This book starts off with a conscious falsification, not even calling the principal character by his right name. Arciniegas, in his delightful volume called The Knight of El Dorado, confesses to the same crime and explains how it happened. "Throughout the whole conquest of America one never knows who is who. Names are always being changed about. . . . Sebastián de Belalcázar, for example, was named Sebastián Moyano, but historians wrote reams of paper, saying, some, that he was called Belalcázar, and others, Benalcázar. As a matter of fact, he was probably not a Moyano at all but a García. Let the reader go to Quito, Popayán, or Cali, however, and tell residents that the founder of their city was named García Moyano, and they will laugh in his face, if they do not stone him to death." In the same way, the famous pioneer of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas was Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, but few persons now living in these regions would recognize him under his correct name of Vázquez, and they might assassinate a writer who should insist on being accurate on that point. Not wishing the crown of martyrdom, even for the sake of veracity, I shall conform to well established custom and call him Coronado. The case is similar with García López de Cárdenas, Coronado's ablest lieutenant and discoverer of Grand Canyon. By his contemporaries he was called López, but in this gringo country he is known as Cárdenas, and so he is designated here.
To catch the significance of Coronado he must be seen in perspective. In 1848 gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in California. The news got out, and within a year fifty thousand Argonauts from all parts of the world found their way to the Promised Land, hoping to make their fortunes, go back home, and live happily ever afterward. In the mines not one in a thousand struck it rich, and the rank and file scarcely averaged a dollar a day for their toil. The California Gold Rush was a typical episode which had been repeated innumerable times in America since Columbus' celebrated voyage. In essence it was not greatly different from the remarkable treasure hunts which swept over a large part of the Western Hemisphere in the second quarter of the sixteenth century. We justly glorify our Forty-niners, but we have customarily applied the term "wild-goose chases" to earlier quests for the Golden Fleece. One of these was the Coronado Expedition, whose four hundredth anniversary we have recently commemorated.