Spanish Explorers

photo courtesy of "Colorful Colorado" by Caroline Bancroft


Spanish explorers named the state of Colorado. It can mean red, rosy or colorful.  As the conquistadors rode into the wilderness of what is now Colorado, they saw many red rock formations.

These were sandstone, erosion, cliffs or mountains of red.  So Colorado got its name.

Explorers arrived in the 16th century of Colorado history.  And since the horse was the mode of transportation for the Spaniards, when the Native Americans saw them for the first time, they were terrified.

Little did they know that the horses the Spanish brought to the region would change the native's lives in a big way.

The famous explorer Coronado, arrived in the southwest from Mexico City in 1540.  He and his troops were in the Colorado territory for one thing, well two actually. To obtain the land for Spain and search for gold.

Spanish troops were very well protected.  The mounted troops wore shining armor and silver all over their horses. They carried colorful flags and banners.  Marching through the wilderness as on parade.

The gold they were searching for was told to be in present day Colorado at a mythical place called Quivira and its Seven Cities of Cibola.

This story was just that.  A rumor which found its way to Spain and so the explorers arrived in search of untold riches.

However, upon questioning the natives about this city, they pointed Coronado further east, into present day Kansas.

As the Spanish continued east, they came across "hump backed cattle" (buffalo).

Not able to find the mythical city, Coronado and his men returned to Mexico City in disgrace.

In the century that followed this expedition, the Spanish influence was of no importance at that time.

Although the Spanish were becoming entrenched in Mexico and the southwest U.S. (at the time), it was not until between 1664 and 1680 that another Spaniard ventured into Colorado.

The Spanish had made slaves out of the Indians of New Mexico. A band of them fled to a place about 100 miles from present day Pueblo in Colorado.

The governor sent a military expedition after the band of runaways.  It was led by a military captain named Juan Archuleta, who captured the band and returned them to New Mexico.

Throughout the years, the Spanish explorers oppressed and enslaved the Native Americans.

Finally, in 1706, on a trek to round up more slaves for the Spanish government, a man named Juan de Ulibarri, claimed the Colorado territory for Spain.

It didn't matter to them that the country being claimed rightfully belonged to the Indians.  He stated:

"The royal ensign Don Francisco de Valdez drew his sword, and I, after making a note of the events of the day and hour on which we arrived, said in a clear intelligible voice: 'Knights, Companions and Friends: Let the broad new province of San Luis and the great settlement of Santo Domingo of El Cuartelejo be pacified by the arms of us who are the vassals of our monarch, king and natural lord, Don Philip V-may he live forever.'

The royal ensign said: 'Is there any one to contradict?' All responded, 'No.' Then he said: 'Long live the king! Long live the king! Long live the king!' and cutting the air in all four directions with his sword the ensign signalled for the discharge of the guns.

After throwing up our hats and making other signs of rejoicing, the ceremony came to an end." (from "Colorful Colorado, Its Dramatic History" by Caroline Bancroft).

The Spanish explorers were celebrating a new conquest, the Indians were rebelling the ownership of their land and while this was going on, a new fighter arrived in the arena.

The French were moving down the Mississippi River from Canada to explore their new found land and began moving further west toward the Spanish territory.


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