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CORONADO, CABRILLO, AND VIZCAÍNO
MEANWHILE other Spanish explorers were trying to pierce the Northern Mystery by way of the Pacific slope.
West as well as east, and somewhere in the north, must lie the waters of the Strait of Anian, that direct passage from the Atlantic to China, if indeed the northwestern territory did not actually abut on Asia. So reasoned the Spanish dons. To the northwest, some said, was an island inhabited solely by giantesque Amazons. Inland were the Seven Cities, situated on a great height. Their doors were studded with turquoises, as if feathers from the wings of the blue sky had dropped and clung there.
Within those jeweled cities were whole streets of goldsmiths, so great was the store of shining metal to be worked.
Indians were ever great story-tellers, delighting to weave the tales most pleasant to their hearers.
It was an Indian slave of Nuño de Guzmán who regaled that credulous official of New Spain with fanciful description of the Pueblo towns of New Mexico. The myth led Guzmán north, to the ruthless conquest of Sinaloa and the founding of Culiacán, still the capital city of that Mexican state.
Then, in 1535, came Antonio de Mendoza from v Old Spain to be the first Viceroy of New Spain.
Mendoza had soon set his heart on the acquisition of those Seven Cities. The arrival of Vaca and his companions in the City of Mexico, out of the mysterious north, in July, 1536, added fuel to Mendoza's desires. An expedition must be fitted out immediately, to be led by Vaca's companion Dorantes - since Vaca himself was resolved to go to Spain. This plan came to nothing for the time being, but Vaca left the Moor Estevanico to serve Mendoza.
Three years passed before Mendoza could prepare another expedition. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was then (1539) made Governor of New Galicia and military head of the force designed to spread the power of Spain northward. To the Franciscan Fray Marcos de Niza was given the spiritual leadership of the expedition. Fray Marcos
had already seen strenuous service, for he had been with Pizarro in the conquest of Peru. He had also written several works about the country. He had high acquirements in theology, cosmography, and navigation; and he was a hardy traveler, having tramped from Guatemala to Mexico.
To Culiacán Fray Marcos and Coronado journeyed in company. Coronado there halted to establish his authority over the outposts of New Galicia. Fray Marcos, with the Moor Estevanico, some Mexican Indians, and a few other natives who had come with Vaca's little band to Mexico, went on. Estevanico, having wandered through parts of the northern land with Vaca, was relied upon not alone to guide the friars but to insure the friendship of the Indians.
At Vacapa, somewhere in Sonora, Fray Marcos paused and, “on Passion Sunday after dinner,” sent Estevanico ahead to learn what he could. Should Estevanico hear tidings of but a fair country he was to send to the friar a small cross; for great tidings, a cross “two handfuls long"; and, should he discover a country richer than Mexico, he was to send a great cross. Imagine the pleasureable agitation in the friar's breast, when, four days later, some of the Indians who had gone with
the Moor came in bearing a cross “as high as a man” and a message urging Fray Marcos to follow at once.
Estevanico had found a new people, who had told him of “the greatest thing in the world.” He was now at a town but thirty days' journey from the turquoise doors of the Seven Cities which, he had learned, were called Cibola; and beyond Cíbola there were other rich provinces, each one of which was “a much greater matter than those seven cities." So, as ever in these tales, the splendor within reach was already dimmed by the splendor beyond! To Cíbola,' therefore, the friar set out on the second day after Easter.
He is supposed to have gone directly north up the Sonora valley, though it may have been the Yaqui valley. As he went, from time to time he planted crosses; for "it appeared to me suitable from here on to perform acts of possession.” He heard from the Indians on his route more details of Cibola and of the cities beyond. And he was much surprised to learn that the natives of those
* Cibola is believed to be a Spanish form of the word Shiwina, by which the Zuñi called their tribal range. The Spaniards later called the buffalo Cibola. It is customary for writers to state that Guzmán and Fray Marcos set out to find the Seven Cities of Cí. bola, but it was not till Estevanico sent back his report that the name Cibola was known to the Spaniards.
cities dressed in habits of gray wool like his own. These were perhaps the blanket garments made of narrow strips of rabbit fur and yucca fiber which are still woven by the Moqui Indians. Through the valley of the San Pedro in Arizona Fray Marcos continued northward; then, finding that the stream led him too far west, he veered to the northeast and reached the Gila, above its confluence with the San Pedro. Here he learned that Estevanico, with three hundred Indians, was crossing the plains to the northeast, where the Apaches now have their reservation. After a rest, on May 9, 1539, Fray Marcos continued his march to Cibola, which lay fifteen days beyond. His way now led upward, through rugged country, to a pass not identified, between the Sierra Mogoyon and Sierra Blanca ranges. Bad news met him on the Apache plains. An Indian of the Moor's escort, returning in flight, told him that Estevanico had been seized and made prisoner by the natives of Cíbola.
We know very little about the end of Estevanico, this African who was one of the earliest explorers of North America and had wandered over a greater part of its wilderness than any man before him or than any man for long after him. The Arab was one of a fearless race, loving freedom no doubt as