| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
Pedro de Casteñeda
As Fray Marcos de Niza set out to verify Cabeza de Vaca’s accounts,
Viceroy Mendoza also was preparing for a full-scale exploration to be launched
out of the northern province of New Galicia. To secure it as a base, he
appointed as governor his protegé Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. When Fray Marcos
returned with glowing tales of Cíbola, Coronado was commissioned to lead an
expedition of some two thousand people—including at least three women—and
almost as many animals moving by land, and a fleet under Hernando de Alarcón
proceeding up the Gulf of California. The venture set out with great
Disappointment soon replaced optimism when the capture of Cíbola (Zuni) revealed Fray Marcos’s
penchant for hyperbole. The friar was sent back, but Coronado continued farther
and farther into the heart of the continent following other voices of
exaggerated promises. The most infamous was offered by “the Turk,” a Plains
Indian, who convinced the Spaniards that Quivira was the city of their dreams.
Coronado led a splinter group as far as central Kansas, encountering the
Wichita, who were numerous but not rich in gold. He also encountered herds of
buffalo and described the ocean-like plains that centuries later would swallow
wagon trains from the east. Coronado eventually returned south in failure, the purpose
of his mission—gold and the location of another Mexico City—having eluded him.
Little is known of Pedro de Casteñeda, who recorded the account of Coronado’s journey over twenty
years after the event. A native of Najera in northern Spain, he had established
himself at the Spanish outpost at Culiacan, in northwestern Mexico, at the time
Coronado formed his expedition.
University of California at Irvine
In the Heath Anthology
The Narrative of the Expedition of Coronado, Chapter XXI: Of How the Army Returned to Tiguex and the General Reached Quivira (1922)
The Journey of Coronado, 1540-1542 (trans. George Parker Winship) (1904)
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