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Francisco Vasquez de Coronado: Spanish Explorer

Who was Francisco Vasquez de Coronado?


A Spanish governor who spent his life exploring the Southwest United States was  Francisco Coronado. He became famous for his expeditions that were long stories of wealth and myths. Coronado spent his life in search of Seven Cities of Gold that were popular in fables at that time. He traveled worldwide in the regions that were never explored by any Europeans previously ranging from Mexico to Arizona, New Mexico to Texas and Kansas.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado

Although he did not become successful in finding any fable city and its riches, however he along with his team discovered something that became too popular that people from around the world came to see and visit it which is famous as the “Grand Canyon”.

Early Life of Coronado

Born in the year 1510, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, belonged to a respected family of Salamanca, Spain. He was the second son to his father Juan Vasquez de Coronado and mother Isabel de Lujan. The family was quite noble and was the owner of the large property and estate. Hence Coronado received a very good education at his young age.

 Coronado left his home when he was in his teenage as it was the tradition that eldest son Gonzalo Coronado would be the heir of the father’s fortune. His father worked under the Governor of Granada Inigo who had a son Antonio. Coronado and Antonio soon became friends which opened many opportunities for Coronado.

It was the time when Spanish attacked many parts of the world to set up their own colonies. Antonio was made the viceroy of the new colony of Spain and he later asked Coronado to work as his assistant.

Marriage and Children’s of Coronado

While in New Spain, Coronado married Beatriz de Estrada who was the daughter of Alonso de Estrada. As Alonso was the colonial official in New Spain before the appointment of New Viceroy, the family was very wealthy and rich.

Being married to Beatriz, Coronado was then the inheritance of half of her wealth and made his fortune. He had eight children with his wife. Being married to a daughter of Colonial he was appointed at very important positions

Career before Voyages

He first became an important commander in the military to settle the arguments between the Spaniards and the natives there. Later in the year 1538, Coronado was made the governor of the New Glacia, an area in Western Mexico. After this, he became a popular, wealthy and respected leader for the world.

Why did FC Explore and What did He Explore?

After being a respected person, Antonio and Coronado heard about the stories from Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish explorer about the place called the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. It was a myth at that time that cities are filled with lots of riches.

Hence Antonio chooses Coronado to set for an expedition, lead it, find these cities and conquer them under their riches and area under the New Spain.


In the Year 1540, Francisco began his journey of the expedition along with 300 Spanish soldiers, many hundreds of natives and lots of cattle, horses, and livestock. They first traveled to the northeast of New Glacia which was still unexplored.

In July of 1540, Coronado along with his men reached the Native American Pueblos which is the present-day New Mexico Zuni tribe which was misunderstood by them as the golden cities of Cibola.

Coronado Remington

During his famous “Conquest of Cibola”, he was injured and took refuge with the Zunis. However, even during this time, he sent various expeditions to different parts of the region. In such expeditions, the Spanish were often intentionally misled by their Hopi guides.

Out of the various leaders whom he had sent out for expeditions, Alarcon, Diaz, and Cardenas managed to reach the Colorado River. Falvardo, another leader under him found himself involved in the Tiguex War which killed many Americans. This is an event that is still remembered along with the name and career of Coronado.

FC – How Many Voyages Did He Go On?

 Although Francisco Vasquez de Coronado (FC) ages of exploration began in 1540 and ended up in 1544, he made only one main voyage followed by other subsequent voyages.

 What did FC Discover?

As Coronado did not meet with his expectation of riches in Cibola, They moved to the Rio Grande, now Central New Mexico and made it their base. Coronado set out two scouting parties. The one that was guided by Garcia Lopez de Cardenas became the first European team to discover the Grand Canyon. The other party discovered more pueblos in the valley of Rio Grande.

There began a battle against the native of Pueblo in the Tiguex area which lasted for several months. Later Coronado’s men joined him back and they settled themselves at Santa Fe in the New Mexico. However, Coronado was still very disappointed as they did not find any riches anywhere.

However, his hope restored again when he again heard the tales about the lands filled with riches in 1541.

 He then set out for the second part of his expedition which was to the North East as suggested by one of the native slaves. The capital of this place was Quivira that was filled with a lot of riches and wealth. Coronado spent almost a month exploring that place but did not found what he expected.

Later it was confined by his slave that he made false stories and was executed. Then Coronado returned to Cibola to spend another winter. After Winter was over they began their journey back to Mexico.

How did FC die?

Coronado’s return to New Mexico after his expedition at Quivira marked the end of his adventures. Falling from his horse in December of 1541 had severely injured him and he was forced to return to his homeland. His expedition had clearly failed.

The worst part was that he was unable to find the wealth that he had set out for.  In the bargain, most of the money that he had was also lost in his adventurous ventures. He was on the brink of bankruptcy by the time he returned home. Till 1544, he retained his position of being the Governor. On the 22nd of September, 1554 he breathed his last in Mexico City.

Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Interesting Facts

Years later it was discovered that in spite of the great loss of life and property,  that Coronado’s expeditions had caused, he failed to leave much influence in terms of culture on those whom he had wanted to conquer. His fame and achievements are undeniable. The name of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado is still alive in the names of many parks and forests.

Coronado Expedition

The nickname ‘Conquistador’ given to the Community College in Dodge City is an homage to Coronado’s greatness. The Coronado National Memorial established in 1952 near Sierra Vista, the Coronado National Forest in Arizona. The island named Coronado in San Diego are some other examples of his memory that still lives on.

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