Exploration and Settlement

Cabeza De Vaca

What were the Seven Cities of Cíbola?

The reference is to an area in present-day northern New Mexico that was thought by early Spanish explorers to contain vast treasures. One expedition in search of these legendary golden cities was that led by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (c. 1510–1554), who sought to claim the riches for Spain. In 1540 he set out from North Galicia (a province northwest of Mexico City) with some 300 Spanish troops as well as some Indians. They made it into the region where Arizona and New Mexico lie today. There they encountered Zuni Indian settlements and believed these to be Cíbola. The Spaniards captured the Zuni, who were the descendants of the Anasazi cliff dwellers that had settled the Southwest as early as 10,000 B.C. The Spaniards found no gold at the Zuni settlement. Separate expeditions set out, still hoping to locate riches in the area. They did not find any precious metals, but they did make some discoveries: They were the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon, to travel up the Rio Grande Valley, and to encounter several native peoples living in the region. In 1546 Coronado was accused of cruelty in his treatment of these peoples.


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