End of the Journey - The Story of Estevanico
By Marshall C. Harrold
The report of the messengers on their return was not good. The Zuni chief had thrown the gourd on the ground and told them that if they tried to enter the city they would be killed.
Estevanico was not impressed. The next morning he advanced to the city of Hawikuh and stood before the entrance to the pueblo.
Terrell's words for the encounter are, "He died at Hawikuh on a May morning in 1539 when the sun was only a lance high. The Zuni Indians who killed him kept his turquoises, his corals, his feathers and his bells, his greyhounds and his green dinner plates. They threw away the sacred gourd rattle."
One wonders about the golden earring.
Unfortunately for all of us, the report of Friar Marcos de Niza on the whole adventure was a complete fabrication of exaggeration and plain lies. He returned immediately to Mexico City to report the death of Estevanico to the Viceroy. While that was true, the rest of the story was pure fantasy. How then did he dare go north again with the Coronado expedition the next year?
The historian, Pedro de Castaneda, found little that agreed with the Friar's story. Coronado himself wrote Viceroy Mendoza, "I can assure you he has not told the truth in a single thing he has said."
About that summer of 1540, Terrell tells us, "Some documents state that Fray Marcos had become ill and thought it best to return to Mexico City for treatment. Castaneda, however, declared bluntly that the celebrated priest went back, 'because he did not think it was safe for him to stay in Cibola'."
There is no reason to surmise further.
The April 1984 issue of Arizona Highways was devoted entirely to "Coronado's Footsteps." The story of Estevanico, Friar Marcos de Niza and their small party is briefly mentioned. However, the quotation from Edwin Corle's "The Gila River of the Southwest" must be questioned. "But apart from the slaying of Esteban the year before, it was the first formal engagement fought within what is now the continental United States. Esteban was a case of assassination but the battle of Cibola was war."
In the first place, that is not a true statement. The Narvaez expedition in June 1528 was in constant warfare with native American Indians in northern Florida. The fact that Coronado came up a year later with a large military force and attacked a Zuni pueblo doesn't seem to be of much importance. He got there by following the same old trade route that Estevanico had followed. Estevanico had found Hawikuh, not Coronado. Arizona historians seem reluctant to admit that their state was first viewed by a European Negro in May 1539. It is a shame to have history polluted by popular misconceptions.
In summary, there are several reasons that Estevanico should be given more acclaim than he has ever received.
- He was an equal partner in a group of four men that changed the map of the world, Few individuals can make such a claim.
- He was the first non-Indian to see the present state of Arizona.
- He blazed the trail that the Coronado expedition would follow later.
- He did much to allay the unrest of the Indians of Nueva Galicia simply because he was trusted and respected by them.
- He walked well over five thousand miles in exploring the southern parts of our country.
He has been neglected too long.
Readers should have been aware by now that they have been exposed to a campaign of enticement. It might well be condensed into a newspaper classified ad that would read as follows:
WANTED. A university music and drama
Department to write, compose, and perform
a fitting memorial to a little known explorer.
A rush of volunteers would be welcome. One single person who would use this material to make History more exciting would be welcome.
Grand opera would be the ultimate.
Marshall C. Harrold