Quivira and Cíbola
Quivira and Cíbola are two of the fantastic Seven Cities of Gold existing only in a myth that originated around the year 1150 when the
Moorsconquered Mérida, Spain. According to the legend, seven bishops fled the city, not only to save their own lives but also to prevent the Muslims from obtaining sacred religious relics. Years later, a rumor circulated that in a far away land—a place unknown to the people of that time—the seven bishops had founded the cities of Cíbola and Quivira.
The legend says that these cities grew very rich, mainly from gold and precious stones. This idea fueled many expeditions in search of the mythical cities during the following centuries.
Eventually, the legend behind these cities grew to such an extent that no one spoke solely of Quivira and Cíbola, but instead of seven magnificent cities made of gold, one for each of the seven bishops who had left Mérida.
In a way, the myth survived until the time that the English explorers were in the
New England. It was fed by the castaways of Pánfilo de Narváez's unsuccessful expedition to Florida in 1528, who, upon returning to New Spain, said that they had heard from the mouths of the Native Americans stories of cities with great riches. Only four men had survived that expedition. One was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vacawho wrote "Naufragios" ("Shipwrecks") in which he described his adventure on foot from the coast of Florida to the coast of Sinaloain Mexico. One of the other three survivors was a slave named Esteban, or Estevanico.
The myth of the seven cities of gold drew the
Conquistadors northward through the Jornada del Muerto, the Llano Estacado(Staked Plains), in which they encountered a "Sea of Grass", and finally, the French colonists, who successfully resisted their further northward advance.
In search of the seven cities of gold
Upon hearing the castaways' tales of cities with limitless riches to the North of
New Spain, Viceroy Antonio de Mendozaorganized an expedition headed by the Franciscan monk Marcos de Niza, who took as his guide Estevanico. During the voyage, in a place called Vacapa (probably located somewhere around the state of Sonora) the monk sent Estevanico to scout ahead. A short while later, Estevanico met a monk who had heard stories from the natives about cities overflowing with riches.
When Marcos de Niza heard of this man, he supposed that the stories pertained to the "Seven Cities of Cíbola y Quivira."
Estevanico did not wait for the friar, but instead continued travelling until he reached Háwikuh, now in
New Mexico, where, at the hands of Native Americans, he supposedly met his death, and his companions were forced to flee.
Marcos de Niza returned to
Mexico Cityand said that the expedition continued even after the reported death of Estevanico. He claimed that they had seen a city very far away and greater than the great Tenochtitlan; in this city, the people used dishes of gold and silver, decorated their houses with turquoise, and had gigantic pearls, emeralds, and other beautiful gems. It is now believed by manyFact|date = April 2008 historians that the mica-inflected clay of the adobe pueblos may have created an optical illusion when inflamed by the setting sun, thus fueling the tale of the "Seven Cities of Cíbola y Quivira."
The second expedition
Upon hearing this news, the Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza wasted no time in organizing a large military expedition to take possession of the riches that the monk had described with such vivid detail.
Upon the Viceroy's command,
Francisco Vázquez de Coronadobegan his expedition, taking the monk Marcos de Niza as his guide. Coronado left with a small group of explorers from Culiacánon 22 April 1540. While the main part of the expedition was going more slowly under the command of Tristán de Arellano—in each Spanish town the land expedition was re-forming—another expedition commanded by Fernando de Alarcón was leaving by sea to bring supplies to the land expedition.
Vásquez de Coronado went through the state of Sonora and arrived in present day
Arizona. There, he discovered that Marcos de Niza's stories were lies and that there were in fact no treasures as the monk had described. He also found that, contrary to the monk's account, the sea was not within view from that region, but it was instead many days' walking distance away.
The Great Quivira
An abandoned Indian Pueblo in
Torrance County, New Mexicohas been given the name "La Gran Quivira" ("The Great Quivira"). The site was inhabited during the early period of Spanish occupation, when the settlement was called "Pueblo de Las Humanas". The remains of the Gran Quivera settlement are today part of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.
Vázquez de Coronado mentioned an indigenous settlement named "Quivira", the location of which is unknown today.
García López de Cárdenashad left from there in search of a river that the native Hopihad spoken about.
When García López came to the
Grand Canyonand the Colorado River, the river had already been visited and baptized hundreds of miles away at its mouth by Francisco de Ulloain September of 1539, who named the delta "Ancón de San Andrés". Also, Fernando de Alarcón had already travelled 80 leagues up the river and had named it "Río de Nuestra Señora del Buen Guía" in August of 1540.
García López could not find a path or shortcut leading down from the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. Still, he is considered the first European to have visited the Grand Canyon.
In popular culture
*In the Western
video game"Gun", Quivira is a central part of the plot, as the game's villain, Thomas Magruder, seeks a golden cross which he believes leads to Quivira. A prologue scene at the beginning of the game, which is supposed to show Coronado's search for Quivira (called Coronado's Second Expedition). However, in this scene, Coronado and all of his associates are slaughtered by the Wichita during a sandstorm.
Stephen Kingbook " The Stand", Trashcan Man is instructed by Randall Flaggto meet him in Cibola, which is later revealed to be Las Vegas.
Lincoln Childand Douglas Prestonbook "Thunderhead", the location of Quivira is discovered to be a cliff dwellingand an expedition is mounted. The gold is found to be black-on-yellow micaceous pottery.
Scrooge McDuckand his nephews discover the seven cities in the comic "The Seven Cities of Cibola" by Carl Barks. Unfortunately, the Beagle Boys follow them and try to steal some treasure for themselves, setting off a boobytrap that collapses the cities and buries them for all time. The ducks and the Beagle Boys escape but forget all about the cities. [cite journal
last = Blum
first = Geoffrey
authorlink = Geoffrey Blum
title = Wind from a Dead Galleon
journal = The Adventures of Uncle Scrooge McDuck in Color
volume = 7
date = 1996
url = http://home.earthlink.net/~vathek/Wind.html
accessdate = 2008-06-29]
Scott O'Dell's 1966 book " The King's Fifth" has various references to the seven cities of gold (although it claims Cíbola is not one of the cities but the land that hosts all seven cities). The main character is also named Esteban and there is also a Mendoza.
**The book in its turn inspired the 1980s Japanese/French animated children's series "
The Mysterious Cities of Gold".
*The 1984 video game Seven Cities of Gold, dramatizing the Spanish conquest of the Americas, takes its name from this legend.
* The Vertigo/DC comic book series "
Jack of Fables" recently began a storyline called "Americana" which relates the efforts of Jack of the Tales in entering Cíbola through the heretofore restricted land of American fables (issue 17, Jan 08 cover date).
*Cíbola is featured heavily in "", a 2007 film starring
Baboquivari Peak Wilderness
Fountain of Youth
City of the Caesars(Ciudad de los Césares)
Sierra del Plata
Crampton, C. Gregory. The Zunis of Cibola. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1977.
* [http://www.heartnm.com/english/trip4_saltmission.html Salt Mission Trail, a feature of the area]
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