Friday, February 8, 2013

Seven Cities of Gold

Today we visited Coronado National Memorial, which commemorates the first major European exploration of what’s now the American southwest. The park is about 25 miles south of Sierra Vista, AZ, where we are staying, and only about a mile north of the US/Mexican border.
In the 1500s, stories of “Seven Cities of Gold” with jewel-studded houses made their way to Spaniards in New Spain (Mexico).  The stories were “verified” by a Spanish scout and later by an Indian. 
In 1540, 30-year-old Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was selected to command an expedition to find the cities, claim land for King of Spain, and also act missionaries.  Per some stories, over two thousand soldiers, priests, native allies, slaves and servants were in the expedition.
Coronado traveled all the way from Compostelo, Mexico (on the western coast of Mexico) to present-day Salina, Kansas before he realized there were no golden cities. Turns out the Spanish scout saw the cities from a “distance” and the Indian was fibbing in an effort to get the Spaniards away from Indian settlements.   The missionary portion of the trip didn’t work out well either -- although Coronado at first tried to get along with the Native Americans, he and his men ended up killing some and running others out of their villages.
Coronado did not actually pass through the area that 
makes up the Coronado National Memorial.  But he’s 
thought to have passed through the nearby San Pedro 
Valley, shown here from the park’s Montezuma Pass. 
We reached the pass by driving up a three-mile 
winding road that seemed a lot worse to me going up 
than coming down -- probably because on the way up 
the passenger side of the car was next to a cliff.  We 
took a short hike when we got to the top.
This is the small Coronado National Memorial’s  
visitors center where we saw a good movie on Coronado 
and bought a book on southwestern native plants.  The 
very nice visitors center volunteer was originally from 
Beatrice, Nebraska.


  1. I have been to Salina Kansas, I liked it, but as far as it being a city of Gold?, I'd say that was pretty much a swing and a miss for Old Coronado.

    And, about that clever "fibbing Indian" who kept leading the Spaniards away from "his" settlements in the Southwest by taking them to Salina, I can't help but wonder what the Kiowas who were occupying central Kansas at the time thought about that plan?

  2. I'm thinking the scout saw the roof of the visitor's center. As for the fibber, well, he was executed. Maybe the Kiowas helped.

  3. Now I know "the Rest of the Story".