Spanish Exploration of Colorado

admin May 29, 2011 0

The Spanish Exploration of Colorado began with Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, along with three companions, one of them being Estevan. They were the first explorers who told great stories about the Seven Cities of Cibola, known as Havikuh. Their stories brought others explorers, one being Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, in 1540. Vasquez and his small army took by force Havikuh and transformed it into the center of their settlement. They hoped for gold and silver, but their failure in finding cities of gold put an end to the Spanish conquests for a period of about forty years.

In 1583, Phillip II of Spain sent Antonio de Espejo and nine soldiers to find him precious metals. Juan de Onate was another European colonist who led his army towards Sierra sin Aqua, as they called San Francisco Peaks, being the first white people to see them.

Extraordinary stories about the new territories discovered appeared as a consequence of the colonist’s desire to present the new lands as fantastic places, very different by those lived by Europeans. For example Farfan, a colonist, wanted to impress the Viceroy, who was not at all amused by his fantastic stories about Indians who had large ears and slept underwater. Consequently, he was recalled to Mexico and that was the end of his explorations.

For a period of about hundred years, only the Franciscan missionaries went west on the Plateau, because they were eager to save souls. Their attempt was dangerous and unsuccessful, because the Hopi only accepted their plants such as peach and wheat, and animals such as goats and sheep.

The Apaches and Navajos civilizations were the ones which kept away Europeans settlement on Colorado Plateau for about 150 years, due to their continuous aggressive attitude. Even though Europeans conquered the Pueblo Peoples, they were not able to reach control of the Apaches and Navajos.

Native Americans suffered a lot, as a consequence of the European explorations and conquests, because the white people transmitted them deadly diseases, such as smallpox and measles. With a bigger impact on Pueblos, and little effect on Navajos, the population of the Colorado Plateau, the diseases brought the Native American population in Colorado to a small percent of what numbered before the European incursions, or about 100,000 people.

On July 1776, eight civilians and two Franciscans priests ventured to find a route to California. They travelled from Utah to Western Colorado, but illness and lack of food made them come back, and the route to California to remain a mystery for them. That was the last significant Spanish exploration of Colorado.

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