THREE PRIMARY SPANISH EXPEDITIONS TO THE NORTHERN GULF COAST IN THE 1500S
By
Caleb Curren and Steve Newby

INTRODUCTION

The success of Cortes conquests in Mexico filled the Spanish imagination with visions of empires in the north rivaling that of Mexico. All that was needed were more men willing to face the rigors of the unknown for wealth and empire.

Three such men were Panfilo de Narvaez, Hernando de Soto, and Don Tristan de Luna. These men were supported in their missions by the Spanish monarchy, with its military forces, as well as the Catholic Church. The interplay between these political, religious, and economic factors helped to make up the story of these expeditions.

The following narratives outline the three main 16th century Spanish expeditions of discovery and conquest made to the southeastern United States. They are the Narvaez/Vaca expedition made in 1528, the Soto expedition in 1539, and the Luna expedition in 1559. An asterisk indicates archeological sites sought by PAL (*).

The chronicler of the Narvaez/Vaca expedition was Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (Bandelier 1922), one of just four survivors of the expedition. The Soto expedition had four chroniclers, three who were actually there, Ranjel (Bourne 1904:b), Elvas (Bourne 1904:a), and Biedma (Bourne 1904:b), and one who compiled narrative accounts from other survivors, Garcillasso de la Vega (Varner and Varner 1951). The Luna expedition was recorded from letters and legal documents compiled in the Luna Papers (Priestly 1929).

 

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