One of the greatest odysseys (an excursion) in American history started in a little town of Azamor on Morocco’s west coast at the beginning of the sixteenth century (1500’s). Estevanico born in Morocco, located in the northwest of Africa, was the first person born in Africa to have arrived in the present-day United States. He was sold as a slave to a Spanish nobleman named “Andres Dorantes de Carranza”. In addition, Estevanico received his name when he was baptized in the Catholic Church by his owner; however, Estevanico is known by many names such as Estevan, Esteban, Estebanico, Black Stephen and Stephen the Moor.
Estevanico accompanied his master as a member of the Narvaez Expedition that includes Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Which landed in mid-April in 1528 near what is now called Tampa Bay. After an exhausted attempt near the modern city of Tallahassee, Narvaez decided to construct five boats in order to navigate along the coastline to a Spanish base in Mexico. In addition, they embark on September 22, 1528 with Estevanico in the third boat, commanded by Dorantes. However, In November they were hit by storms and Dorantes’ boat along with the one commanded by Cabeza de Vaca were wrecked on Galveston Island off the coast of Texas.
Within the spring of 152, only fifteen men were still alive. Thirteen of them, including Estevanico and leaving Cabeza de Vaca behind, departed from Galveston to try to get to Mexico overland, which they headed to west and south. Several of them died along the way, and the rest were captured by Native Americans at San Antonio Bay. By the autumn of 1530 only Dorantes, Estevanico, and Alonzo Del Castillo Maldonado were still alive. In addition, Dorantes escaped and went inland to a village of the Mariame tribe where his life was easier. In the spring of 1532, Estevanico and Castillo Maldonado also escaped and made it to Dorantes’ village.
One year later, they encountered with Cabeza De Vaca, who was working as a trader among the various tribes, but they were forced to separate again. Within another year, they met again and they escaped, which they lately arrived to a camp of the Avavares tribe where they were very welcome as medicine men. Estevanico joined the others in healing the Indians, and was especially noted for his skill to learn to speak other languages and to use sign language. They decide stayed with the Avavares until the spring of 1535. Their reputation as healers preceded them, and they were welcomed wherever they depart.
By the end of the year of 1535, Estebanico and the three Spaniards reached the Rio Grande River, and Castillo and Estevanico headed upstream. There they came upon the permanent towns or “pueblos” of the Jumano tribe. When the others caught up with them, they found Estevanico surrounded by Indians, who treated him like a god. Along the way, the men heard tales of a group of rich cities in the interior, which they called the “Seven Cities of Cibola”. However, Estevanico and the three Spaniards traveled into what is now the Mexican state of Chihuahua. As they traveled, they saw more and more evidence of contact with Europeans.
In March 1536, the four men met up with a party of Spaniards and entered Mexico City on July 24, 1536. The four men, including Estevanico, were well received by Viceroy Antonio Mendoza, who was intrigued by their tales of wealthy cities of Cibola in the north. Later on, Cabeza De Vaca returned to Spain while Castillo and Dorantes married and settle down in Mexico. In the other hand, Dorantes sold Estevanico to Viceroy Antonio Mendoza, who wanted to send an odyssey north in the discovery of the seven cities of Cibola and eventually accepted the offer of a Spanish friar, Fray Marcos de Niza, to command it.
In addition, Viceroy Antonio Mendoza appointed Estevanico to be the guide of the party in the exploration of the seven cities of Cibola. Estevanico and the party commanded by Fray Marcos de Niza went north to the town of Culiacan in the autumn of the year of 1538, where Francisco Vazquez de Coronado had recently been appointed governor. Estevanico and Fray Marcos depart from Culiacan on March 7, 1539. On March 2, Fray Marcos sent Estevanico ahead to explore the trail. Four days later, Native American messenger sent by Estebanico returned to Fray Marcos and his party to report that he had heard news that he was thirty days away from Cibola’s city and asked Fray Marcos to join him.
Fray Marcos directed his party of Spaniards northward, but Estevanico did not wait for him. As the friar entered each new village, he found a message from Estevanico stating that he had continued on his research of Cibola. Fray Marcos chased after him for weeks but was unable to catch up. Estevanico headed through the large desert region of the Mexican state of Sonora and southern Arizona. In fact, Estevanico was the first black westerner to enter what are now Arizona and New Mexico.
Wherever he traveled, Estevanico sent his medicine gourd ahead of him to announce his arrival. In May he arrived at the Zuni pueblo of Hawikuh, the first of the “Seven Cities of Cibola. ” There he showed his magic gourd, but the chief rejected it down in anger and told Estevanico to leave the town. However, the chief took away all his possessions and put him in a house on the edge of the town without food or water. Finally, the following morning he was attacked by a band of warriors and killed.
In addition, several of the Native American escorts escaped and returned to tell Fray Marcos the news of Estevanico’s death. In his report to Mendoza, Fray Marcos said that he continued to travel northward until he reached Hawikuh. In his report he said that it was a rich place that was even bigger than Mexico City. Since it is in fact only a small town or pueblo, it seems as though Fray Marcos did not make the trip he claimed. However, Fray Marcos’ report influenced Mendoza to send out the ill-fated Coronado expedition. Even though Estevanico was born in Africa, he contributed into the American History.
He helped as a liaison between the Spaniards and the Native Americans in their expeditions to explore the western territories of the United States, in specific the state of Arizona and the state of New Mexico. In addition, Estevanico became accepted in the Spanish society even though he stated as a Muslim, who later became part of the Catholic Church due to his owner, Andres Dorantes de Carranza, decision of baptized him and give the name of “Estevanico”. Even Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca described his explorer companion “Estevanico” as follow; “Estevanico was a large and powerful man, blessed with a shrewd and quick mind.
” However, Estevanico also was best described as an excellent linguist and quick learner of multiples languages of the Native Americans. In fact, Estevanico was not only accepted by the Spaniards but also accepted by the Native Americans due to his ability to heal people, who were developed by the teachings of the Avavares tribes. Even though, Estevanico was killed, His discovery of the “seven cities of Cibola” inspired the Spaniards to do a second odyssey in the exploration of the “seven cities of Cibola” commanded by Coronado.