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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > E > Antonio Espejo

Antonio Espejo

A Spanish explorer, whose fame rests upon a notable expedition which he conducted into New Mexico and Arizona in 1582-3. According to his own statement, he was b. in Cordova, but the dates both of his b. and d. are unknown. Following the reports brought to Mexico from the north by Cabeza de Vaca and the Franciscan monk, Marcos de Nizza, a powerful expedition had been fitted out under the governor, Coronado, in 1540, which after passing through the territories of the Pueblo tribes of the Rio Grande, had penetrated as far as the province of Quivira, probably the country of the Wichita Indians on the Middle Arkansas, returning in the summer of 1542. Two Franciscan volunteers, Father Juan de Padilla and a lay brother, Luis, remained behind, of whom the first was afterwards murdered by the tribe — the first missionary martyr of the United States — while the fate of the other nothing was ever known. Forty years later three other Franciscans undertook to establish missions among the Tigua, about the present Bernalillo, New Mexico. Soon rumours of their death at the hands of the Indians came back to Mexico, and finding the authorities dilatory in the matter, Espejo, a wealthy mining proprietor, offered to equip and lead a search expedition at his own expense. The offer was accepted and, being regularly commissioned, with only fourteen soldiers, a number of Christian Indians, and a cavalcade of horses and mules, he left San Bartolomé, Chihuahua, for the north on 10 Nov., 1582. From the junction of the Concho with the Rio Grande he ascended the latter stream, through populous tribes, to the pueblo of Puara, where he learned definitely of the murder of the three missionaries. Fearing punishment, the Indians had deserted their pueblo, and fled to the mountains.

Having accomplished his first purpose, Espejo determined to explore the unknown country beyond. After visiting several of the neighbouring pueblos he crossed over to the Zuni, near the present Arizona line, where he found three Christian Indians of Coronado's earlier expedition. Here several of the party decided to return, and with only nine soldiers and a party of Indians he pushed on to the Hopi (Moqui) villages in northern Arizona, where he met a friendly reception and was given guides to a mountain country farther on — apparently some fifty miles northward from the site of Prescott — where he procured some rich specimens of silver ore. Returning to the Rio Grande, he visited several other pueblos farther up the river and then went over to the Pecos, noting other mines by the way. In consequence of the threatening attitude of the Tanos tribe he finally decided to return to Mexico, arriving at his starting-point in September, 1583, having accomplished, without bloodshed and with a handful of men, as great results as had been obtained by Coronado with a whole army and at the cost of an exterminating warfare upon the Indians. He soon afterwards submitted a report, with a map of the regions explored, but his later proposition to organize a colonizing expedition was defeated by the jealously of the viceroy.

About this page

APA citation. Mooney, J. (1909). Antonio Espejo. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05541a.htm

MLA citation. Mooney, James. "Antonio Espejo." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05541a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gerald M. Knight.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. May 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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