Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562

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Author: Francisco Vázquez de Coronado  | Date: 1540

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Coronado’s Wanderings

THE 22d of the month of April last past I departed from the province of Culiacan with part of the army, and in such order as I mentioned unto your lordship, and according to the success I assured myself, by all likelihood that I shall not bring all my army together in this enterprise: because the troubles have been so great and the want of victuals, that I think all this year will not be sufficient to perform this enterprise, and if it should be performed in so short a time, it would be to the great loss of our people. For as I wrote unto your lordship, I was fourscore days in traveling to Culiacan, in all which time I and those gentlemen my companions which were horsemen, carried on our backs, and on our horses, a little victual, so that from henceforward we carried none other needful apparel with us, that was above a pound weight:

Thirty leagues before we arrived at the place which the father provincial told us so well of in his relation, I sent Melchior Diaz before with fifteen horses, giving him order to make but one day’s journey of two, because he might examine all things, against my arrival: who traveled four days’ journey through exceedingly rough mountains where he found neither victuals, nor people, nor information of any things, saving that he found two or three poor little villages, containing 20 or 30 cottages apiece, and by the inhabitants thereof he understood that from thence forward there were nothing but exceedingly rough mountains which ran very far, utterly disinhabited and void of people. And because it was labor lost, I would not write unto your lordship thereof.

It grieved the whole company, that a thing so highly commended, and whereof the father had made so great brags, should be found so contrary, and it made them suspect that all the rest would fall out in like sort. Which when I perceived I sought to encourage them the best I could, telling them that your lordship always was of opinion, that this voyage was a thing cast away, and that we should fix our cogitation upon those seven cities, and other provinces, whereof we had knowledge: that there should be the end of our enterprise: and with this resolution and purpose we all marched cheerfully through a very bad way which was not passable but one by one, or else we must force out with pioneers the path which we found, wherewith the soldiers were not a little offended, finding all that the friar had said to be quite contrary: for among other things which the father said and affirmed, this was one, that the way was plain and good, and that there was but one small hill of half a league in length. And yet in truth there are mountains which although the way were well mended could not be pasaed without great danger of breaking the horses’ necks: and the way was such, that of the cattle which our lordship sent us for the provision of our army we lost a great part in the voyage through the roughness of the rocks. The lambs and sheep lost their hoofs in the way….

At length I arrived at the valley of the people called Caracones, the 26 day of the month of May: and from Culiacan until I came thither, I could not help myself, save only with a great quantity of bread of maize: for seeing the maize in the fields were not yet ripe, I was constrained to leave them all behind me. In this valley of the Caracones we found more store of people than in any other part of the country which we had passed, and great store of tillage. But I understood that there was store thereof in another valley called the Lords valley, which I would not disturb with force, but sent thither Melchior Diaz with wares of exchange to procure some, and to give the said maize to the Indians our friends which we brought with us, and to some others that had lost their cattle in the way, and were not able to carry their victuals so far which they brought from Culiacan. It pleased God that we got some small quantity of maize with this traffic, whereby certain Indians were relieved and some Spaniards.

And by that time that we were come to this valley of the Caracones, some ten or twelve of our horses were dead through weariness: for being overcharged with great burdens, and having but little meat, they could not endure the travail. Likewise some of our negroes and some of our Indians died here; which was no small want unto us for the performance of our enterprise….

I rested myself two days in Chichilticale, and to have done well I should have stayed longer, in respect that here we found our horses so tired: but because we wanted victuals, we had no leisure to rest any longer: I entered the confines of the desert country on Saint John’s eve, and to refresh our former travail, the first days we found no grass, but worser way of mountains and bad passages, than we had passed already: and the horses being tired, were greatly molested therewith: so that in this last desert we lost more horses than we had lost before: and some of my Indians which were our friends died, and one Spaniard whose name was Spinosa; and two negroes, which died with eating certain herbs for lack of victuals….

But after we had passed these thirty leagues, we found fresh rivers, and grass like that of Castile, and especially of that sort which we call Scaramoio, many nut trees and mulberry trees, but the nut trees differ from those of Spain in the leaf: and there was flax, but chiefly near the banks of a certain river which therefore we called El Rio del Lino, that is say, the river of flax: we found no Indians at all for a day’s travel, but afterward four Indians came out unto us in peaceable manner, saying that they were sent even to that desert place to signify unto us that we were welcome, and that the next day all the people would come out to meet us on the way with victuals: and the master of the field gave them a cross, willing them to signify to those of their city that they should not fear, and they should rather let the people stay in their houses, because I came only in the name of His Majesty to defend and aid them….

And this done I sent the master of the field to search whether there were any bad passage which the Indians might keep against us, and that he should take and defend it until the next day that I should come thither. So he went, and found in the way a very bad passage, where we might have sustained very great harm: wherefore there he seated himself with his company that were with him: and that very night the Indians came to take that passage and defend it, and finding it taken, they assaulted our men there, and as they tell me, they assaulted them like valiant men; although in the end they retired and fled away; for the master of the field was watchful, and was in order with his company: the Indians in token of retreat sounded on a certain small trumpet, and did no hurt among the Spaniards. The very same night the master of the field certified me hereof. Whereupon the next day in the best order that I could I departed in so great want of victual, that I thought that if we should stay one day longer without food, we should all perish for hunger, especially the Indians, for among us all we had not two bushels of corn: wherefore it behooved me to prick forward without delay. The Indians here and there made fires, and were answered again afar off as orderly as we for our lives could have done, to give their fellows understanding, how we marched and where we arrived.

In the mean space I arrived with all the rest of the horsemen, and footmen, and found in the fields a great sort of the Indians which began to shoot at us with their arrows: and because I would obey your will and the command of the Marquis, I no let my people charge them, forbidding my company, which entreated me that they might set upon them, in any wise to provoke them, saying that that which the enemies did was nothing, and that it was not meet to set upon so few people. On the other side the Indians perceiving that we stirred not, took great stomach and courage unto them: insomuch that they came hard to our horse’s heels to shoot at us with their arrows. Whereupon seeing that it was now time to stay no longer, and that the friars also were of the same opinion, I set upon them without any danger: for suddenly they fled part to the city which was near and well fortified, and other into the field, which way they could shift: and some of the Indians were slain, and more had been if I would have suffered them to have been pursued.

But considering that hereof we might reap but small profit, because the Indians that were without, were few, and those which were retired into the city, with them which stayed within at the first were many, where victuals were whereof we had so great need, I assembled my people, and divided them as I thought best to assault the city, and I compassed it about: and because the famine which we sustained suffered no delay, myself with certain of these gentlemen and soldiers put ourselves on foot, and commanded that the crossbows and harquebusiers should give the assault, and should beat the enemies from the walls, that they might not hurt us, and I assaulted the walls on one side, where they told me there was a scaling ladder set up, and that there was one gate: but the crossbowmen suddenly broke the strings of their bows, and the harquebusiers did nothing at all: for they came thither so weak and feeble, that scarcely they could stand on their feet: and by this means the people that were aloft on the walls to defend the town were no way hindered from doing us all the mischief they could: so that twice they struck me to the ground with infinite number of great stones, which they cast down: and if I had not been defended with an excellent good headpiece which I wore, I think it had gone hard with me: nevertheless my company took me up with two small wounds in the face, and an arrow sticking in my foot, and many blows with stones on my arms and legs, and thus I went out of the battle very weak. I think that if Don Garcias Lopez de Cardenas the second time that they struck me to the ground had not succored me with striding over me like a good knight, I had been in far greater danger than I was. But it pleased God that the Indians yielded themselves unto us, and that this city was taken: and such store of maize was found therein, as our necessity required….

The seven cities are seven small towns, all made with these kind of houses that I speak of: and they stand all within four leagues together, and they are all called the kingdom of Cibola, and every one of them have their particular name: and none of them is called Cibola, but altogether they are called Cibola. And this town which I call a city, I have named Granada, as well because it is somewhat like unto it, as also in remembrance of your lordship. In this town where I now remain, there may be some two hundred houses, all compassed with walls and I think that with the rest of the houses which are not so walled, they may be together five hundred. There is another town near this, which is one of the seven, and it is somewhat bigger than this, and another of the same bigness that this is of, and the other four are somewhat less: and I send them all painted unto your lordship with the voyage. And the parchment wherein the picture is, was found here with other parchments. The people of this town seem unto me of a reasonable stature, and witty, yet they seem not to be such as they should be, of that judgment and wit to build these houses in such sort as they are. For the most part they go all naked, except their private parts which are covered: and they have painted mantles like those which I send unto your lordship. They have no cotton wool growing, because the country is cold, yet they wear mantles thereof as your honor may see by the show thereof: and true it is that there was found in their houses certain yarn made of cotton wool. They wear their hair on their heads like those of Mexico, and they are well nurtured and conditioned: And they have turquoise I think in good quantity, which with the rest of the goods which they had, except their corn, they had conveyed away before I came thither: for I found no women there, nor no youth under fifteen years old, nor no old folks above sixty, saving two or three old folks, who stayed behind to govern all the rest of the youth and men of war. There were found in a certain paper two points of emeralds, and certain small stones broken which are in color somewhat like granates very bad, and other stones of crystal, which I gave one of my servants to lay up to send them to your lordship, and he has lost them as he tells me. We found here Guinea cocks, but few. The Indians tell me in all these seven cities, that they eat them not, but that they keep them only for their feathers. I believe them not, for they are excellently good, and greater than those of Mexico. The season which is in this country, and the temperature of the air is like that of Mexico: for some time it is hot, and some time it rains: but hitherto I never saw it rain, but once there fell a little shower with wind, as they are wont to fall in Spain.

The snow and cold are wont to be great, for so say the inhabitants of the country: and it is very likely so to be, both in respect to the manner of the country, and by the fashion of their houses, and their furs and other things which this people have to defend them from cold. There is no kind of fruit nor trees of fruit. The country is all plain, and is on no side mountainous: albeit there are some hilly and bad passages. There are small store of fowls: the cause whereof is the cold, and because the mountains are not near. Here is no great store of wood, because they have wood for their fuel sufficient four leagues off from a wood of small cedars. There is most excellent grass within a quarter of a league hence, for our horses as well to feed them in pasture, as to mow and make hay, whereof we stood in great need, because our horses came hither so weak and feeble. The victuals which the people of this country have, is maize whereof they have great store, and also small white peas: and venison, which by all likelihood they feed upon, (though they say no) for we found many skins of deer, of hares, and conies. They eat the best cakes that ever I saw, and everybody generally eats of them. They have the finest order and way to grind that we ever saw in any place. And one Indian woman of this country will grind as much as four women of Mexico. They have most excellent salt in kernel, which they fetch from a certain lake a day’s journey from hence….

Three days after this city was taken, certain Indians of these people came to offer me peace, and brought me certain turquoise, and bad mantles, and I received them in His Majesty’s name with all the good speeches that I could devise, certifying them of the purpose of my coming into this country, which is in the name of His Majesty, and by the commandment of your lordship, that they and all the rest of the people of this province should become Christians, and should know the true God for their Lord, and receive His Majesty for their King and earthly Sovereign: And herewithal they returned to their houses, and suddenly the next day they set in order all their goods and substance, their women and children, and fled to the hills, leaving their towns as it were abandoned, wherein remained very few of them. When I saw this, within eight or ten days after being recovered of my wounds, I went to the city, which I said to be greater than this where I am, and found there some few of them, to whom I said that they should not be afraid, and that they should call their governor unto me: Howbeit forasmuch as I can learn or gather, none of them have any governor: for I saw not there any chief house, whereby any preeminence of one over another might be gathered. After this an old man came, which said that he was their lord, with a piece of a mantle made of many pieces, with whom I reasoned that small while that he stayed with me, and he said that within three days after he and the rest of the chiefs of that town would come and visit me, and give order what course should be taken with them. Which they did: for they brought me certain mantles and some turquoises. I advised them to come down from their holds, and to return with their wives and children to their houses, and to become Christians, and that they would acknowledge the Emperor’s majesty for their King and lord. And even to this present they keep in those strongholds their women and children, and all the goods which they have. I commanded them that they should paint me out a cloth of all the beasts which they know in their country: And such bad painters as they are, forthwith they painted me two clothes, one of their beasts, another of their birds and fishes. They say that they will bring their children, that our religious men may instruct them, and that they desire to know our law: And they assure us, that above fifty years past it was prophesied among them, that a certain people like us should come, and from that part that we came from, and that they should subdue all that country.

That which these Indians worship as far as hitherto we can learn, is the water: for they say it causes their corn to grow, and maintains their life; and that they know none other reason, but that their ancestors did so. I have sought by all means possible to learn of the inhabitants of these towns, whether they have any knowledge of other people, countries and cities: And they tell me of seven cities which are far distant from this place, which are like unto these, though they have not houses like unto these, but they are of earth, and small: and that among them much cotton is gathered. The chief of these towns whereof they have knowledge, they say is called Tucano: and they gave me no perfect knowledge of the rest…. I would have sent your lordship with this dispatch many musters of things which are in this country: but the way is so long and rough, that it is hard for me to do so; nevertheless I send you twelve small mantles, such as the people of the country are wont to wear, and a certain garment also, which seems unto me to be well made: I kept the same, because it seemed to me to be excellently well wrought, because I believe that no man ever saw any needle work in these Indies, except it were since the Spaniards inhabited the same. I send your lordship also two clothes painted with the beasts of this country, although as I have said, the picture be very rudely done, because the painter spent but one day in drawing of the same. I have seen other pictures on the walls of the houses of this city with far better proportion, and better made. I send your honor one ox-hide, certain turquois, and two earrings of the same, and fifteen combs of the Indians, and certain tablets set with these turquois, and two small baskets made of wicker, whereof the Indians have great store. I send your lordship also two rolls which the women in these parts are wont to wear on their heads when they fetch water from their wells, as we use to do in Spain. And one of these Indian women with one of these rolls on her head, will carry a pitcher of water without touching the same with her hand up a ladder. I send you also a muster of the weapons wherewith these people are wont to fight, a buckler, a mace, a bow, and certain arrows, among which are two with points of bones, the like whereof, as these conquerors say, have never been seen. I can say nothing unto your lordship touching the apparel of their women. For the Indians keep them so carefully from us, that hitherto I have not seen any of them, saving only two old women, and these had two long robes down to the feet open before, and girded to them, and they are buttoned with certain cords of cotton. I requested the Indians to give me one of these robes, which they wear, to send your honor the same, seeing they would not show me their women. And they brought me two mantles which are these, which I send you as it were painted: they have two pendants like the women of Spain, which hang somewhat over their shoulders. The death of the negro is most certain: for here are many of the things found which he carried with him: And the Indians tell me that they killed him here, because the Indians of Chichilticale told them that he was a wicked villain, and not like unto the Christians: because the Christians kill no women: and he killed women; and also he touched their women, which the Indians love more than themselves; therefore they determined to kill him: But they did not after such sort as was reported, for they killed none of the rest of those that came with him: neither slew they the young lad which was with him of the province of Petatlan, but they took him and kept him in safe custody until now. And when I sought to have him, they excused themselves two or three days to give him me, telling me that he was dead, and sometimes that the Indians of Accu had carried him away. But in conclusion, when I told them that I should be very angry if they did not give him to me, they gave him unto me. He is an interpreter, for though he cannot well speak their language, yet he understands the same very well. In this place there is found some quantity of gold and silver, which those which are skillful in mineral matters esteem to be very good. To this hour I could never learn of these people from whence they have it: And I see they refuse to tell me the truth in all things, imagining, as I have said, that in short time I would depart hence, but I hope in God they shall no longer excuse themselves. I beseech your lordship to certify his Majesty of the success of this voyage. For seeing we have no more than that which is aforesaid, and until such time as it please God that we find that which we desire, I mean not to write myself. Our Lord God keep and preserve your Excellency. Francis Vasques de Coronado kisses the hands of your Excellency.

From the Province of Cibola, and from this city of Granada the third of August 1540.

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Chicago: Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, "Coronado’s Wanderings," Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562 in America, Vol.1, Pp.259-273 Original Sources, accessed August 9, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1XUCQ1LDFHGUVNT.

MLA: Vázquez de Coronado, Francisco. "Coronado’s Wanderings." Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562, in America, Vol.1, Pp.259-273, Original Sources. 9 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1XUCQ1LDFHGUVNT.

Harvard: Vázquez de Coronado, F, 'Coronado’s Wanderings' in Discovery and Exploration, 1000-1562. cited in , America, Vol.1, Pp.259-273. Original Sources, retrieved 9 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1XUCQ1LDFHGUVNT.