Stephen the Moor

1503 CE - 1539 CE

Spain

Other names: Estévanico and Estévan

Primary Goal:
To conquer Florida.
Achievement:
The first expedition across the Atlantic to the southwest United States and into Mexico.

Estevanico was born in Azemmour, Morocco around 1503. Portugal took over Azemmour after a battle between their local leaders and the Portuguese government. Then, after a drought in the years 1520 and 1521, the Portuguese sold Moroccans and Estevanico was sold into slavery in Europe, becoming the slave of Andres de Dorantes of Bejar del Castanar. In 1527, Dorantes joined an expedition to conquer Florida.

Six hundred colonists and solders, five ships, and 80 horses landed April 12, 1528 at the St. Clements Point, near the entrance to Tampa Bay, Florida, after sailing up the west coast for two days. While there, the crew encountered hostile Indians and walked through jungles to escape. Those who were left made barges to get away from the area. They sailed for the Mexican coast, but landed in Texas near Galveston on November 6, 1528. Only 80 men survived the crossing, including Estevanico. At first, the natives there were friendly, but they turned and enslaved the explorers. Of the 80 men who survived the crossing, only four men survived the Indian enslavement. Estevanico, Dorantes, Cabeza de Vaca, and Alonso Castillo escaped in 1534, went inland and lived with another Indian tribe who made them medicine men. The natives called them “Children of the Sun” because they traveled from the east to the west. Estevanico became fluent in several Indian dialects and carried a medicine rattle, a feathered, beaded gourd given to him by a chief. Indians took turns guiding the four men through Texas. They arrived at a small Mexican outpost in Sinaloa, Mexico in May 1536. From Sinaloa, they traveled to Mexico City, arriving in July.

The Viceroy of Mexico was eager to hear their stories and asked them to go on another expedition into Arizona and New Mexico. In February 1539, Estevanico led an expedition by foot from Culiacan, Mexico. The party was under the command of Fray Marcos de Niza. Estevanico went ahead of the priest, sending daily messages back by runners who carried wooden crosses to mark the promise of new lands they found. As Estevanico went farther, the crosses became larger and larger. He arrived in northwest New Mexico and saw a large village with buildings made of stone several stories high. This was Hawikuh, a Zuni pueblo. With this discovery, Estevanico sent the biggest cross to Fray Marcos de Niza. The Zuni met Estevanico with distrust; his medicine gourd was trimmed in owl feathers, a bird that symbolized death to the Zuni. So the Zuni placed Estevanico in a hut for three days outside of the village. They questioned him and held a council. The Zuni did not believe the accounts that Estevanico had told them because they thought he was a spy or a guide from some nation that wanted to come and conquer them. For this they decided to kill him. They did not kill any of the people who were with him.