Episode 13 Transcript

Hello, and Welcome to Distant Echoes, Episode 13: The Road to Quivira.

Last time we covered the deteriorating relations between the Spanish and the pueblos at Tiguex. Eventually culminating in the Tiguex War. Where a large number of puebloans were killed and several pueblos were burned.

Meanwhile all throughout the Tiguex War, El Turco was weaving his tales of Quivira and the wealth the Spanish would find. What had started out as a great river had become a great lake. Harahey beyond was even richer. The tales he told even talked about a place that was ever more wealthy and further away known as Guaes.

Of Haraee El Turco claimed it was ruled by Tartarrax who was “bearded, gray-haired, and rich, who was girdled with bracamarte and who prayed from a book of hours, worshiping a woman, queen of heaven.” I’m not really sure what they mean by girdled with bracamarte. Best I could find is that the bracamarte was a type of sword popular in medieval Spain, a type of falchion. The Spanish took this to be telling of a Christian kingdom. They immediately began filling in the rest of the blanks themselves. Perhaps it had been survivors of the Narvaez expedition that had founded a kingdom rather than stumbling back into Mexico like Cabeza de Vaca had. 

During the siege of Moho, Coronado began to make preparations for this trip. He needed to find a huge settlement. His men and backers had staked huge sums on finding another Mexico. If he didn’t find any wealth to repay their investment he would find getting further supplies to be difficult.

He tried to repair relations with the pueblos, meeting mixed results. Overall the relations with Tiguex were never reestablished “The twelve pueblos of Tiguex were never reoccupied as long as the army remained in that region, in spite of all the assurances given them.”

It was around this time, Spring 1541 he learned about Diaz’s death and trouble at San Geronimo. He sent Pedro de Tovar back to restore order in Sonora. The plan was for Tovar to return to Tiguex after restoring order. From there Tovar was to continue on to Quivira. Following crosses Coronado left behind.

Some of his men thought he should send a party ahead to confirm El Turco’s grand stories. But he wanted to see the wealth of Quivira himself. Writing to the king: “While I was engaged in the conquest and pacification of this province, some natives of other provinces farther on told me that in their lands there were much larger pueblos and better houses than those in this country, that they had lords who governed them, and that they used gold vessels, together with other magnificent things… However, since these accounts were given by Indians, and furthermore, had been obtained by signs, I refrained from giving them credence until I might verify them with my own eyes. Since to me the information seemed important, and it was befitting the service of your Majesty that it should be investigated, I decided to go with the men I have here to see it for myself.”

On April 23, 1541 he set out with the remainder of the army, El Turco, and Ysepote. Cacique had been returned to Cicuique earlier and when they arrived they would release Bigotes, probably to try and repair relations, and he would exit the historical record. The other two were to be returned to Quivira. Some poor soul – several poor souls? – was assigned to count the total number of steps made by the expedition each day.

They first moved towards Cicuique. Pardoning pueblos along the way. Those they passed that were occupied were fortified and refused to speak to them. At Pecos, Bigotes was freed and Zabe or Xabe, another Quiviran joined the group, echoing the El Turco’s stories of great wealth.

Castañeda gives an account of the pueblo at the time, in this case Cicúye is Pecos, which I’ve been calling Cicuique,  and the Spanish called kivas estufas: “Cicúye is a Pueblo containing about five hundred warriors, and is feared throughout that land. It is square, perched on a rock in the center of a vast patio or plaza with its estufas (kivas). The houses are all alike, four storeys high. One can walk on the roofs over the whole Pueblo, there being no streets to prevent it. The second terrace is surrounded by parapets, enabling one to encircle the entire town. These parapets are like overhanging balconies, under which shelter may be found. The inhabitants use movable ladders to ascend to the corridors that are on the inner side of the Pueblo” He continues: “They enter them that way, since the doors of the houses open into the corridors on this terrace, which are used as streets. The houses facing the open country are back to back with those facing the patio, and in time of war they are entered through the interior dwellings. The Pueblo is surrounded by a low stone wall, and inside there is a spring of water that can be diverted to the houses. The people of this Pueblo pride themselves on the fact that no one has been able to subjugate them, while they dominate any pueblos they wish. The inhabitants are of the same type and have the same customs as those in the other pueblos.”

From there he continued down the Pecos, naming the river after the pueblo. He crossed the river twice before finally heading east towards the panhandle. As they neared the Canadian River, and contemporary Texas border, they found some weird markings on the ground. Following them, they found a Quechero camp. The markings had been from the dogs that the Quecheros used as beasts of burden to carry their tents. They learned of a nearby village called Haya from the Quecheros, however El Turco had coached them on what to tell the Spanish.

They followed the Canadian to roughly where Alvarado had turned back the year before. From here they departed from the river. Around this time, Ysepote started to protest that they had been going in the wrong direction. But he was being ignored. Cardenas also broke his arm and Diego Lopez took over for him, being sent ahead to scout the area.

Lopez would chase a herd of Buffalo and lose three horses. After four days two groups were sent ahead to find the party, meeting great difficulty tracking them. The Spanish would write: “No tracks could be found in the meadows because the grass rises up again after being trampled upon, they found by chance some hoof prints showing which direction the party had taken. Some Indians from the army who had gone out in search of fruit, a league from the place where the tracks were found, on their way back discovered Lopez and his men, whose return had been delayed by the loss of three horses.”

They failed to find Haya and continued to follow the Quecheros. Coronado writing: “For five days, I went wherever they led me until we reached some plains as bare of landmarks as if we were surrounded by the sea.” This was when they entered the Plains proper. Probably somewhere near Vega Texas.

They continued south, despite Ysepote’s protests, writing: “The country where these animals roamed was so level and bare that whenever one looked at them one could see the sky between their legs, so that at a distance they looked like trimmed pine tree trunks with the foliage joining at the top. When a bull stood alone he resembled four such pines. And however close to them one might be, when looking across their backs one could not see the ground on the other side. This was because the earth was so round, for, wherever a man stood, it seemed as if he were on the top, and saw the sky around him within a crossbow shot. No matter how small an object was placed in front of him, it cut off his view of the ground… There are no trees except along the streams found in some barrancas which are so concealed that one does not see them until he is at their very edge. They are of sand and gravel, with trails made by the cattle in order to reach the water, which flows quite deep.”

They also wrote about how they navigated on the Plains. “they left no more trace when they got through than as if no one had passed over them, so that it became necessary to stack up piles of bones and buffalo chips at various distances in order that the rear guard might follow the army and not get lost.” This was the best they could do instead of making the crosses Coronado had originally promised.

After three weeks they were running out of food and Ysepote would throw a fit disagreeing with the route. They would send out two parties to tey once again to find Haya to see if El Turco was telling the truth. One group would finally meet the Teyas and the whole expedition would travel with them for four days to perhaps somewhere near modern Lubbock Texas. Some of the Teyas had claimed to have met four Spaniards before. Perhaps Cabeza de Vaca? Big Spring Texas, a location Cabeza de Vaca had visited during his ordeal was nearby.

Both Teya and Quechero are pueblo words for this group. The Teyas could communicate with El Turco so they may have spoken a Caddoan language.

It was at this point they reached the brutal edge of the Llano Estacado and really began to doubt that El Turco knew what he was talking about. They wrote, “this Indian persisted saying the Turk was lying, but nobody paid any attention to him.” Sepote finally “threw himself on the ground and indicated by signs that he would rather have his head cut off than go that way because it was not the correct route to Quivira!”

The Spanish had been primed for dishonest guides too. They had plenty of stories of guides leading good, Christian Spaniards astray.

Coronado also got more information from the Teyas: “I obtained information concerning the country to which the guides were leading me and their reports did not agree with those which had been given me, for these Indians described the houses there as being of grass and hides, and not of stone and several storeys high, as painted by my guides.” He also learned from the Teyas that Quivira was not as wealthy as he had been led to believe.

Finally they would decide to confront El Turco and he admitted to lying. Ysepote would become the principal guide.

On May 26, 1541 he decided that 30 men, and over 100 Indian Allies, would go on to Quivira and the rest would return to Tiguex.

Coronado would lead these men. They continued on to Palo Duro Canyon with some Teya guides, these guides not being allowed to communicate with El Turco. Here the two groups would go their separate ways. Arellano was chosen to lead the main army.

Coronado included in a report to the king: “In view of the conflict of opinion among the Indians, and also because many of the people, including women and children, had not eaten anything except fo meat for several days, I decided to go ahead with thirty horsemen and reach that country, examine it. And give you a reliable report of what was there. And although it was more than forty days’ travel from the place where I met the Teyas to the land where the guides were leading me, and although I realized the hardships and dangers I should encounter on the journey due to lack of water and maize, I considered it best to go, in order to serve your Majesty.”

Ysepote was to be the main guide for the 30. He only asked to be allowed to remain in his homeland and that El Turco not be brought along. The latter would not be granted. With the 30 selected, Coronado began to prepare. Promising to send a message in a week if they found anything worth it for the remainder, some of whom wanted to come along. They set forth around June 1, 1541.

They would not get far before having to go back to get more Teya guides. Xabe would decide to remain with the Teyas. The remainder of the army would arrive at Tiguex on July 9, finding Pecos to be hostile now.

Meanwhile, Coronado would follow the compass north. His 30 was really more like 40 when guided and hangers on were considered, excluding the Indian Allies of course. The escarpment of the Llano Estacado now became a major impediment to their progress.

They would cross the Oklahoma panhandle. At this point they had to use buffalo chips for fuel, but eventually they would arrive at the Arkansas River, around June 29. He would then swing around to the river’s bend. On July 2 they would encounter Quivirans.

Ysepote and El turco were able to communicate with them, once again implying they spoke a Caddoan language. Coronado would arrive on July 9 at these villages in the area of modern Lyons Kansas. The Quivirans were groups that were, or would become, the Wichita.

He then went on to meet with Tartarrax. Tartarrax had a copper ornament he wore as a necklace, he said came from Arahey. Another location he learned was not very impressive, despite El Turco’s best efforts to promote it, and that they neared the edge of the plains. Arahey may have been a Pawnee settlement in Nebraska, but the exact location is unknown.

They did write a letter to the king of Arahey thinking he might be a Christian survivor of the Narvaez expedition. But they were disappointed when these people arrived and were not very impressive.

Overall, Coronado had chased another grand story to a disappointing end. Cibola had been nothing like Fray Marcos had said it would be, Quivira and Harahey were equally false. The Otro Mexico the Spanish had sought was nowhere to be found.

At one point the Spanish were informed that El Turck had been trying to get the Quivirans to help him kill the Spanish, although this may have been false. Upon interrogation the Turk would admit to everything and implicate Cicuique Pueblo in a plot to lead the Spanish astray on the Plains so that they would perish. El Turco would then be secretly killed and buried.

As an aside, this was about as close as Coronado came to the De Soto expedition which was traveling in the area. Being about 300 miles apart at this point. But with another lead turning up nothing, the Spanish turned back for Tiguex, taking a much faster route.

Meanwhile, Arellano had begun to prepare for winter. He sent men out to get supplies, traveling as far as the Jemez Pueblos. At one pueblo, Yunque-Yunque, or Ohkay Owingeh, they found a shiny metal used to glaze pots. What this metal was is not divulged and there are a lot of different metals it could have been. This “shiny metal” will be important in the future.

With his preparations complete Arellano and 40 men set out for Pecos to wait for Coronado’s return in case the pueblo tried anything and as their commander may not know the pueblo was hostile. There was a brief skirmish and then the pueblo fell back. Coronado would return empty handed and promise that he would one day return to Quivira.

At Tiguex, Tovar would finally return. The situation at San Geronimo continued to deteriorate and the settlement had to be moved to the north. He also brought news from Mexico, including that Cardenas’ brother had passed away and that he was to return to Spain for his inheritance. He and 10 other men would depart for Mexico.

He would make it as far as San Geronimo before being forced to turn back. The entire area was in open revolt against the Spanish and the city had been destroyed.

Alcaraz had lost control of the situation as men had deserted. The heavy tribute imposed on them angered the locals. Coronado had left the less trustworthy Spaniards behind and some, including Alcaraz, had begun taking local women as mistresses.

Eventually some of the rebels would sneak into the city and begin a massacre. Alcaraz would be killed attempting to escape and the city would be destroyed. Juan Gallegos who had supplies for Coronado would manage to break through with an army of about 22 men who waged a terror campaign on the rebels.

That winter was not a good one for the Spanish at Tiguex. They were mostly just waiting around for spring so they could return to Quivira and go even further. They obtained supplies from the pueblos, taking them by force if they had to. Idle hands led to boredom and rifts forming among the men. There was some small scale fighting with the pueblos but not outright war. 

Most of the men were disenchanted with the future Land of Enchantment. They had set out seeking a true New Mexico and had found no great cities, no Montezumas or Atahualpas with vast empires. They were homesick.

Everything would change on December 27 however. Coronado would get into an accident. During a horse race with Rodrigo Maldonado, the girth on Coronado’s saddle broke. Coronado fell from his horse and was struck on the head by his competitor’s horse. While Coronado would, by some miracle survive the accident, it would mark a turning point in his life.

No Settlement No Conquest included this note about the injury: “According to trauma doctor Dan Judkins, “it is most likely that Coronado experienced a moderate cerebral contusion, or maybe a small subdural hematoma that gradually resolved. He did recover enough to be able to decide to return to Mexico and to travel back there and go about usual deficit, and if so, this would imply that the most likely injury was a frontal contusion. Contusion to the frontal lobe often is associated with a ‘flat’ personality affect and other behavior changes. Coronado seems to have lost his ambition For the project, and his enthusiasm declined. This fits very well with frontal lobe injury.”

He never really recovered from this accident, for the rest of his life the able commander was gone. It was during his recovery that Cardenas would return. Once he finally recovered some he learned about the danger to the south. The destruction of San Geronimo made the expedition untenable.

During this period some of the men would present a petition to return to Mexico. Coronado refused unless the army was unanimous in the decision. The men got the signatures by hook or by crook. Some 60 had no prospects to the south and truly wanted to stay. From Castaneda: “placing guards about himself and his room and at night about the upper storey where he slept. In spite of all this they stole his string box from him, but it was said they failed to find any signatures in it because he kept them hidden in his mattress.”

Some 60 soldiers wanted to remain behind and tried to get permission to do so. While he may have wanted to remain, the truth is that Coronado was losing control of his army. He really only had the choice to return and they would all go or none would go.

The only ones allowed to stay behind were the friars and their assistants. Father Padilla chose to work at Quivira and supposedly went on to the Guas, who may have been the Kaws or Kansas, where he was killed. The fate of all those who stayed behind though is unknown. Additionally some 200 Indian Allies would also stay behind.

The expedition would leave Tiguex in April 1542. The march back was hard and they lost many horses. Coronado would be too sick to ride for most of the trip. Near Chichilticale he would meet up with Juan Gallegos who had broken through the rebelling provinces with supplies. Briefly there was some talk among the 60 who wanted to stay about doing so. But it was quashed again.

Eventually they would arrive in Culiacan and the army would be formally disbanded and the expedition would come to an end.

Now what can we make of Coronado’s expedition. 

I think this quote from No Settlement No Conquest sums it up nicely.

“It is difficult to see the Coronado expedition as anything but a failure for its participants, and none of the expeditionaries themselves saw it otherwise at the time. Nor can it be convincingly portrayed as other than a disaster for nearly all the native people with whom it interacted.”

Let’s go through it point by point.

The Spanish sought wealthy civilizations to establish encomiendas in. None of these would materialize and they would find only disappointments. The civilizations they did find were not wealthy and were not large enough to support Spanish standards for an encomienda.

They failed to find any evidence of India or China as they didn’t exist.

Some have tried to portray the expedition as a success from an exploration standpoint but that’s not really true. The expedition was dependent on local guides and roads. They only saw the highlights. Again from No Settlement No Conquest: “The expedition did not randomly explore territory. Indeed, what it did can be described as “exploration” only of the most superficial and rudimentary type. It was the equivalent of a modern “explorer’s” traversing the southwestern United States by driving on the Interstate highway system from Los Angeles through Phoenix, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, and Dallas to El Paso. While such a trip might reveal a great deal about the modern Southwest, most of the land, many of its people, and virtually all the region’s non-urban resources and activities would never be seen.”

To put some examples to it. While in pueblo territory, the Spanish don’t even mention the Tompiro pueblos or several turquoise mines like those near Cerrillos that they would have traveled close to. They were completely dependant on guides and what those guides wanted to show them.

They did not even pass on accurate writing about the people. It’s doubtful they had any close contact with the pueblos and their traditions. They fail to mention the Kachinas or the activities inside of kivas. They note some traditions such as corn grinding but not feminine tasks like pottery making or masculine tasks like weaving. Meaning they probably had little to no contact with functional pueblos.

Overall, Coronado’s expedition would end Spanish involvement in New Mexico for the next 40 years or so. Although, Spanish slave catchers probably did cross into New Mexico over this time but we have no records of this.

The Spanish considered Coronado a failure and his financiers were obviously quite unhappy with the outcome. Coronado would try to return to his duties as governor of Nueva Galicia but would eventually be brought up on corruption charges. The investigator would write: “Fransico Vasquez came to his home, and he is more fit to be governed in it than to govern outside of it. He is lacking in many of his former fine qualities, and he is not the same man he was when your Majesty appointed him to that governorship. They say this change was caused by the fall from a horse which he suffered in the exploration and pacification of Tierra Nueva.”

Finally they burned bridges with almost every group they met, with the exception of Alarcon. Although they may have set themselves up for failure in that regard. From No Settlement No Conquest: “Partial knowledge on all sides of the constellation of Old World natives and natives of Tierra Nueva made for a signal case of what James Lockhart has rightly called “double mistaken identity.” Probably no other outcome was realistically possible. The parties were immediately polarized, with little reason to exchange much information about each other or to allow each other to acquire such knowledge independently. In the absence of more peaceful contact of long duration, both sides, from Old World and New, were doomed to opaqueness to each other.”

This kind of failure would be typical of the time. Between 1492 and 1600 there would be approximately 130 Spanish expeditions. During the Coronado expedition there were 13 other expeditions going on. Of these 130 it was only the exceptional ones that even amounted to anything.

Before we leave Coronado behind, we have to answer a few more questions. First, who lied to the Spanish and how, and then I want to explore the two conspiracies that killed El Turco.

Let’s start with Fray Marcos. Did he lie?

As I mentioned before, there is a good argument to be made that Fray Marcos never made it to Cibola and most definitely lied about the size of the cities. If he never saw them he may have believed the stories, which may have been flawed. From No Settlement No Conquest:

“Fourth the assertion that he had seen Cibola from a distance might have seemed to him only a technical untruth. After all, Esteban, the friar’s advance eyes and ears, had surely seen it. Marcos had seen it for weeks in his mind’s eye, in conformance with the vivid and detailed descriptions many declared eyewitnesses had given him as he walked northward through Sonora. His images, though, might have reflected a less than perfect understanding of what his informants tried to convey to him. He and they shared no common language, and plenty of occasion existed for misunderstanding. Sometimes interpreters were available, sometimes not. On at least one occasion Marcos and his informants resorted to pantomime.”

If he could barely communicate with his informants it’s entirely possible that some miscommunication occurred and it just all snowballed from there. This could be a problem with the entire expedition. As I noted before they would encounter up to 17 different languages and may have had trains of interpreters. It would be easy for meaning to get mixed up in that long game of telephone.

Perhaps he believed some white lies would be okay if it saved souls and the Spanish found another Mexico.

With Marcos out of the way, let’s talk about his informants, and El Turco’s story. These stories may have been based in reality. Perhaps the stories of Cibola and others in the southwest reflected earlier civilizations like Chaco Canyon, Casas Grandes, or the Hohokam. Through mistranslations or a misunderstanding of the stories, these got conflated with existing settlements. At the end of the day, both Quivira and Cibola did exist.

On El Turco’s story. It may have been just a retelling of the Mississippi Mound Culture.

De Soto’s expedition would encounter and write about these canoes described by El Turco. From No Settlement No Conquest which gives a note from the De Soto expedition: “The cacique came with two hundred canoes full of Indians … the warriors were standing from prow to stern with their bows and arrows in their hands. The canoe in which the cacique had came had an awning spread in the stern and he [the cacique] was seated under the canopy… The chief [of each canoe] from his position under the canopy, controlled and gave orders to the other men… they had the appearance of a beautiful fleet of galleys.” This telling is strikingly similar to that given by El Turco, after all.

He could have mixed up gold with copper, which had been important to Mississippi cultures in the 1300s.

It seems reasonable that he combined these stories with Quivira. Perhaps as he wanted to get home after being a hostage of some kind at Cicuique.

As for the armband, again from No Settlement No Conquest “My provisional conclusion is that the “voluntary” hostage El Turco was truthful in saying that Bigotes had a metal armband that had originated in Quivira. Further, Bigotes felt he could not reveal the jewelry and therefore was forced to deny, falsely, that he knew anything about it.”

Any plots between El Turco and either Cicuique or Quivira are doubtful.

First, it fits a convenient trope among Spanish stories that the expedition’s members would be familiar with.

Second, El Turco’s people may not have been on the best terms with the Quecheros, so he may have chosen the route to the south to try and avoid hostile people and instead travel with the allied Teyas.

Third, the “plot” with the Quivirans seems spurious at best. What did the Quivirans gain by slaughtering the Spanish. There is no motive for them to do so, other than for El Turco to again fulfill this trope.

Overall I’d say that these plots probably existed more on the Spanish page than in reality and El Turco was killed for losing a power struggle between himself and Ysepote.

With that I think it’s finally time to leave Coronado behind. Next episode we’ll talk about the next group of explorers to head north and what had changed in the intervening years.

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