Western Wanderings: Our Man on the Coronado Trail

By Fish, Peter | Sunset, January 1998 | Go to article overview

Western Wanderings: Our Man on the Coronado Trail


Fish, Peter, Sunset


OUR MAN ON THE CORONADO TRAIL

Coronado and the lost cities of gold

* In search of the fabled glory of the conquistadores, I'm steering down State Highway 92 in Palominas, Arizona. Palominas has a pink-and-yellow circus tent advertising a Full Gospel Crusade Miracle Service. It also has an ostrich farm, be- cause as we approach the millennium, ostrich farms are spreading across the length and width of our great republic.

Not far from the Miracle Service, the San Pedro River dawdles up from Mexico. It is, here, a desultory trickle of water shaded by cottonwood trees. The Bureau of Land Management has set aside the riverbank as a nature preserve, and I drive down a dirt road to find it. I can tell by the way the car shimmies that although the dirt is crusted dry on top, it is muddy underneath. On the radio someone named Lourdes is dedicating a song to Tom:is because they've had a fight. I worry about ruining my shoes in the mud and want to know what the fight is about. But the desire to follow historic footsteps wins out, so I stop the car and walk around. More than 450 years before, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado strode this riverbank on his journey to immortality.

The journey. In 1535, Coronado, son of a noble Spanish family and protege of the viceroy of Mexico, arrived in Mexico City seeking his fortune. It was a time when ambitious young noblemen found the New World a favorable place to fulfill dreams of imperial conquest. Cortes had lately vanquished the Aztecs, Pizarro the Incas. So when a Franciscan missionary, Fray Marcos de Niza, brought back rumors of a place called Cibola - a kingdom to the north reputed to have seven cities of gold - he was not ignored. The viceroy sent Coronado to explore this promising tierra nueva, or new land.

The resulting expedition has been enshrined as one of the great wildgoose chases of American history. Coronado set out in February of 1540. With him marched 350 Spaniards, 1,000 Mexican Indians, 1,500 horses and mules, and even more cattle and sheep. The journey lasted two years and covered 5,000 miles - from Mexico up through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma to the Kansas plains. Coronado and his men became the first Europeans to encounter the Zuni and the Hopi. A side expedition became the first to glimpse the Grand Canyon. What they did not find was gold.

There is still a fair amount we don't know about this expedition, including some basic points of territory covered. While most historians agree that Coronado led his men here along the San Pedro River, a few have argued that he entered Arizona to the west, along the Santa Cruz River. The golden kingdom of Cibola turned out to be a Zuni pueblo in New Mexico, which most historians believe is Hawikuh. The site of Quivira, another golden chimera, is not precisely known, but is believed to be somewhere on the Kansas plains. The questions are numerous enough that a few years ago the National Park Service decided against establishing a Coronado National Trail because the conquistador's route could not be fixed with sufficient certainty.

Still, says historian Richard Flint, over the last decade researchers have greatly advanced our understanding of Coronado's expedition. Flint himself has spent almost 20 years working on Coronado, retracing the explorer's route through eastern New Mexico, and probing Spanish archives to learn more about the men who traveled with him. The most tangible discoveries have been the 16th-century crossbow bolt heads unearthed in Blanco Canyon, Texas, in 1993 - the strongest physical evidence yet of Coronado's passage. For Flint, Coronado remains an important man for 20th-century Americans to know, if only because the conquistador and his brethren bear a strong resemblance to us. "They were a very cocksure group of people," he says, "bent on extending their way of living to the rest of the world."

I get back into the car and drive a few miles west toward the Huachuca Mountains, which are denim blue in the afternoon light. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Western Wanderings: Our Man on the Coronado Trail
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.