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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Pedro de Casteñeda
(1510?-1570?)


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 expectations.

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.

Juan Bruce-Novoa
University of California at Irvine



Texts
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)

Other Works
The Journey of Coronado, 1540-1542 (trans. George Parker Winship) (1904)



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