Just nineteen years after the conquest of the Aztec Empire, young Coronado came north. More than an “explorer”, his expedition came with 300 soliders, 800 Indian scouts, over 500 horses, and a large herd of cattle, sheep, and pigs. He came for gold and was prepared to obtain it thru blood. His first target was the legendary city of Cibola, first of the Seven Cities of Gold.
It was a warm day in the pinyon-juniper uplands of New Mexico and Coronado’s army was desperate for food. Several had already died of hunger. But the walled pueblo of Cibola, or Hawikuh, was closed to them. The Zunis had removed their women and children to nearby towns and had brought in able-bodied men. The Spanish army drew up around the pueblo, arranged in their divisions. The reading of the Requerimiento, demanding allegiance to God and King, was met with the sound of a horn from the walled village. In front of the pueblo entrance, three hundred Zuni men advanced.
The Spanish held firm, asking for peace and wanting food. The Zunis advanced further, unleashing a barrage of arrows. The Spanish attacked, charging on horses, killing about a dozen while the remaining fled back to the pueblo.
Watching from the rooftops, the Zuni saw their walls were surrounded. A man in silver came forth. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, wearing nearly a hundred pounds of gilded armor, glittering in the sun, complete with a plumed helmet, began to scale a ladder. The rain of arrows turned to rocks and stones. They nearly killed him. Unconscious, his body protected by his countrymen, he was dragged to safety. By the time he came around, Cibola, the city of gold, was in Spanish hands.
But it was just Hawikuh Pueblo, and all they found was adobe dust and clay pots. The Seven Cities, Coronado reported, were actually just “seven little villages”.