kids encyclopedia robot

Estevanico facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Born c. 1500
Azemmour, Morocco (Wattasid period)
Disappeared 1539
Hawikuh, Nuevo México, New Spain
Other names Esteban the Moor, Little Stephen, Esteban de Dorantes, Mustafa Azemmouri
Occupation Explorer in present-day Mexico and parts of the southwest United States

Estevanico ("Little Stephen"; modern spelling Estebanico; c. 1500–1539), also known as Esteban de Dorantes or Mustafa Azemmouri (مصطفى الزموري), was the first African to explore North America.

Estevanico first appears as a slave in Portuguese records in Morocco, with him being sold to a Spanish nobleman in about 1521. In 1527 he joined the Spanish Narváez expedition to explore "La Florida", present-day Northern Mexico and Southern United States.

He has been referred to as "the first great African man in America". He became a folk hero in the folklore of Spain and legend in New Spain, his exploration and cataloging of the Gulf of Mexico, and what is today modern Florida and Texas, resulted in numerous legends about him. During his final exploration and disappearance in New Mexico, and what would become the Southwestern United States, he became mythologized as part of stories involving the Seven Cities of Gold in Santa Fe de Nuevo México. In both historical and modern depictions he is shown as a great explorer, physical and moral guide, and conquistador.


Early life

It is unclear what his background was; some contemporary accounts referred to him as a "Moor", a term originally applied to Berbers. But most contemporary accounts of his day simply referred to him by his personal nicknames Estevanico, Azemmouri, and El Negro (a common Spanish nickname, meaning "the black").

As a young man, Estevanico was sold into slavery in 1522 in the Portuguese-controlled Moroccan town of Azemmour, on the Atlantic coast. He was sold to a Spanish nobleman, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza. It is unclear if Azemmouri was raised Muslim but Spain did not allow non-Catholics to travel to the New World, so he would have been part of the Catholic Church in order to join the expedition. His Christian name Estevan (is a Spanish form of "Stephen"), implies that he was baptized.

Narváez Expedition

The expedition of some 300 men, led by the newly appointed adelantado (governor) of La Florida, Pánfilo de Narváez, left Cuba in February 1528 intending to go to Isla de las Palmas near present-day Tampico, Mexico, to establish two settlements. Storms and strong winds forced the fleet to the western coast of Florida. The Narváez expedition landed in present-day St. Petersburg, Florida, on the shores of Boca Ciega Bay. Narváez ordered his ships, and 100 men and 10 women to sail north in search of a large harbor that his pilots assured them was nearby. He led another 300 men, with 42 horses, north along the coast, intending to rejoin his ships at the large harbor. There is no large harbor north of Boca Ciega Bay, and Narváez never saw his ships again.

After marching 300 miles north, and having armed confrontations with Native Americans, the survivors built boats to sail westward along the Gulf Coast shoreline hoping to reach Pánuco and the Rio de las Palmas. A storm struck when they were near Galveston Island, Texas. Approximately 80 men survived the storm, being washed ashore at Galveston Island. After 1529, three survivors from one boat, including Azemmouri, became enslaved by Coahuiltecan Indians; in 1532, they were reunited with a survivor from a different boat, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

The four men, Cabeza de Vaca, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado and Azemmouri, escaped captivity in 1534 and traveled west into present-day Texas and Northern Mexico. They were the first Europeans and African to enter the American west. Having walked nearly 2,000 miles since their initial landing in Florida, they finally reached a Spanish settlement in Sinaloa. They traveled from there to Mexico City, 1,000 miles to the south.

Cabeza de Vaca published the Relación, a book about their 8-year survival journey, in 1542 and included information about Azemmouri. It was reprinted again in 1555. It was the first published book to describe the peoples, wildlife, flora and fauna of inland North America, and the first to describe the American bison. In the Relación, Cabeza de Vaca often referred to Azemmouri as "the black" and described him as the one who went in advance of the other three survivors, as he was the most able to communicate with the native Indians that they encountered. In the last sentence of the Relación, Cabeza de Vaca identifies Azemmouri as "the black" who had been on the survival journey.

In a translation by Rolena Adorno and Patrick Charles Pautz, this sentence is translated as, "The fourth is named Estevanico; he is an Arabic-speaking black man, a native of Azamor". Another translation, done by Professors Martin A Favata (University of Tampa) and José B. Fernández (University of Central Florida), translated the last sentence as "The fourth is named Estebanico, he is a black Arab and a native of Azamor"

Three years after his 8-year survival journey from Florida to Mexico City, Azemmouri was chosen by the Viceroy of New Spain (Mexico) in 1539 to serve as the main guide for a return expedition to the Southwest led by Fray Marcos de Niza; they were seeking "the Seven Cities of Cibola". Marcos de Niza reported in his own Relacíon that Azemmouri was killed in the Zuni city of Hawikuh in 1539. The Indians who reported Azemmouri's death to Friar Marcos de Niza did not see him killed but only assumed he had been killed. Azemmouri was the first non-Native to visit Pueblo lands.

North American explorer

Expedition Cabeza de Vaca Karte
Reconstructed route of the Narváez-Cabeza de Vaca expedition.

Dorantes took Azemmouri as his slave on Pánfilo de Narváez's expedition of 1527 to colonize Florida and the Gulf Coast. They left Cuba in February 1528, intending to establish two settlements in present-day Mexico at the Isla de las Palmas near today's Tampico. The Narváez fleet was forced by strong winds to sail to Florida. They landed in Boca Ciega Bay in April 1528. After failed efforts to locate villages with gold near present-day Tampa Bay and after enduring numerous attacks by Native Americans, Narváez split his forces, hoping to find a better place for settlement at a large bay to the north. He ordered the ships to sail north along the coast, with Narváez and 300 men traveling overland, planning to rejoin the land force with the ships at the large harbor. There is no large harbor north of their landing site, and the ships and the land expedition did not meet again. After traveling 300 miles north to the St. Marks River, Narváez determined they could reach Panuco by sailing westward along the coast. The estimated 250 survivors slaughtered their horses, melted down metals from bridles and stirrups, and made five boats to try to sail along the coast Gulf of Mexico to reach the main Spanish settlement at Pánuco. The boats wrecked off the coast of Texas, and most of men aboard the boats were lost at sea. About 80 surviving men washed ashore, and most were killed or died in the ensuing six years of captivity by native Indians. Eventually only Azemmouri, Dorantes, Cabeza de Vaca and Castillo remained alive. The four spent years enslaved on the Texas barrier islands.

In 1534 the four survivors escaped into the American interior and became medicine men. As medicine men they were treated with great respect and offered food, shelter, and gifts, and villages held celebrations in their honor. When they decided they wanted to leave, the host village would guide them to the next village. Sometimes as many as 3,000 people would follow them to the next village. The party traversed the continent as far as western Mexico, into the Sonoran Desert to the region of Sonora in New Spain (present-day Mexico). After finding a small Spanish settlement, the four survivors travelled 1,000 miles to the south to Mexico City, arriving in July 1536.

Expedition to New Mexico and disappearance

In Mexico City, the four survivors told stories of wealthy indigenous tribes to the north in the "Seven Cities of Cibola", which created a stir among Spaniards in Mexico. When the three Spaniards declined to lead an expedition to the north, Azemmouri was sold or given to Antonio de Mendoza, the Viceroy of New Spain. He appointed Azemmouri as the guide in expeditions to the North.

In 1539, Azemmouri left Mexico City, travelled to Sinaloa, and accompanied Friar Marcos de Niza as the guide in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, preceding Coronado by a year. Azemmouri traveled ahead of the main party with a group of Sonoran Indians. He was instructed to communicate by sending back crosses to the main party, with the size of the cross equal to the wealth discovered. One day, a cross arrived that was as tall as a person, causing de Niza to step up his pace to join the scouts. Azemmouri had apparently reached the A:shiwi village of Hawikuh (in present-day New Mexico). The local natives prefer the spelling Hawikku. (The Spanish later referred to the A:shiwi as Zuñi, and a variation of that name, Zuni, is still used today). Stories concerning Azemmouri's encounters with the A:shiwi are all based on legend. There is no first-person account of what took place at Hawikuh. According to the Marcos de Niza account, the Zuni reportedly killed Azemmouri and a large number of Northern Mexican Indians who had accompanied him. After hearing this, De Niza quickly returned to New Spain.

There is no certainty as to the cause or manner of Azemmouri's death, and likely never will be. Virtually all stories of his death are based on legend or speculation. Some historians suggest that Azemmouri was killed because the Zuni did not believe Azemmouri's story that he represented a party of Europeans who were following him. Others speculate that he was killed for demanding turquoise and women. Roberts and Roberts wrote that Estevan who was North African, wore owl feathers and carried a medicine-man's gourd may have been seen by the Zuni as impersonating a medicine man, which they punished by death. Others believe he may have resembled an evil sorcerer who existed in the Zuni religion, the "Chaikwana" kachina." Juan Francisco Maura suggested in 2002 that the Zuni did not kill Azemmouri, but rather he and his friends remained among the A:shiwi who probably helped him fake his death so he could regain his freedom. Some folklore legends say that the Kachina figure, Chakwaina, is based on Azemmouri. In any case, legends of his disappearance in the Nuevo México region ultimately led to the backdrop for the Tiguex War.

Representation in other media

  • The Moor's Account, a 2014 novel by American writer Laila Lalami, is a fictional memoir of Azemmouri. Lalami explains that little is known about his background except for one line in Cabeza de Vaca's chronicle: "The fourth [survivor] is Estevanico, an Arab Negro from Azamor."
  • The character Esteban in the anime series, The Mysterious Cities Of Gold. was believed to be loosely based on the story of Estevanico.
  • Professor A.L.I., an educator and rapper, often goes by the alter-ego 'Black Steven', which he says is a nod to Estevanico the Moor.
  • Estavanico, a poem by Jeffrey Yang, was published in Poetry, July/August 2017. It is "narrated" by the Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. In 52 free-verse lines, the poem recounts the story of de Vaca's years of exploration in the New World with Azemmouri as a physical and moral guide.
  • Estevanico can appear as a conquistador in Paradox Interactive's Europa Universalis IV via event.
  • Jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd named the first song on his 1970 album Electric Byrd after Azemmouri, using the spelling “Estavanico.”
  • In 1940, Estevanico was honored with one of the 33 dioramas at the American Negro Exposition in Chicago.
  • Time Machine, a 2020 hybrid documentary by Moroccan filmmaker Tarek Bouraque, is set in a past/present/future time where Azemmouri, born in 1502, undertakes a journey to the 21st century.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Estevanico para niños

National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Influential Hispanic activists
Janet Murguía
Nelson Merced
Jovita Idar
Dolores Huerta
María Teresa Kumar
kids search engine
Estevanico Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.