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Francisco Vázquez de Coronado facts for kids

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Francisco Vázquez de Coronado
Pabellón Consistorial medallón 01 Francisco Vázquez Coronado.JPG
Francisco Vázquez Coronado in the Plaza Mayor de Salamanca
Governor of New Galicia
Monarch Charles I
Personal details
Born 1510
Salamanca, Crown of Castile
Died 22 September 1554 (aged 43–44)
Mexico City, Viceroyalty of New Spain
Military service
Allegiance  Spain
Years of service 1535–1554
Battles/wars Spanish conquest of Mexico
Exploration of North America

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Luján (ca. 1510 – September 22, 1554) was a Spanish conquistador, who visited New Mexico and other parts of what are now the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542. He died in 1554. He married Beatriz De Estrada, the daughter of a colonial treasurer.

Mounting the expedition

Coronado was governor of Nueva Galicia (New Galicia, the contemporary Mexican states of Jalisco, Sinaloa and Nayarit). As such he had already sent out Friar Marcos de Niza and Narváez expedition survivor Estevanico on a voyage to the north, to New Mexico. When Marcos returned he told about a wealthy, golden city, called Cíbola. He also reported that he traversed the length of the trail, that Estevanico was killed by the Zuni citizens of Cíbola, and though he did not enter the city of Cíbola it was while standing on a high hill he able to observe that the city was made of gold and that he could see the Pacific Ocean off to the West. Based on this report the expedition had two components. One component would travel by sea and would carry the majority of the expeditions supplies. The other component would travel by land along the trail Friar Marcos de Niza traversed. Coronado and Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza invested large sums of private money into the venture, and Mendoza being Coronado's friend and fellow investor appointed him as the commander of an expedition to go and find the seven golden cities and take all of their gold. Coronado set out in 1540, joined by a large expedition of 335 Spanish, 1,300 Mexican Indian allies, four Franciscan monks (the most notable of whom was Juan de Padilla and the newly appointed provincial superior of the Franciscan order in the New World, Marcos de Niza), and several slaves, both native Americans and Africans.

Coronado expedition
The Coronado Expedition 1540–1542

He followed the Sonoran coast northward, keeping the Sea of Cortez to his left. At the last Spanish settlement of San Miguel de Culiacán he rested his expedition before they traveled over the inland trail. Scouts were sent on the trail to investigate the question; "would the land along the route be able to support a large body of soldiers and animals?" The report was that it could not, so Coronado had to divide his expedition into small groups and time their departures so that grazing lands and waterholes along the trail could recover. At intervals along the trail camps were established and garrisoned with soldiers to keep the main supply route open. Once the scouting and planning was done Coronado lead the first group of soldiers on the trail. They were horsemen and foot soldiers who were supposed to travel fast and light, while the main bulk of the expedition would arrive in timed intervals behind them. After leaving the last Spanish settlement they traveled northward through Sonora, and crossed the Gila River, Mogollón Rim, Little Colorado River, and followed the Zuni River drainage into Cíbola, in the west of present-day New Mexico. There he was met by disappointment. Cíbola was nothing like the great golden city fray Marcos had described, it was just regional complex of simple pueblos of the Zuni Indians. The soldiers openly contemplated killing Marcos and Coronado had to send him back to Mexico in disgrace.

Conquest of Cíbola

La conquista del Colorado
La conquista del Colorado, by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau, depicts Francisco Vázquez de Coronado's 1540–1542 expedition
Francisco Coronado picture IMG 4884
Vázquez de Coronado as depicted at the Deaf Smith County Historical Museum in Hereford, Texas
West indies
"Episode from the Conquest of America" by Jan Mostaert (c. 1545), probably Vázquez de Coronado in New Mexico

Coronado traversed Arizona's Mogollón Rim and from the head waters of the Little Colorado he travel until he came to the Zuni River. He followed that river until he found the region inhabited by the Zunis. The members of the expedition were almost starving and demanded entrance into the village of Hawikuh, and they were denied entrance or trade. Coronado had to enter Hawikuh through force of arms and take the food he needed. The other villages then did not contest Coronado's demands when the Spanish explored them for intelligence and resources, and this consitutes the conquest of Cíbola. In the Hawikuh fight Coronado was injured and he had to stay in the Zuni healing. From the knowledge gathered he sent out several scouting expeditions. The first scouting expedition lead by Pedro de Tovar was headed to the Hopi villages with the expectation that maybe this region may contain the wealthy Cíbola. Upon arrival the Spanish were denied entrance to the first village they came across, and they had to use armed force to enter. Afterwards the remaining villages did not dare to fight the Spanish. Materially the Hopi region was just as poor as the Zuni, but what the Spanish learned was that a large river (the Colorado), lay to the west. The scouting party returned to Zuni and reported their findings, and Coronado sent another scouting expedition lead by Garcia Lopez de Cárdenas to find this river. The second scouting expedition returned to Hopi to acquired scouts and supplies that would be used to find this river. This expedition did find the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, and they became the first Europeans to see the magnificent Grand Canyon. After failing at trying to climb down into the Grand Canyon to the river they reported that they would not be able to use the river to link up with their ships. After this the main body of the expedition began its journey to the next population center of pueblos which were located along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico.

Exploration of the Colorado River

Melchior Díaz was the local commander of a camp along the main supply route. When Coronado was not able to establish contact with the ships from Zuni region, Díaz was detailed to establish contact with Hernando de Alarcón whose fleet was shipping supplies for Coronado. Díaz set out from the valley of Corazones in Sonora and traveled overland in a north and northwesterly direction until he arrived at both junctions of the Colorado river and Gila river. There the local natives told him that Alarcón's sailors had buried supplies and left a note in a bottle. The supplies were retrieved and the note read that they rowed up the river as far as they could go looking for the Coronado expedition but had given up their wait because worms were eating holes in the ships and that the fleet would return to their departure point. Díaz died on the return trip.

The Tiguex War

Hernando de Alvarado was sent east, and found villages around the Rio Grande. Coronado set up his winter quarters in one of them, Tiguex, across the river from present-day Bernalillo near Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the winter of 1540-41 the demands of his army resulted in conflicts with the Rio Grande Indians that led to the brutal Tiguex War, resulting in the destruction of the Tiguex pueblos and the death of hundreds of Indians.

The search for Quivira

An Indian, whom Coronado called the Turk, had told him about Quivira, a rich country in the northwest. Deciding to look for Quivira, he took the Turk as his guide and traversed the Llano Estacado and what is now the Texas Panhandle. However, the Turk was found lying about the route — or at least Coronado supposed he was — and was executed. Other guides led him further to Quivira, and he reached a village near present-day Lindsborg, Kansas. But his disappointment was repeated: the Quivira Indians (later known as Wichita) were no rich people at all, the village consisted mostly of thatched huts, and not even small amounts of gold could be found. Coronado returned to Tiguex, where his main force had remained behind. Here he spent another winter. Near present day Dodge City, Kansas, Coronado held the first Christian Mass in the interior of North America which is presently marked by a large concrete cross called Coronado's Cross to commemorate the event which took place on June 29, 1541.

Return to Mexico

In 1542 Coronado was ordered back to central New Spain so that his troops could help put down the The Mixtón Rebellion. He left two Franciscan missionaries, because they insisted that they stay, and withdrew his forces back to Mexico by roughly the same route he had come. When he arrived back the Mixtón Rebellion was already over. Only 100 of his men came back with him. Although the expedition was a complete failure, he remained governor of New Galicia until 1544, but the expedition had bankrupted him. In 1544, he retired to Mexico City, where he died in 1554.


There is a large hill near Lindsborg that is called Coronado Heights. The former owner of the land built a small castle at the lofty summit to commemorate him. The castle and the area around it is now a public camping and recreation area. The soft sandstone rocks at the peak of the hill are covered in the names of past visitors to the area.

In 1952, the United States established Coronado National Memorial near Sierra Vista, Arizona to commemorate his expedition.

Popular culture (namely Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) references a Cross of Coronado. According to the film, this gold cross, discovered in a Utah cave system, was given to Coronado by Hernán Cortés in 1520. It is unclear if any such item ever existed. In addition to this, when Indy captures the cross from robbers aboard a ship off the coast of Portugal, the name of the ship can be seen as 'Coronado'.

There is also a mall in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that bears his name: Coronado Mall.

In the Western video game Gun Coronado, and especially Coronado's fabled golden cross, is a central part of the plot. The game's villain, Thomas Magruder, stops at nothing to retrieve the cross he believes leads to Quivira. In addition, Coronado's "second search" for Quivira in 1542 is shown in a graphic prologue at the beginning of the game; however, Coronado and his associates are slaughtered by the Wichita tribe.

A South-Western themed Disney resort hotel is named the Coronado Springs.

A high school in Lubbock, Texas bears his name: Coronado High School.

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See also

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