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health and fortune, fades out of the pages of historical narrative, though he is known to have lived for some years afterwards. And the history of Alta California remained obscure in the fog for a hundred and sixty years.
EXPLORERS first, then colonizers. Now interest in Florida, already aroused by the journey of Vaca, was quickened to a lively heat when, late in 1543, Moscoso and the remnants of De Soto's band at last straggled into the City of Mexico. It would appear that hardships and failures could in no wise impair a Spaniard's ability for storytelling; for Moscoso and his tattered comrades were soon spinning for others the golden web of romance in which they themselves had been snared. Glowing pictures they gave of the north country, especially of Coosa (in Alabama), where they had been well fed and where one or two of their number had remained to dally with Creek damsels. The Viceroy Mendoza, ambitious to extend his power into the Northern Mystery, at once offered to finance an expedition if Moscoso would undertake it. But while Moscoso's zeal for
golden Florida might inspire his imagination to dazzling flights of fancy, it was inadequate to stir his feet one step again in that direction. So Mendoza's project came to nothing.
It was noticed that the Mexicans valued highly some of the fur apparel brought back by Moscoso's men. And the next year, 1544, two Spanish gentlemen sought from the King the right to conquer Florida, for the purpose of bringing deerskins and furs into Mexico, as well as in the hope of discovering pearls, mines, and whatever other marvels had embroidered Moscoso's romance. But the King refused their petition. In his refusal he was influenced in part by religious and humane motives. Despite the presence of priests and friars, the various expeditions to the north thus far had taken no time from treasure hunting to convert natives or to establish missions. The Church was now considering the question of sending out its own expedition to Florida, unhampered by slave-catching soldiers.
Perhaps this idea of a conquest by the Cross, unaided — and unhampered — by the sword, was born in the mind of Fray Luís Cancer, a devout and learned Dominican. Fray Luís was living in the convent of Santo Domingo in the City of Mexico not long after Vaca and Moscoso arrived
with their wonder tales. The account of the hun. dreds of savages who had followed Vaca from village to village must have moved the good friar's heart with zeal and pity. And he can have been no less stirred by the tales told by Moscoso's men of the gallant butchery their swords had done — of the clanking chains that made music on the day's march, and the sharp whisper in the night of the flint, as it pressed against an iron collar. Fray Luís desired to see all heathen made free in God's favor. The oppressions his countrymen practiced upon the natives filled him with horror. As a missionary, first in Española and then in Porto Rico, he had seen the hopelessness of trying to spread religion in territories which were being swiftly depopulated by ruthless conquerors. He had therefore gone to Guatemala, to the monastery of Santiago whose head was the noble Las Casas. At that time one province of Guatemala was known as the “Land of War" because of the ferocity of its natives. Las Casas had influenced the Governor to forbid that territory to Spaniards for five years. Then he had sent Fray Luís, who had meanwhile learned the language of the natives, to the chief to request permission for the monks to come there. With his gentle words, Fray Luís
took also little gifts, trinkets, mirrors, and beads of bright colors such as would delight the savages. He made so good an impression on the chief that the permission he sought was readily given. And in a few years the Land of War became the Land of the True Peace – Vera Paz - where no Spaniards dwelt save a few Dominican friars and where at morning and evening Indian voices chanted the sacred songs to the accompaniment of the Indian flutes and drums which had formerly quickened to frenzy the warriors setting out to slaughter. And for this spiritual conquest Fray Luís had received the title of Alférez de la Fé, Standard Bearer of the Faith.
But Fray Luís was not content to eat the fruit of his labors in Vera Paz. The Standard Bearer would push on to another frontier. He went to the City of Mexico (1546) because there he would find the latest reports of newly discovered countries. Here Fray Luís heard the stories which had been told there by Vaca and Moscoso and resolved to bear his standard to Florida.
He found willing comrades in three monks of his own order, Gregorio de Beteta, Juan García, and Diego de Tolosa. Fray Gregorio and Fray Juan had already made three or four unsuccessful