Cíbola Landscape

Geographical description written by Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera who was part of Coronado’s Expedition from 1540-1542

Vital Stats: “The country is a valley between ridges resembling rocky mountains. They plant in holes.”

            “The country is spacious and level…no settlements were seen anywhere on these plains.”

            “Several lakes were found at intervals; they were round as plates…some fresh and some


“The country is like a bowl…the horizon surrounds him all around…there are no groves of trees except at the rivers.”

“There are paths down into [the rivers] made by cows.”


The accounts of what the landscape in New Spain looked like in the 1540s written by Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera allow historians to gain a clear understanding about the way people at the time were impacted by their surrounding geography.


The first-hand accounts of what the land was like in the 1540s removes all of the guesswork historians would face today. While his writings were not used by anyone at that time in the way they would be used today, they provide important details about how the land itself was used and perceived.


The writings of Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera are all compiled in the book Colonial North America and the Atlantic World: A History in Documents by Brett Rushforth and Paul Mapp. The book features many different primary sources including Nájera’s chronicles, which are a credible source of what life looked like in 1540. Knowing what the landscapes looked like allow scholars to get a better idea of what the expeditions of Coronado looked like, since there is not an exact consensus of the exact route they took in searching for the cities of gold.


Mapp, Paul W., Rushforth, Brett. Colonial North America and the Atlantic World: A History in

Documents. New Jersey, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2009.


Amy Roberts; Augmented Reflections; UCCS.

Compostela & Surrounding Areas Topography

Report from Coronado contradicting Fray Marcos de Niza’s accounts of the land outside of Compostela

Vital Stats: “From the people here, he learned that there was nothing to be found in the country beyond except the mountains, which continued to be entirely uninhabited by people.”

“We all marched cheerfully along a very bad way, where it was impossible to pass without making a new road or repairing the one that was there, which troubled the soldiers not a little, considering that everything which the friar had said was found to be quite the reverse.”

“And the truth is that there are mountains where, however well the path might be fixed, they could not be crossed without there being great danger of the horses falling over them.”


Coronado’s writings discuss the troubles he and his men faced during the expedition just outside of Compostela. The intense topography caused them to lose multiple horses, have scarce means of food, and travel over dangerous environments.


This primary source of Coronado’s report back lets us better understand just how harsh the conditions may have been that Coronado traveled through. Based on his accounts of his journey we know that he and his men changed pre-existing roads to meet their needs.


Coronado’s report was pulled from The Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542 written by George Parker Winship. As the title suggests, Winship discusses Coronado’s expedition as a whole and compiles different primary and secondary sources in his book. Coronado’s report is very important because it allows historians to have the opportunity to use discernment between Coronado’s and De Niza’s descriptions about the topographic characteristics.


Winship, George Parker. The Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1896, pg. 553.


Amy Roberts; Augmented Reflections; UCCS.