History

THE story of the discovery of New Mexico by the Spaniards, as
recounted by Castañeda, starts with Ñuño de Guzman, Governor
of New Spain in 1528, who had in his possession an Indian
called Tejo (Te-ho) who told of going northward with his father to
trade feathers for ornaments. They brought back large quantities of
gold and silver, and saw "seven towns so large that they could be
compared in size to Mexico and its suburbs, and that in them were
whole streets occupied by silversmiths." These settlements were to be
reached by "traveling northward between the two seas," and "across
a grassy desert for forty days."

Guzman organized an army of 400 Spaniards and 20,000 friendly
Indians of New Spain, and set out in December, 1529, to find the
fabled Seven Cities. He did not, however, find this promised land of
riches, as he lost his way and followed up the Pacific Coast. Before
the expedition's return to Mexico in 1531, Guzman established Culiacán
in the province of Sinaloa, which became an important outpost for later
exploring expeditions.

Interest in those unknown regions flared up again when in April,
1536, a group of four almost naked men walked into the village of
Culiacán. Their leader, Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, had started
out from Spain for Florida in 1527, as royal treasurer of the Narváez
expedition which met with misfortune, all of its members except De
Vaca and a few companions being lost at sea or killed by Indians.
The four final survivors, De Vaca, Andrés Dorantes, Alonso de Castillo
Maldonado, and Estevan, the negro slave of Dorantes, wandered from
the coast of Texas to the Spanish settlements on the Gulf of California.

The story of De Vaca's experiences was the first definite word to
reach Mexico City about the northern region later to become New
Mexico. Antonio de Mendoza, first viceroy of New Spain, determined
upon an expedition into those northern lands. But first he planned
to send out a small exploring party, and selected as its leader Marcos
de Niza, a Franciscan friar who was with Pizarro in the conquest of
Peru, and later a frontier missionary in the northern part of New
Spain. Estevan accompanied Marcos as guide; they took six Indian
interpreters and others as servants.

Marcos set out from Culiacán on March 7, 1539, following the