Early American History
Encounters in the Americas
Francisco Coronado, 1540
New Mexico
Key Concepts
There were many rumors or stories about treasure in the land north of Mexico. When the Spaniards heard these stories, they sent expeditions to search for the gold. One famous story told about the Seven Cities of Gold.

The story begins when four men survived a shipwreck off the coast of what is today known as Texas. They were three Spaniards, and a North African named Esteban. After the shipwreck, the four men walked across Mexico until they arrived in Mexico City in 1536. During their journey, they heard stories along the way about seven cities rich in gold, silver and jewels.

When the four men arrived in Mexico City, they told the story of the Seven Cities of Gold to the Spanish leaders. In 1539, the leaders of the city sent Esteban and a priest named Marcos de Niza to investigate the rumor. Esteban was killed by Indians during the expedition. But Marcos de Niza returned to Mexico City. He lied and reported he had seen the golden city.

In 1540, Francisco Coronado and more than 1,000 soldiers set out to find the Seven Cities of Gold. They traveled north out of Mexico into the present-day states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and parts of Kansas. They never saw any traces of the Seven Cities of Gold. Coronado then took the long trip home. The route he took back toward Mexico would later become known as the Santa Fe Trail. In 1542, Coronado returned to Mexico with only 100 of his soldiers. Coronado never found the Seven Cities of Gold. However, he did claim the lands he had traveled through for Spain. This prevented any other European country from making claims to the American southwest.
The Seven Cities of Gold
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Additional Information

Esteban - In 1528, Esteban came to America as a slave from Morocco. He landed with 400 Spaniards who were searching for gold. The Spaniards mistreated and stole from the Indians in Florida. The group never found any gold. On their way to their ships they were attacked by a group of Indians. Most of the men were killed by poison arrows. Esteban was one of the few to escape. The survivors were unable to find their ships. Starving and desperate, they built five boats. They ate their horses, and made water bottles from the horsehide. They braided the horses' tails into ropes, and used their shirts for sails. Most of the boats sank. Esteban was one of only 4 men who survived. He was able to swim to shore. He then spent the next eight years walking the rest of the way from from Texas to Mexico.

Coronado - Coronado's expedition included 300 Spanish soldiers on horseback, and 1,000 black slaves and Mexican Indians. They took thousands of cattle and sheep to use for food. After one year of travel through Arizona and New Mexico, they ran out of food. Then they fought with the Indians for food. Using their crossbows and guns, the Spaniards won. Although they searched through Arizona and New Mexico, they never found the Cities of Gold. Coronado spent another ten years searching in Kansas.

Seven Cities - Spain searched for the Seven Cities of Gold for a long time. Spaniards called the Seven Cities, "Cibola."