Spanish Exploration and Colonization of the New World

Charles Walker
HIST 101
03 Jan 2010
Alvar Cabeza de Vaca thought he was going to settle near the coast when his party approached Florida in 1528. But after a series of tragedies, he and 300 other people were abandoned on shore.2 The men traveled west unaware of their location. They built rafts to cross the Gulf Coast, and by the end of their first year, only four survived, including Cabeza de Vaca. The small band of men spent years traveling across the arid plains of Texas and the deserts of New Mexico, making them the first explorers of the Southwest.
The story of Cabeza de Vaca made his way through hostile lands working as a faith healer seemed unrealistic to the authorities. Soon after he issued his report, one of the members of his expedition, a slave named Estevan, embellished the unbelievable tale by adding an account of the "Seven Golden Cities of Cibola," where the inhabitants lived in unbelievable luxury. Now all the riches of Mexico, South America, the Caribbean, and Central America did not seem enough to the Spanish king. He commanded Francisco Vasquez de Coronado to leave Mexico for points north, to find the golden cities.
Coronado and his men searched for the mythical land of gold for nearly three years. They encountered many different tribes of Native Americans, who always directed them just a little farther north or a little farther west. He also managed to seize some of their lands and people and convert them to Catholicism. He never found the Golden Cities, but he did explore vast areas of Arizona, New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and Kansas. His troops were the first Europeans to remark on the vast herds of bison on the plains. One member of his expedition, Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, was the first European to see the Grand Canyon. Although Coronado enlarged the Spanish Empire by several thousand miles, his expeditions were branded a failure, as he found no gold or...