From the Annals of the Explorers – In 1599, Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate found Jusepe Guitiérrez at Picurus, New Mexico. JG was the lone survivor of the ill-fated expedition led by Francisco Leyva de Bonilla. Five years earlier, Bonilla had been sent by by Governor Diego de Velasco of Nueva Vizcaya to pursue a group of Native Americans suspected of widespread theft. Bonilla quickly abandoned the pursuit and began to search for the fabled treasure of Quivira. The group spent about a year on the upper Rio Grande encamped at Bove (San Ildefonso). From there they explored parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Nebraska. According to Gutiérrez, a Mexican Indian who was with the party, Bonilla was stabbed to death after a quarrel with his lieutenant, Antonio Gutiérrez de Humaña, who then assumed command. JG and five others deserted and attempted to return to New Mexico. Only JG made it back, but he was captured by Apache and Vaquero Indians and held for a year. He finally made his way to Cicuyé and was later found by Oñate at Picuris who recognized his value as a guide and interpreter. When Oñate arrived at Quivira in the summer of 1601, he learned that Humaña and his followers had been killed by hostile Indians on their return journey.
From the Annals of Conquistadors – In 1540, the Spanish Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, appointed Francisco Vázquez de Coronado to lead an expedition in search of the Seven Cities of Cíbola also known as the Seven Cities of Gold. Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca had described Cibola in his 1536 report after finding his way back to New Spain following his arduous journey from Galveston where he was shipwrecked. The disreputable Marcos de Niza had confirmed Cabeza de Vaca’s report based on his own travels in 1539. Coronado and 1,000 men set out from Culiacán in late April. There was no gold at Cíbola (the Zuñi villages in western New Mexico), but he was led on by stories told by the captive El Turco of great rewards to be found in Quivira, a region on the Great Plains far to the east. Coronado wandered around the Great Plains for another 2 years finding nothing but poor Indian villages. When he returned to Mexico he was subjected to an official examination of his conduct as leader of the expedition and as governor of Nueva Galicia. He was cleared of charges in connection with the expedition.
From the Annals of the Conquistadors – In 1540, the Spanish Viceroy of Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza, commissioned Francisco Vázquez de Coronado to lead an expedition to search for the Seven Cities of Cíbola. The Spanish were intrigued by the report of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca who had described the cities after finding his way back to New Spain following his long wandering through Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico. Another explorer, Marcos de Niza, later confirmed Cabeza de Vaca’s report. Coronado and 1,000 men set out from Culiacan April of 1540 and he did not return for more than two years. He found Cíbola – but they were the Pueblos of western New Mexico and there was no gold. Undaunted, he was induced by the captive El Turco to search for gold in Quivira located somewhere in present day Kansas. Quivira turned out to be a village of the Plains Indians eking out a subsistence living. in his wanderings, Coronado did explore the Llano Estacado in the Panhandle and Eastern New Mexico and “discovered” Palo Duro Canyon and the Caprock in West Texas.
Photo from the top of the Caprock in Caprock Canyon State Park.