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Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Luján (1510 – 22 September 1554) was a Spanishmarker conquistador, who visited New Mexicomarker and other parts of what are now the southwestern United Statesmarker between 1540 and 1542. Coronado had hoped to conquer the mythical Seven Cities of Gold.


Coronado was born in Salamancamarker, Spainmarker, the brother of Diego Vásquez and second son of Juan Vásquez de Coronado y Sosa de Ulloa (d. 1532), 5. Señor de Coquilla and 5. Señor de la Torre de Juan Vásquez, Majorats of his family, Corregidor of Segoviamarker and Jerez de la Frontera and Captain General of the Frontier, Prefect of Granadamarker, who was at the service of the Catholic Kings and Charles I of Spain, Regidor of Salamancamarker and Founder of the Majorat of his House on December 16, 1522, and wife Isabel de Luján (b. Madridmarker), Dame of the Queen Isabel I of Castile. He was an uncle of Juan Vázquez de Coronado y Anaya, Conqueror, first Governor and first Adelantado of Costa Ricamarker.

The most distinguished scion of his family, Coronado went to Mexicomarker in 1535 at about age 25, with the entourage of Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, his partner and a rising star. In Mexico, he married Beatriz de Estrada, called the Saint (la Santa), sister of Leonor de Estrada, ancestor of the de Alvarado family and daughter of Treasurer and Governor Alonso de Estrada y Hidalgo, Lord of Picónmarker, and wife Marina Flores Gutiérrez de la Caballería, from a converso Jewish family. Coronado inherited a large portion of a Mexican estate from Beatriz and had eight children by her.

Mounting the expedition

Coronado was the conqueror and Governor of the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia (New Galicia, a province of New Spain located northwest of Mexico and comprising the contemporary Mexican states of Jaliscomarker, Sinaloamarker and Nayaritmarker). In 1539, he dispatched Friar Marcos de Niza and Estevanico, a survivor of the Narváez expedition, on an expedition north from Compostelamarker, in the present state of Nayaritmarker, toward New Mexicomarker. When Marcos de Niza returned, he told about a city of vast wealth, a golden city called Cíbola, and that Estevanico had been killed by the Zuni citizens of Cíbola. Coronado had not known he was lying, or had mistaken what he saw from a distance. Though he did not claim to have entered the city of Cíbola, he reported that the city stood on a high hill, that it was made of gold, and that he could see the Pacific Ocean off to the west.

Coronado assembled an expedition with two components. One component carried the bulk of the expedition's supplies, and traveled by sea under the leadership of Hernando de Alarcon. The other component traveled by land, along the trail Friar Marcos de Niza had used. Coronado and Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza invested large sums of their own money in the venture. Mendoza, Coronado's friend and fellow investor, appointed him as the commander of the expedition, with the mission to find the seven golden cities and take their gold. This is the reason he pawned his wife's estates and was lent 70,000 more pesos.

In the autumn of 1539, Viceroy Mendoza ordered Melchor Diaz, the commander of San Miguel de Culiacánmarker, to investigate Friar de Niza's findings, and on November 17, 1539 Diaz departed on the trail to Cíbola, with fifteen horsemen. At the ruins of Chichilticalli, he turned around because of "snows and fierce winds from across the wilderness". Diaz encountered Coronado before he had departed San Miguel de Culiacán, and reported that initial investigations into Friar de Niza's report disproved the existence of a bountiful land. Diaz' report was delivered to Viceroy Mendoza on March 20, 1540.

Coronado set out from Compostela on February 23, 1540, at the head of a large expedition composed of 335 Spaniards, 1300 natives, four Franciscan monks (the most notable of whom were Juan de Padilla and the newly appointed provincial superior of the Franciscan order in the New World, Marcos de Niza), and several slaves, both natives and Africans
The Coronado Expedition 1540–1542
He followed the Sinaloan coast northward, keeping the Sea of Cortezmarker to his left until he reached the northernmost Spanish settlement, San Miguel de Culiacán, about March 28 1540, whereupon he rested his expedition before they began trekking the inland trail on April 22 1540. Aside from Diaz's mission to verify Fray de Niza's report, he also took notice of the forage and food situation along the trail, and he reported that the land along the route would not be able to support a large concentrated body of soldiers and animals. Coronado decided to divide his expedition into small groups and time their departures so that grazing lands and water holes along the trail could recover. At intervals along the trail, Coronado established camps and garrisoned soldiers to keep the supply route open. For example, in September, 1540, Melchior Diaz along with "seventy or eighty of the weakest and least reliable men" in Coronado's army remained at the town of San Hieronimo, in the valley of Corzones or Hearts. Once the scouting and planning was done, Coronado led the first group of soldiers up the trail. They were horsemen and foot soldiers who were able to travel quickly, while the main bulk of the expedition would set out, at intervals, later.

After "leaving Culiacan on April 22, Coronado followed the coast, "bearing off to the left," as Mota Padilla says, by an extremely rough way, to the Cinaloa. The configuration of the country made it necessary to follow up the valley of this stream until he could find a passage across the mountains to the course of the Yaquimi. He traveled alongside this stream for some distance, then crossed to Sonora river. The Sonora was followed nearly to its source before a pass was discovered. On the southern side of the mountains he found a stream he called the Nexpa, which may have been either the Santa Cruz or the Pedro of modern maps. The party followed down this river valley until they reached the edge of the wilderness, where, as Friar Marcos had described it to them, they found Chichilticalli. Chichilticalli is in southern Arizona in the Sulfur Springs Valley, within the bend of the Dos Cabeza and Chiricahua Mountains. This fits the chronicle of Laus Deo description, which reports that "at Chichilticalli the country changes its character again and the spiky vegetation ceases. The reason is that the gulf reaches as far up as this place, and the mountain chain changes its direction at the same time that the coast does. Here they had to cross and pass the mountains in order to get into the level country". Though not addressed, they had to have crossed the Gila River, then the Mogollón Rim — which generally runs in an east-west direction, as opposed to the general north-south orientation of the western mountains of Mexico and the United States — and finally the Little Colorado River. Then, they followed the Zuni Rivermarker drainage into the Cíbola region, in the western part of present-day New Mexico. There he met a crushing disappointment. Cíbola was nothing like the great golden city that Marcos had described. Instead, it was just a complex of simple pueblos constructed by the Zuni Indians. The soldiers considered killing Marcos for his mendacious imagination, but Coronado intervened and sent him back to Mexicomarker in disgrace.

Conquest of Cíbola

Coronado traversed Arizona's Mogollón Rim, and from the headwaters of the Little Colorado he continued on until he came to the Zuni Rivermarker. He followed the Zuni until he found the region inhabited by the Zunis. The members of the expedition were almost starving and demanded entrance into the village of Hawikuhmarker. The natives refused, denying the expedition entrance to the village or trade. Coronado and his frustrated soldiers entered Hawikuh on Coronado's demands, when the Spanish requested intelligence and resources. The ensuing skirmish constituted the extent of what can be called the Spanish "Conquest of Cíbola." During the battle, Coronado was injured and had to stay with the Zuni while healing. From the knowledge gathered during this time he sent out several more scouting expeditions.

The first scouting expedition was led by Pedro de Tovar. This expedition headed northwest to the Hopi villages, which they recorded as Tusayan. Upon arrival, the Spanish were denied entrance to the village they came across, and once again resorted to using force to enter. Afterwards, the remaining villages dared to fight the Spanish, but held a meeting and decided not to. Materially, the Hopi region was just as poor as the Zuni, but the Spanish did find out that a large river (the Coloradomarker) lay in the west.

The scouting party returned to Zuni territory and reported their findings. Coronado sent another scouting expedition led by Garcia Lopez de Cárdenas to find the Colorado River. This expedition returned to Hopi territory to acquire scouts and supplies that could be used to find this river. Members of this expedition reached the Grand Canyonmarker and the Colorado River, becoming the first Europeans to see the magnificent canyon.

After trying and failing to climb down into the Grand Canyon to reach the river below, the expedition reported that they would not be able to use the Colorado to link up with their ships. After this, the main body of the expedition began its journey to the next populated center of pueblos, along the Rio Grandemarker River in New Mexicomarker.

The Hopis probably purposefully misled the Spanish (already their enemies), by leading them, by a circuitous route, to a high, dry overlook on the Grand Canyon rim. They themselves used far easier, shorter routes from Hopi to the river. The Hopi guides were likely instructed not to volunteer any information of value to the Spanish parties. If this was the Hopi intent, the ruse worked.

Exploration of the Colorado River

Three leaders affiliated with the Coronado Expedition were able to reach the Colorado River. The first was Hernando de Alarcón, then Melchior Díaz and lastly Don Garcia Lopez de Cardenas. Alarcón's fleet was tasked to carry supplies and to establish contact with the main body of Coronado's expedition, but was unable to do so because of the extreme distance to Cibola. He traveled up the Colorado river until the river entered the lower half of the Grand Canyon. In this exploration he hauled some supplies for Coronado, but eventually he buried them with a note in a bottle. Melchior Díaz was sent down from Cibola by Coronado take charge of the camp of Corazones and to establish contact with the fleet. Soon after arriving at the camp he set out from the valley of Corazones in Sonora and traveled overland in a north/northwesterly direction until he arrived at the junction of the Colorado Rivermarker and Gila River. There the local natives, probably the CocoMaricopa (see Seymour 2007b), told him that Alarcón's sailors had buried supplies and left a note in a bottle. The supplies were retrieved and the note stated that Alarcón's men had rowed up the river as far as they could, searching in vain for the Coronado expedition. They had given up and decided to return to their departure point because worms were eating holes in their ships. Díaz named the river the "Firebrand (Tison) River" because the natives used firebrands to keep their body warm in the winter. Díaz died on the trip back to the camp in the valley of the Corazones. Don Garcia Lopez de Cardenas saw the Colorado River from the rim of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon while looking for a route that would connect them with Alarcón's fleet.

The Tiguex War

Hernando de Alvarado was sent to the east, and found several villages around the Rio Grandemarker. Coronado set up his winter quarters in one of them, Tiguex, which is across the river from present-day Bernalillomarker near Albuquerque, New Mexicomarker. During the winter of 1540-41, his army found themselves in conflicts with the Rio Grande natives, conflicts which led to the brutal Tiguex War. This war resulted in the destruction of the Tiguex pueblos and the death of hundreds of Native Americans.

The search for Quivira

A Native American, 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 Estacadomarker and what is now the Texas Panhandlemarker. However, Coronado suspected the Turk was lying about the route and executed him.Other guides led him further north to Quivira, and he reached a village, possibly near present-day Lindsborg, Kansasmarker. But his disappointment was repeated: the Quivira people (who may have been the Wichita) were not rich at all. The village consisted mostly of thatched huts, and not even small amounts of gold could be found. A site near present-day Dodge City, Kansasmarker has been claimed as the location of the first Christian mass held in the interior of North America, on June 29, 1541, and it is currently marked by a large concrete cross called Coronado's Cross commemorating the event. However, Coronado's exact route, and the location and identity of "Quivira" have been debated by many scholars, from his time until the present, with some authors preferring to find it elsewhere, such as within present-day Nebraska or Missouri, rather than Kansas.

Coronado returned to Tiguex, where his main force had remained behind. Here he spent another winter. In 1542 Coronado was ordered back to central Mexico so that his troops could help put down the The Mixtón Rebellion. He left with two of the Franciscan missionaries who insisted that they stay. Coronado returned to Mexico by the same route he had come. When he arrived in Mexico, the Mixtón Rebellion was already over. Only 100 of his men made it back. The expedition was a complete failure, and though he remained governor of Nueva Galicia until 1544, the expedition forced him into bankruptcy. Coronado retired to Mexico Citymarker, where he died on September 22 1554.


Also see Coronado

Dodge City (KS) Community College's nickname is the Conquistadors, in honor of Coronado's expedition, which passed through the future Dodge City area in 1541.

There is a large hill just northwest of Lindsborg, Kansas that is called Coronado Heights. The former owner of the land built a small castle at the lofty summit to commemorate Coronado's 1541 visit to the area. 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 Memorialmarker near Sierra Vista, Arizonamarker to commemorate his expedition.

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 1521. 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'.

In 1992, underground found footage filmmaker Craig Baldwin made the film "O No Coronado!" detailing the expedition of Coronado through the use of recycled images from Westerns, Conquest films and The Lone Ranger television series.

In the Western video game Gun, 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. In the cutscene showing this , Coronado was portrayed as a priest , but in reality he was a soldier.

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

A Southwestern-themed hotel in Orlando, Floridamarker is named the Coronado Springs Resort.

High schools in El Pasomarker and Lubbock, Texasmarker, Scottsdale, Arizonamarker, Henderson, Nevadamarker and Colorado Springs, Coloradomarker bear his name: Coronado High School.

A middle school in Kansas City, Kansas is named after Coronado: Coronado Middle School.

A K-8 school in Gilbert, Arizonamarker bears his name as well: Coronado Elementary School.

The Coronado National Forestmarker is located in southeastern Arizonamarker, named in honor of the explorer.

At Palo Duro Canyonmarker, Texas, (southeast of present day Amarillo, Texas) on May 23 1541, his group celebrated the first Thanksgiving in North America, after finding food supplies.

There is also a small "island" (it is really a peninsula) near San Diegomarker named Coronadomarker. Most visitors cross the Coronado Bridgemarker to get there.

The song Coronado And The Turk from the singer-songwriter Steve Tilston's 1992 album Of Moor And Mesa is based on the story of Coronado's expedition.


  1. Origin of Vázquez de Coronado family
  2. estrada1
  3. Winship. P. 39-40
  4. Winship. P. 38
  5. Winship. P. 32-4, 37
  6. Winship. P. 38, 40
  7. Winship. P. 60
  8. Winship. P. 40-1
  9. Winship. P. 143
  10. Micheal F. Anderson, Living at the Edge, 1998, Grand Canyon Association. ISBN 0938216554


  • Winship, George Parker, translator and editor. The Journey of Coronado 1540-1542. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1990. Introduction by Donald C. Cutter. ISBN 1-55591-066-1

Further reading

  • Blakeslee, D. J., R. Flint, and J. T. Hughes 1997. "Una Barranca Grande: Recent Archaeological Evidence and a Discussion of its Place in the Coronado Route". In The Coronado Expedition to Terra Nueva. Eds. R. and S. Flint, University of Colorado Press, Niwot.
  • Bolton,Herbert Eugene. (1949) Coronado: Knight of Pueblos and Plains (New York: Whittlesey; Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press).

    Ebook at
  • Bolton, Herbert E. (1949) Coronado on the Turquoise Trail: Knight of Pueblos and Plains. Coronado Cuarto Centennial Publications, 1540-1940, vol. 1. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. Reprinted in 1949 jointly with Whittlesey House, New York, under the title Coronado, Knight of Pueblos and Plains.
  • Bolton, H. E. (1960) Rim of Christendom. Russell and Russell, New York.
  • Bolton, Herbert E. (1921) The Spanish Borderlands: A Chronicle of Old Florida and the Southwest. Chronicles of America Series, vol. 23. Yale University Press, New Haven.
  • Castañeda, Pedro de. (1990) The Journey of Coronado. Translated with an extensive introduction by George Parker Winship, modern introduction, Donald C. Cutter, The Journey of Coronado, Fulcrum Publishing, hardcover, 233 pages, ISBN 1-55591-066-1 On-line at PBS - The West
  • Chavez, Fr. Angelico, O.F.M. (1968) Coronado's Friars.. Academy of American Franciscan History, Washington D.C.
  • Day, Arthur Grove. (1981) Coronado's Quest: The Discovery of the Southwestern States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1940; rpt., Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1981, ISBN 0313232075). Ebook at
  • De Voto, Bernard. (1952) The Course of Empire. Houghton, Mifflin, Boston.
  • Duffen, W., and Hartmann, W. K. (1997) "The 76 Ranch Ruin and the Location of Chichilticale". In The Coronado Expedition to Tierra Nueva: The 1540-1542 Route Across the Southwest. Eds. Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint. University Press of Colorado, Niwot.
    • (1997) The Coronado Expedition to Tierra Nueva: The 1540-1542 Route Across the Southwest, edited by Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint. University Press of Colorado, Niwot.
  • Flint, Richard and Shirley Cushing Flint. (1993) "Coronado’s Crosses, Route Markers Used by the Coronado Expedition". Journal of the Southwest 35(2) (1993):207-216.
    • (2003) The Coronado Expedition from the Distance of 460 Years. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
    • (2005) Documents of the Coronado Expedition, 1539-1541: They Were Not Familiar with His Majesty nor Did They Wish to Be His Subjects. Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas.
  • Forbes, Jack D. (1960) Apache, Navaho, and Spaniard. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
  • Hammond, George P. (1940) Coronado's Seven Cities. United States Coronado Exposition Commission, Albuquerque.
  • Hammond, George P., and Edgar R. Goad. (1938) The Adventure of Don Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
  • Hammond, George P. and Agapito Rey. (1920) Narratives of the Coronado Expedition 1540-1542. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque (reprint by AMS Press, New York, 1977).
  • Hammond, George P., and Agapito Rey, eds. (1940) Narratives of the Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542. Coronado Centennial Publications, 1540-1940, vol. 2. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
  • Haury, Emil W. (1984) "The Search for Chichilticale". Arizona Highways 60(4):14-19.
  • Hedrick, Basil C. (1978) "The Location of Corazones". In Across the Chichimec Sea. Ed. C. Riley, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
  • Hodge, Frederick W. and Theodore H. Lewis, ed. (1907) Spanish Explorers in the Southern United States, Vol. II (1907, xiii, 413 p.; rpt., Texas State Historical Association, 1985, 411 pages, ISBN 0876110669, ISBN 0876110677 pbk.)
  • Lee, Betty Graham. (1966) The Eagle Pass Site: An Integral Part of the Province of Chichilticale. Thatcher: Eastern Arizona College Museum of Anthropology Publication No. 5.
  • Mill, J. P., and V. M. Mills (1969) The Kuykendall Site: A Prehistoric Salado Village in Southeastern Arizona. El Paso Arch. Soc. Spec. Report for 1967, No. 6, El Paso.
  • Reff, Daniel T. (1991) Disease, Depopulation and Culture Change in Northwestern New Spain, 1518-1764. (University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
    • Reff, Daniel T. (1997) "The Relevance of Ethnology to the Routing of the Coronado Expedition in Sonora". In The Coronado Expedition to Tierra Nueva: The 1540-1542 Route Across the Southwest. pp. 165-176, Eds. Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint. University Press of Colorado, Niwot.
  • Sauer, Carl O. (1932) The Road to Cibola. Ibero-Americana III. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Schroeder, Albert E. (1955) "Fray Marcos de Niza, Coronado and the Yavapai". New Mex. Hist. Rev. 30:265-296; see also 31:24-37.
  • Seymour, Deni J., (2007) An Archaeological Perspective on the Hohokam-Pima Continuum. Old Pueblo Archaeology Bulletin No. 51, December 2007:1-7.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2008) Despoblado or Athapaskan Heartland: A Methodological Perspective on Ancestral Apache Landscape Use in the Safford Area. Chapter 5 in Crossroads of the Southwest: Culture, Ethnicity, and Migration in Arizona's Safford Basin, pp. 121-162, edited by David E. Purcell, Cambridge Scholars Press, New York.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2009) Evaluating Eyewitness Accounts of Native Peoples Along the Coronado Trail From the International Border to Cibola. New Mexico Historical Review 84(3):399-435.
  • Seymour, Deni J. (2009) Where the Earth and Sky are Stitched Together: Sobaípuri-O’odham Contexts of Contact and Colonialism. Book manuscript.
  • Udall, Steward S. (1984) "In Coronado's Footsteps". Arizona Highways 60(4):3.

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