Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Explorer, b. at Salamanca, Spain, 1510; d. in Mexico, 1553. He went to Mexico before 1538, and is said to have been a favourite of the viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza, who appointed him Governor of New Galicia in 1538. In the year following, on the strength of the statements of Cabeza de Vaca and other vague reports, the viceroy sent Father Marcos of Nizza with the negro or Moor Estévanico to reconnoitre towards the north. The friar coming back with the news that sedentary Indians had been met beyond what are now the limits of Mexico, an expedition was determined upon and Coronado was made commander.

One of the chief objects of this expedition seems to have been to free Mexico from an idle and unruly element. Hence exaggerated accounts of the northern regions, of the culture of their inhabitants, and of their mineral resources, were purposely spread abroad. Whether or not Coronado knew of this object is not stated. The expedition collected at Compostella on the Pacific coast, and consisted of about 300 Spaniards and 1000 Indians, with 1000 horses and six swivel guns ( pedereros ). There were also a number of sheep and some cattle, and everything indicated that the intention was not only to explore but to colonize. In the course of two years Coronado visited almost every New Mexico pueblo then inhabited. The first of the pueblo groups touched was what is now called Zuñi, which had become known to the Spaniards through Father Marcos of Nizza the year previous under the name of "Cibola". The first engagement took place about 7 July, at the village of Hauicu of the Zuñi group. Coronado was wounded, but the pueblo taken. After that, only one other conflict with Pueblo Indians occurred, viz., near Bernalillo, in New Mexico, on the Rio Grande, in March, 1541. The conduct of Coronado towards the Indians during the whole campaign was humane and he secured their respect and sympathy. New Mexico and Arizona (which he explored as far as the Colorado River) disappointed the expectations of the Spaniards. The wealth in metals supposed to exist there was not found, the inhabited regions were partly barren, and the population less numerous than it had been represented. While Coronado was establishing himself at Zuñi, another expedition, by sea, under the command of Hernando de Alarçon, reached the mouth of the Colorado and explored the course of the river for about two hundred miles inland, but found it impossible to communicate with Coronado, and returned to the Mexican coast.

While at the pueblo of Pecos, south-east of the present city of Santa Fé, the Spaniards had been told glowing stories of metallic riches among a tribe called Quivira, said to dwell beyond the great eastern plains. These tales were reported by an Indian from the plains, a captive among the Pecos tribe. Coronado set out for Quivira on 23 April, 1541, with part of his forces, and wandered as far as the confines of Arkansas, then northward as far as southern Nebraska, finding none but nomadic Indians, except at the farthest point reached by him, where the Quivira Indians lived in more stable settlements of houses, round in shape and built of wood, with roofs of grass. They cultivated corn, and the only trace of metal was a piece of native copper which they had obtained from afar. After an absence of six months Coronado returned to New Mexico on the Rio Grande, and while there suffered a fall from his horse, which injured his head seriously. Henceforward he lost energy. His people also were discouraged and, while some were in favour of remaining in New Mexico, the majority clamoured to return to New Spain. In April, 1542, the homeward march was resumed. There remained in the country only Fray Juan de Padilla, a lay brother, Fray Luis, and a Portugese soldier, Docampo. Coronado reported to the Viceroy Mendoza, who was highly incensed at the failure of his plan to rid New Spain of undesirable elements. Although Coronado was not punished for what was looked upon as disobedience to orders, he fell into a mild disgrace and died in comparative obscurity, leaving a widow and eight children. The reports on his expedition are of the greatest importance for the geography, and more particularly ethnography, of the south-western part of North America. They were not so well appreciated at the time as they are now, when the "March" of Coronado is looked upon as one of the most important explorations in America during the sixteenth century.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18
12 for the Lord is a judge who is utterly impartial.13 He ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23
2 I will praise Yahweh from my heart; let the humble hear and ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 18:9-14
9 He spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on ... Read More

Reading 2, Second Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
6 As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 23rd, 2016 Image

St. John of Capistrano
October 23: St. John was born at Capistrano, Italy in 1385, ... Read More