve Hallenbeck, The Journey of Fray Marcos de Niza (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Montané Martí, Julio C. Por los senderos de la quimera: el viaje de Fray Marcos de Niza. Hermosillo: Instituto Sonorense de Cultura, 1995.

                                             Rick Hendricks

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Esteban (?–1539)

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