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Coronado And The Seven Cities Of Cibola
by [?]

The remarkable success of Cortez and Pizarro in Mexico and Peru went far to convince the Spaniards that in America they had found a veritable land of magic, filled with wonders and supremely rich in gold and gems. Ponce de Leon sought in Florida for the fabled Fountain of Youth. Hernando de Soto, one of the companions of Pizarro, attempted to find a second Peru in the north, and became the discoverer of the Mississippi. From Mexico other adventurers set out, with equal hopes, in search of empire and treasure. Some went south to the conquest of Central America, others north to California and New Mexico. The latter region was the seat of the fancied Seven Cities of Cibola, the search for which it is here proposed to describe.

In 1538 Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was appointed governor of New Galicia, as the country lying north of Mexico was named, and sent out a certain Fray Marcos, a monk who had been with Pizarro in Peru, on a journey of exploration to the north. With him were some Indian guides and a negro named Estevanico, or Stephen, who had been one of the survivors of the Narvaez expedition to Florida and had travelled for years among the Indians of the north. He was expected to be of great assistance. As the worthy friar went on he was told of rich regions beyond, where the people wore ornaments of gold, and at length he sent the negro in advance to investigate and report. Stephen was to send back by the Indians a cross, the size of which would indicate the importance of what he had learned. Within four days messengers returned with a great cross the height of a man, significant of great and important discoveries.

One of the Indians told the friar that thirty days’ journey from the point they had reached was a populous country called Cibola, in which were seven great cities under one lord, peopled by a civilized nation that dwelt in large houses well built of stone and lime, some of them several stories in height. The entrances to the principal houses were richly wrought with turquoise, which was there in great abundance. Farther on they had been told were other provinces, each of them much greater than that of the seven cities.

Two days after Easter, 1539, Fray Marcos set out on the track of his pioneer, eager to reach the land of wonders and riches of which he had been told. Doubtless there rose in his mind dreams of a second Mexico or Peru. The land through which lay his route was strange and picturesque. Here were fertile valleys, watered by streams and walled in by mountains; there were narrow canons through which ran rapid streams, with rock-walls hundreds of feet high and cut into strange forms of turrets and towers.

As he went on he heard more of the seven cities and the distant kingdoms, and of the abundance of turquoises with which the natives adorned their persons and their doorways. But nothing was seen of Stephen, though shelter and provisions were found which he had left at points along the route. As for the dusky pioneer, Fray Marcos was never to set eyes on him again.

At length the good monk reached a fertile region, irrigated like a garden, where the men wore three or four strings of turquoises around their necks; and the women wore them in their ears and noses. But Cibola lay still beyond, the tales of the natives magnifying its houses till some of them were ten stories in height. Ladders, they said, were used in place of stairways. Reaching at length the Gila River, a stream flowing through deep and rugged valleys, he heard again of the negro, who was crossing the wilderness to the northeast, escorted like a prince by some three hundred natives. Fifteen days journey still lay between Fray Marcos and Cibola, and he went on into the wilderness, escorted, like his pioneer, by a large train of natives, who volunteered their services.