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The first European in New Mexico


Capitol of New Mexico
Capitol of New Mexico

The first European to approach present-day New Mexico was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who was shipwrecked with about 300 men on the Texas coast in 1528. The expedition also included Estevanico, a slave from Azamor, Morocco. Only Estevanico, Cabeza de Vaca, and two others survived the Native American attacks and disease. Cabeza de Vaca led the group west across Texas and then south to Mexico City on what became an eight-year journey, during which he and Estevanico gained the friendship of many Native American peoples, who told them about a kingdom of wealth called the Seven Cities of Cíbola. Cabeza de Vaca’s report about the possibility of wealth interested the viceroy of New Spain.

In 1539 Estevanico guided a small band led by Father Marcos de Niza that set out to find the Seven Cities. Although he found no riches, De Niza reported that he had sighted one of the cities. Zuni Pueblo killed Estevanico on this expedition. In 1540 a stronger party led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado visited the Pueblo country of New Mexico but found no treasure. Coronado discovered that the Seven Cities of Cíbola were actually pueblo communities of the Zuni people that contained little wealth. He then headed northwest to find Tusayan, a group of Hopi pueblos rumored to contain many riches. Again he was disappointed by the simple villages he encountered. From Tusayan, Coronado dispatched a small party west under Garcia López de Cárdenas that was the first group of Europeans to see the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. "New Mexico" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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