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JUAN BAUTISTA DE ANZA, FOUNDER
Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geo-
THE SPANISH BORDERLANDS
PONCE DE LEÓN, AYLLÓN, AND NARVAEZ
FIORICA The sixteenth century dawned auspiciously for Spain. After eight hundred years of warfare with the infidel usurpers of the Peninsula, the last Moslem stronghold had fallen; and, through the union of Aragon and Castile, all Spain was united under one crown and lifted to the peak of power in Europe. To the world about her, Spain presented the very image of unity, wealth, and power, adamantine and supreme.
But the image of serene absolutism is always a portent of calamity. There followed a period of brilliant achievement abroad, while the prosperity of the nation at home steadily declined, Taxation was exorbitant. Industry declined because of the lack of skilled workers, for the expulsion of the
Moors had robbed Spain of artisans and pastoral laborers. The nobles and gentry were swordsmen, crusaders, and spoilers of the Egyptians — made such by centuries of war with the Moors — and they held all labor and trade in scorn.
Each year, more of the gold which annually poured into the Emperor's lap must needs be poured out again for products which were no longer grown or manufactured within the realm. Gold was the monarch's need; gold was the dazzling lure which the warrior nobles of Spain followed. There were no longer Egyptians at home to spoil. To the New World must these warrior nobles now look for work for their swords and for wealth without menial toil or the indignities of commerce. Only on that far frontier could they hope to enjoy the personal liberty and something of their old feudal powers, now curtailed by absolutism at home. Irked by restrictions and surveillance as well as by inaction or poverty, these sons of the sword sought again on this soil the freedom which was once the Spaniard's birthright.
Adventure, conquest, piety, wealth, were the ideals of those Spanish explorers, who, pushing northward from the West Indies and from the City of Mexico, first planted the Cross and the banner
of Spain in the swamps of Florida and in the arid plateaus of New Mexico. The conquistadors who threaded the unknown way through the American wilderness were armored knights upon armored horses; proud, stern, hardy, and courageous; men of punctilious honor, loyal to King and Mother Church, humble only before the symbols of their Faith; superstitious — believing in portents and omens no less than in the mysteries of the Church, for the magic of Moorish soothsayers and astrologers had colored the life of their ancestors for generations.
Part pagan, however, the conquistador was no less a zealous warrior for Church and King. His face was as flint against all heretics. He went forth for the heathen's gold and the heathen's soul. If he succeeded, riches and honor were his. Hardship, peril, death, had no terrors for this soldierknight. If he was pitiless towards others, so was he pitiless toward himself. He saw his mission enveloped with romantic glory. Such men were the conquistadors, who, after the capture of the Aztec capital in the summer of 1521, carried the Spanish banner northward.
While Cortés was still wrestling with the Aztecs, Spanish expeditions were moving out from the West Indies — Española (Hayti), Cuba, Porto