(SPAIN EXPANDS, to 1600 – continued)

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SPAIN EXPANDS, to 1600 (5 of 6)

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Expedition to Arizona and New Mexico, 1540-42

From Mexico City, Viceroy Mendoza organized and financed with his own money an expedition to Nuevo Mexico, to be led by the thirty-year-old governor of Nueva Galicia, Francisco de Coronado. The expedition included 225 cavalrymen, 62 foot soldiers, 1000 Indians and black slaves driving many head of cattle.

In 1540 the expedition journeyed north through what is today called Arizona. Coronado sent a scouting party that found the Grand Canyon and then returned to the group. Coronado found Hopi Indians and towns of adobe and rock belonging to the Pueblo Indians, who lived in multi-story houses, wore cotton clothing and grew corn. He wanted to be friendly with them and to win their acceptance of the divine rule of the king of Spain and of Christianity. The Pueblo Indians had already heard about Christians and feared Coronado's coming. They had put their magic out to prevent the approach of the Christians, but the magic failed. Rather than the friendship he wanted, Coronado fought to defend himself to acquire the provisions he needed to survive, and he fought to subjugate. For months war raged between the Pueblo Indians and Coronado's expedition, the Indians defending their positions with copper head bolts shot from crossbows and arrows shot from longbows. The expedition ravaged crops. With superior weaponry the Spaniards managed to subdue those Pueblo who had not fled safely to the mountains, and in an effort to assert and advertise their authority, the expedition burned 200 Pueblo at the stake.

The Pueblo Indians rid themselves of Coronado by telling him of golden cities on the Great Plains to the east. Coronado and his men found Comanche Indians and Apache hunting buffalo. An advance party journeyed into what is now Kansas, and they left some horses behind – horses that were to multiply on the plains and become the source of horses for plains Indians.

In 1542, Coronado returned to Mexico City, with Mendoza having nothing in return for his investment – chasing rumors having proven a bad gamble. The myth of a city of gold was discredited, and Coronado was accused of mismanaging the expedition. He was ruined psychologically and considered unfit for prosecution. His chief lieutenant, García Cárdenas, was tried in Spain for crimes against Indians, and he died in prison.

Meanwhile, with soldiers having been away chasing after riches, Indians in Nueva Galicia had decided it was a good time to rebel against brutal Spanish impositions. The leader of the rebellion had urged his followers to kill all Spaniards and burn their churches so that they could return to their old ways and gods. The rebellion was crushed by an army of 400 Spaniards and 30,000 Aztec and Tlaxcalan warrior allies to whom the Spaniards had given firearms.


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