Fray Marcos de Niza Italian Explorer

In 1495 Nice witnessed the birth of the great Fray Marcos de Niza. During that period, his birth place Nice was controlled by the House of Savoy of Italy. Niza is remembered till today for his great travels and fearless adventures. His explorations are still alive in the minds of many.

In his travels through Zuni he perhaps followed the footsteps of Estevanico who was a Moorish slave, and had accompanied Cabeza de Vaca in his travels. Yet he chose a very different path in his career and was soon very unlike his predecessor.

Fray Marcos de Niza

Early Life

In 1531, Fray Marcos de Niza set his foot in the land of the Americas. This is where he proved himself with his hard work and his abilities were soon noticed by his seniors. His sincere work was appreciated and acknowledged in Guatemala, Peru and Mexico. It was after this that he found his grand opportunity to set out on an expedition of the northern neighbor of the famous country of Sonora!

The land north of Sonora had been made famous because of the supposed riches that lay confined in this country! In fact much had been heard and said about this land in Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca’s stories that described and gave grand accounts of the wealth and gold of this land.

Niza was sent in order to discover and bring back to his native land this wealth and treasure and explore the land leaving behind the cultural trait of the Spanish in this new land.


In the March of 1539, Niza started for Zuni. After leaving Culiacan, Niza travelled through south eastern parts of the Arizona. In the end of his difficult journey through the land of Arizona, he finally reached his destination Zuni which was also often referred to as the “Seven Cities of Cibola”. After this successful expedition he returned to Culiacan again in September of the same year.

In his travels he followed the journey of Estevanico. Prior to his next expedition and adventure in Zuni Fray Marcos Niza became the Provincial Superior in Mexico with respect to his own order. However, at the end of this second adventure he returned to Culiacan, his capital without any success.

His adventures in Zuni had ended in a complete failure and Niza had not acquired the wealth and success that he had set out to bring back for his native folks. After he returned in 1541 he died in Culiacan on the 25th of March, in the year 1558.

His Report

Niza had not seen Cibola closely and had not actually explored the land in details. He submitted his report titled the “Descubrimiento de las siete ciudades” which proved to be quite misleading for future explorers.

It is true that his observation of Cibola being of the size of the Mexico City was indeed accurate. However, in his report he relied more on stories and rumors than on his actual experiences and this made the report unreliable and dangerous.

In fact its ill effects befell upon Francisco Vasquez de Coronado who led an expedition to Zuni Pueblo based on Niza’s report the following year. The expedition needless to say was a total failure and all it brought to the Spanish was disappointment and financial crisis.

More Info On- Famous Italian Explorers, Portuguese Explorers, Famous Polar Explorers

Found info useful?