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22 April 2010

Coronado’s expedition that began today in 1540

The following is excerpted from Baptist Influence During the Republic of Texas, which my graduate thesis.  I plan to use that as an excellent source for this blog, so the reference annotations remain in tact.  Another interesting fact that I really didn't explore at the time was that Coronado provided the very first description of the Llano Estacado. the Staked Plains of the Texas Panhandle!  Enjoy.  Comment too.

            In 1540-1 the conquistadores of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led the Spanish expedition that culminated at the Grand Canyon.  This expedition set out to explore the New World with Franciscan priest Juan de Padilla.  Father Padilla accompanied their party as an official member of the governmental delegation to the expedition, in keeping with the traditional intertwining of state and religious affairs in so many Latin/Catholic countries.  According to McBeth, contemporary evidence suggests Coronado, Padilla, and their men passed through the area of Blanco Canyon near present-day Lubbock, Texas on their journey.  Their expedition later endured the winter of 1540-1 in the Rio Grande Valley at Tiguex, New Mexico.  Their mission was to offer Christianity and Catholicism to the Indians, collect as much wealth as possible from the New World, and waste little time in returning to Spain (McBeth 1).

According to The Handbook of Texas Online, Padilla probably presided over the very first feast of Thanksgiving conducted in the New World.  This occurred as Coronado and the conquistadores camped in what is now the Palo Duro Canyon of Texas in 1542. When some of the conquistadores chose to depart later that same year, Father Padilla and some of his entourage chose to remain in the New World.  Three black men, a Portuguese soldier named Andres do Campo, and several Indian converts from his monastery at Zapotlan also elected to remain with Padilla.  The family members of one of these black men also chose to stay behind with him ("Padilla, Juan de"). 

As a result, Juan Antonio de Padilla would earn the distinction of being the very first martyr for the Christian faith in not only the area we now know as Texas but also quite possibly the entire New World.  He lost his life at the hands of some angry tribesmen while attempting to spread the Gospel to these indigenous people, 30 November 1544.  However, The Handbook of Texas Online also suggests two friends of Padilla who were laymen, Luis de Escalona and Juan de la Cruz, might have disappeared on a mission into New Mexico as early as 1542.  There is no further conclusive evidence to support this earlier claim of martyrdom by a member of the Padilla party, though ("Padilla, Juan de").
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31
There was never yet an uninteresting life.  Such a thing is an impossibility.  Inside of the dullest exterior there is a drama, a comedy, and a tragedy.    
—Samuel L. Clemens, a.k.a. Dr. Mark Twain (1835-1910)

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