- Francisco Vázquez de Coronado
- Juan de Oñate
- Diego de Vargas
In 1542, the first Spanish explorer, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, came to Kansas in search of gold.
Other Spanish explorers who came to Kansas later included Juan de Padilla in 1579,
Antonio de Espejo in 1583, and Diego Perez de Luxan in 1662.
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Francisco Vázquez de Coronado
Francisco Vázquez de Coronado was born in Salamanca, Spain in around 1510. He was a Spanish explorer who came to Kansas in 1541. He was the first European to explore the American Southwest. He is best known for his expedition to the Seven Cities of Cibola in search of the fabled riches of legend.
Born in Salamanca, Spain
Francisco Vázquez de Coronado was born in Salamanca, Spain, in 1510. His family was wealthy, and he was related to the ruling family of Spain. Coronado became a soldier at an early age and served in campaigns in North Africa and Italy. In 1535, he married a woman from a wealthy Mexican family. The couple had four children.
In 1540, Coronado was appointed governor of the Mexican province of Nueva Galicia. He soon became interested in exploring the northern part of the continent. In 1541, he led an expedition from Mexico City north into present-day Arizona and New Mexico. The expedition did not find the riches that Coronado had been hoping for, but he did discover the Grand Canyon.
In 1542, Coronado returned to Mexico City. He then led another expedition north, this time into present-day Kansas and Colorado. The expedition included several hundred Spanish soldiers, as well as Native American guides and interpreters. The group searched for cities made of gold, but they only found small villages made of adobe brick.
In 1544, Coronado returned to Mexico City for the last time. He died there in 1554 at the age of 44.
Appointed as the governor of Nueva Galicia
In 1535, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado was appointed as the governor of Nueva Galicia, which is now northwest Mexico. He was charged with finding the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. Instead of using the usual route west along the Gulf of California, Coronado took an overland route across present-day Arizona and New Mexico.
Led the first major Spanish expedition into the American Southwest
In the spring of 1540, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado set out from Compostela, in northwestern Mexico, leading an expedition of several hundred Spanish soldiers and a few dozen Indigenous guides and interpreters. Their goal was to find the fabled Seven Cities of Gold, which were rumored to exist somewhere in the present-day southwestern United States.
The expedition traveled north through what is now the Mexican state of Sonora and then turned east, crossing the present-day border into Arizona. They soon came upon the Zuni village of Hawikku, which was friendly at first but then became hostile when the Spaniards demanded food and supplies. After a brief battle, in which several Spaniards and many Zuni were killed, Coronado’s force captured the village.
The expedition continued eastward into New Mexico, where they found some evidence of the Seven Cities of Gold but no actual cities. They did find villages made of adobe homes, as well as fields of maize (corn) and other crops. The Spaniards also met Indigenous people who lived in Pueblos, or large communties made up of numerous adobe homes built close together.
After spending several months exploring present-day New Mexico and parts of Arizona and Colorado, Coronado’s expedition began its journey back to Mexico. Along the way, they crossed the Great Plains for the first time. This region was completely new to the Spanish explorers, who had only ever seen desert before. They were amazed by the tall grasses that swayed in the wind across what seemed like an infinite expanse.
Although Coronado’s expedition did not find any cities made of gold, it was significant because it was the first time that Europeans had explored much of present-day Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. The expedition paved the way for future Spanish colonization of these areas.
Juan de Oñate
In 1598, Juan de Oñate led an expedition of Spanish explorers and soldiers north from present-day Mexico into the American Southwest. Oñate and his men were the first Europeans to set foot in what is now the state of Kansas. The Spanish expedition traveled up the Rio Grande Valley, through present-day New Mexico and Colorado, and into the Great Plains of Kansas.
Born in Zacatecas, Mexico
Juan de Oñate was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, in 1550. He was the son of a Spanish colonist and a Mexican Indian woman. Oñate’s father was a wealthy landowner and had served as mayor of the city of Zacatecas. When Oñate was sixteen, his father died, and he inherited his father’s estate. Oñate subsequently married Isabel de Tolosa Cortés y Moctezuma, the daughter of Hernando Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, and La Malinche, his indigenous interpreter and mistress.
In 1595, Oñate led a group of Spanish explorers north from Mexico into present-day New Mexico. He established the first Spanish colony in New Mexico at San Juan Pueblo. From there, he led expeditions east into present-day Colorado and Kansas. In 1609, on an expedition up the Rio Grande River, Oñate claimed all the land along the river for Spain. This claim extended from present-day Texas to Wyoming.
Appointed as the governor of New Spain’s northern frontier province
Juan de Oñate was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, in 1550. He was the son of Cristóbal de Oñate, a wealthy Spanish miner and landowner, and Isabel de Salazar y de la Cadena. In 1595, Oñate was appointed as the governor of New Spain’s northern frontier province. He led an expedition of Spanish explorers and settlers into present-day Kansas in 1601. The expedition built a fort at present-day Goodland, Kansas, and established Spanish claims to the region. Oñate’s expedition was the first European exploration of what is now Kansas.
Led the second major Spanish expedition into the American Southwest
Onate was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, in 1550. He was the son of a Spanish conquistador and a Mexican woman of noble Aztec descent. Oñate grew up in a wealthy family and was educated in Spain. He served as a Spanish colonial administrator in New Mexico before leading an expedition into Kansas in 1598.
Oñate’s expedition was the second major Spanish expedition into the American Southwest. The first had been led by Francisco Coronado in 1540-42. Oñate’s expedition departed from Mexico City in January 1598. It included more than 400 soldiers, 100 wagons, and 7,000 animals. The expedition followed the same route as Coronado’s, north through present-day Arizona and New Mexico into Kansas.
Oñate’s expedition reached present-day Kansas in May 1598. They explored the area for several months before returning to New Mexico. Oñate claimed all the land he had explored for Spain, including present-day Kansas. This claim made him the first European to lay claim to Kansas land.
Diego de Vargas
Diego de Vargas was a Spanish explorer and soldier who led the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico and is credited with the repopulation of Santa Fe de Nuevo México. He served two terms as governor of the colony.
Born in Extremadura, Spain
Diego de Vargas was born in Extremadura, Spain in the early 1650s. He was a career military man and served in the Spanish Army in Italy and Catalonia. In the early 1690s, he was sent to New Spain (now Mexico) to help put down a rebellion against Spanish rule. He was successful in this and was rewarded with a large estate in what is now the state of Sonora.
Appointed as the governor of New Spain’s northern frontier province
In 1692, Diego de Vargas was appointed as the governor of New Spain’s northern frontier province. He was tasked with leading the Spanish explorer’s quest to find a route through the American Southwest.
In 1693, de Vargas and his expedition made it to what is now Kansas. They were the first Europeans to explore the state. The expedition continued on to Oklahoma and Texas before returning to Mexico.
De Vargas returned to Kansas in 1696 and established a settlement near modern-day Wichita. This settlement, known as Villa de Cuero y Salado, was short-lived. It was destroyed by a group of Native Americans in 1697.
Despite this setback, de Vargas remained determined to establish a Spanish presence in Kansas. He returned again in 1700 and built a fort near present-day Liberal. This fort, known as Santa Fe de Los Adaes, was the first European settlement in Kansas.
Led the third and final major Spanish expedition into the American Southwest
In 1692, Diego de Vargas led the third and final major Spanish expedition into the American Southwest. He was appointed governor of Santa Fe by the king of Spain, and he led his men north in an attempt to wrest control of the area from the Native Americans. After a long and difficult journey, they eventually reached their destination and established a small fort in what is now Kansas. De Vargas and his men spent the next few years exploring the area, mapping out the land, and searching for valuable minerals. They also made contact with other Spanish settlements in the region. In 1696, de Vargas returned to Spain, but he left behind a small detachment of troops to maintain control of Santa Fe.