Spanish Conquistadors - Spanish Exploration - North America Exploration

North America Exploration

During the 1500s, the Spanish began to explore and colonize North America. They were looking for gold in native kingdoms. By 1511 there were rumours of undiscovered lands to the northwest of Hispaniola. Juan Ponce de León equipped three ships with at least 200 men at his own expense and set out from Puerto Rico on 4 March 1513 to Florida and surrounding coastal area. Another early motive was the search for the Seven Cities of Gold, or "Cibola", rumoured to have been built by Native Americans somewhere in the desert Southwest. In 1536 Francisco de Ulloa, the first documented European to reach the Colorado River, sailed up the Gulf of California and a short distance into the river's delta.

The Basques were fur trading, fishing cod and whaling in Terranova (Labrador and Newfoundland) in 1520, and in Iceland by at least the early 17th century. They established whaling stations at the former, mainly in Red Bay, and probably established some in the latter as well. In Terranova they hunted bowheads and right whales, while in Iceland they appear to have only hunted the latter. The Spanish fishery in Terranova declined over conflicts between Spain and other European powers during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

In the year 1524 the Portuguese Estevão Gomes, who'd sailed in Ferdinand Magellan's fleet, explored Nova Scotia, sailing South through Maine, where he entered New York Harbor, the Hudson River and eventually reached Florida in August 1525. As a result of his expedition, the 1529 Diego Ribeiro world map outlined the East coast of North America almost perfectly.

In 1534 the explorer French Jacques Cartier describe and map the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River.

The Spaniard Cabeza de Vaca, was the leader of the Narváez expedition of 600 men, that between 1527–1535 explored the mainland of North America. From Tampa Bay, Florida on 15 April 1528, they marched through Florida. Traveling mostly on foot, they crossed Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and Coahuila. After several months of fighting native inhabitants through wilderness and swamp, the party reached Apalachee Bay with 242 men. They believed they were near other Spaniards in Mexico, but there was in fact 1500 miles of coast between them. They followed the coast westward, until they reached the mouth of the Mississippi River near to Galveston Island.

Later they were enslaved for a few years by various Native American tribes of the upper Gulf Coast. They continued through Coahuila and Nueva Vizcaya; then down the Gulf of California coast to what is now Sinaloa, Mexico, over a period of roughly eight years. They spent years enslaved by the Ananarivo of the Louisiana Gulf Islands. Later they were enslaved by the Hans, the Capoques and others. In 1534 they escaped into the American interior, contacting other Native American tribes along the way. Only four men, Cabeza de Vaca, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, and an enslaved Moroccan Berber named Estevanico, survived and escaped to reach Mexico City. In 1539, Estevanico was one of four men who accompanied Marcos de Niza as a guide in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, preceding Coronado. When the others were struck ill, Estevanico continued alone, opening up what is now New Mexico and Arizona. He was killed at the Zuni village of Hawikuh in present-day New Mexico.

The viceroy of New Spain Antonio de Mendoza, for who is named the Codex Mendoza, commissioned several expeditions to explore and establish settlements in the northern lands of New Spain in 1540–42. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado reached Quivira in central Kansas. Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo explored the western coastline of Alta California in 1542–43.

Francisco Vásquez de Coronado's 1540–1542 expedition began as a search for the fabled Cities of Gold, but after learning from natives in New Mexico of a large river to the west, he sent García López de Cárdenas to lead a small contingent to find it. With the guidance of Hopi Indians, Cárdenas and his men became the first outsiders to see the Grand Canyon. However, Cárdenas was reportedly unimpressed with the canyon, assuming the width of the Colorado River at six feet (1.8 m) and estimating 300-foot (91 m)-tall rock formations to be the size of a man. After unsuccessfully attempting to descend to the river, they left the area, defeated by the difficult terrain and torrid weather.

In 1540, Hernando de Alarcón and his fleet reached the mouth of the Colorado river, intending to provide additional supplies to Coronado's expedition. Alarcón may have sailed the Colorado as far upstream as the present-day California–Arizona border. However, Coronado never reached the Gulf of California, and Alarcón eventually gave up and left. Melchior Díaz reached the delta in the same year, intending to establish contact with Alarcón, but the latter was already gone by the time of Díaz's arrival. Díaz named the Colorado River Rio del Tizon, while the name Colorado ("Red River") was first applied to a tributary of the Gila River.

In 1540, expeditions under Hernando de Alarcon and Melchior Diaz visited the area of Yuma and immediately saw the natural crossing of the Colorado River from Mexico to California by land, as an ideal spot for a city, as the Colorado River narrows to slightly under 1000 feet wide in one small point. Later military expedition that crossed the Colorado River at the Yuma Crossing include Juan Bautista de Anza (1774).

The Chamuscado and Rodriguez Expedition explored New Mexico in 1581–1582. They explored a part of the route visited by Coronado in New Mexico and other parts in the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542.

The viceroy of New Spain Don Diego García Sarmiento sent another expedition in 1648 to explore, conquer and colonize the Californias.

Read more about this topic:  Spanish Conquistadors, Spanish Exploration

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