Estevanico Biography - North American Explorer

Estevanico (1500 - 1539) was an African slave and known as the first person born in Africa who has arrived tin present-day continental United States. During his life, he was known by several names, and even more after he died when he was described by modern historians. Some of those names are Estebanico, Esteban de Dorantes, and Esteban the Moor, although much more are known. He is remembered today not only because of his slave status, but also because he took part in a large exploratory mission that left him one of the few survivors of the Spanish expedition and a guide for three Spanish survivors that also became famous after they managed to reach the territory of New Mexico finally after more than 10 years of journey.

Very little is known about the early life of Estevanico, but what is very much documented was his imprisonment and sale into slavery in 1513 by the Portuguese in the city of Azemmour, on Morocco's Atlantic coast. Originally born as a Muslim, he was converted to Roman Catholicism before reaching Hispaniola. More than decade later, Estevanico was added on the roster of the famous Narváez expedition that was started in 1527 by Spanish explorer Pánfilo de Narváez (1470–1528). With the crew of over 600 people, the goal of this exploratory mission was to create permanent presence of Spanish crown in the territory of Florida, but after bad weather and attack by natives, only four members of the expedition managed to remain alive – Estevanico, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, and Alonso del Castillo Maldonado. Their only salvation lied in a slow trek across around the Gulf of Mexico. To achieve that they needed to survive more than a decade, often serving as slaves to native tribes, and eventually reaching Spanish territory in modern day Mexico.

After reaching safety, other 3 Spanish explorers return to Europe, while Estevanico was sold to Antonio de Mendoza, the Viceroy of New Spain, who was very interested in tales of those four survivors and their stories about the lands and people up north. Of course, very quickly de Mendoza gathered new exploration party led by Marcos de Niza with a goal of finding the legendary City of Gold with Estevanico serving as his main guide. Sadly, this mission caused the death of Estevanico, who was killed by the indigenous people Hawikuh in their village of Zuni. He was mistaken as the envoy of war and killed on the spot. After learning of the fate of Estevanico, expedition leader Marcos de Niza turned the group around and returned to New Mexico.

Known As (Other Names)Esteban de Dorantes, Estebanico, Esteban the Moor
ReligionMuslim, Roman Catholicism
Known ForDiscoverer of New Mexico