Vázquez de Coronado, Francisco (1510–1554)

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Vázquez de Coronado, Francisco (1510–1554)

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado (b. 1510; d. 22 September 1554), Spanish explorer. Vázquez de Coronado was born in Salamanca, second son of nobleman Juan Vázquez de Coronado and Isabel de Lujan. In 1535, he arrived in Mexico with the newly appointed viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza. As the viceroy's protégé, he was appointed a member of the cabildo of Mexico City. A short time after his arrival, Vázquez de Coronado had become an important landowner and had married Beatriz de Estrada, daughter of the royal treasurer, Alonso de Estrada. In 1539, he succeeded to the governorship of Nueva Galicia, due to the imprisonment of his predecessor, Nuño de Guzmán. In 1540, Mendoza selected him to lead a massive expedition to explore an unknown area of North America that Fray Marcos de Niza claimed was Cíbola, one of seven cities of untold wealth. The group included over 300 potential conquistadores from Spain, 1,000 Indians, Fray Marcos and five other Franciscans, at least three women, and well over 1,000 pack animals. Vázquez de Coronado's explorers marched from Compostela on the west coast of Mexico through Sonora, eastern Arizona, New Mexico, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma to the Great Bend of the Arkansas River in central Kansas. The expedition was a disaster; it found no wealth, and Vázquez de Coronado and his party destroyed as many as thirteen Pueblo villages in New Mexico while putting down an indigenous uprising against Spanish maltreatment. However, it was responsible for the European discoveries of the Grand Canyon, the Continental Divide, and the Great Plains as well as the people, flora, and fauna of those regions. Its members influenced the cartography of the area and established a written heritage for northwestern Mexico and the southwestern portion of present-day United States. Vázquez de Coronado lived for another twelve years after the expedition's return in 1542. A broken man, he died in Mexico City and was buried in the Church of Santo Domingo.

See alsoCartography: Overview; Explorers and Exploration: Spanish America.


Herbert Eugene Bolton, Coronado on the Turquoise Trail: Knight of Pueblos and Plains, 4th ed. (1990).

Stewart Udall, In Coronado's Footsteps (1991).

David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (1992).

Additional Bibliography

Flint, Richard, and Shirley Cushing Flint. The Coronado Expedition: From the Distance of 460 Years. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003.

Montané Martí, Julio César. Francisco Vázquez Coronado: sueño y decepción. Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico: El Colegio de Jalisco, Fideicomiso Teixidor, 2002.

                                        Joseph P. SÁnchez