Tejano History

Niza, Marcos De

Tejanos |

       NIZA, MARCOS DE (?–1558?). Marcos de Niza, a controversial Franciscan explorer, may have led the first European expedition to explore purposefully what is today the American Southwest. His report of having seen one of the Seven Cities of Cíbola in 1539 launched the first large-scale Spanish exploration of the interior of North America. Considered a Frenchmen by his contemporaries and apparently born in Nice (hence “de Niza”), Fray Marcos had served in Central America and in Peru before settling in Mexico City in 1537. In the autumn of 1538 Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza entrusted him with investigating rumors of wealth beyond the northern frontiers of New Spain-rumors fueled by the recent return of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. To guide Fray Marcos, Mendoza sent Estevanico, a black slave who had been with Cabeza de Vaca. Niza set out in the spring of 1539. Before the year was out he had returned to Mexico City, claiming to have seen a place called Cíbola, believed by modern scholars to have been one of the Zuni villages. Fray Marcos did not, however, claim to have entered Cíbola. Fearing that he might meet the same fate as Estevanico, whom the Cibolanos had killed, he observed the city from a prudent distance and pronounced it “bigger than the city of Mexico.”


Full article on the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas Online

   Courtesy of the Texas State Historical Association.