Coronado, Francisco Vásquez de fränthēs´kō väs´kāth dā kōrōnä´ᵺō [key]
, c.1510–1554, Spanish explorer. He went to Mexico with Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza and in 1538 was made governor of Nueva Galicia. The viceroy, dazzled by the report of Fray Marcos de Niza
of the great wealth of the Seven Cities of Cibola to the north, organized an elaborate expedition to explore by sea (see Alarcón, Hernando de
) and by land. Coronado, made captain general, set out in 1540 from Compostela, crossed modern Sonora and SE Arizona, and reached Cibola itself—the Zuñi country of New Mexico. He found neither splendor nor wealth in the native pueblos. Nevertheless he sent out his lieutenants: Pedro de Tovar visited the Hopi villages in N Arizona, García López de Cárdenas discovered the Grand Canyon, and Hernando de Alvarado struck out eastward and visited Acoma and the pueblos of the Rio Grande and the Pecos. Alvarado came upon a Native American from a Plains tribe nicknamed the Turk, who told fanciful tales of the wealthy kingdom of Quivira
to the east. Coronado, still hopeful, spent a winter on the Rio Grande not far from the modern Santa Fe, waged needless warfare with Native Americans, then set out in 1541 to find Quivira under the false guidance of the Turk. Just where the party went is not certain, but it is generally thought they journeyed in the Texas Panhandle, reached Palo Duro Canyon (near Canyon, Tex.), then turned N through Oklahoma and into Kansas. They reached Quivira, which turned out to be no more than indigenous villages (probably of the Wichita), innocently empty of gold, silver, and jewels. The Spanish turned back in disillusion and spent the winter of 1541–42 on the Rio Grande, then in 1542 left the northern country to go ingloriously back to Nueva Galicia and into the terrors of the Mixtón War
. In 1544, Coronado was dismissed from his governorship and lived the rest of his life in peaceful obscurity in Mexico City. He had found no cities of gold, no El Dorado yet his expedition had acquainted the Spanish with the Pueblo
and had opened the Southwest. Subsidiary expeditions from Nueva Galicia to S Arizona and Lower California make the scope of Coronado's achievement even more astonishing.
See F. W. Hodge and T. H. Lewis, ed., Spanish Explorers in the Southern United States, Vol. II (1907) A. G. Day, Coronado's Quest (1940, repr. 1964).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. History: Biographies