Antonio de Mendoza

Painting of the first viceroy of new Spain
Painting of Don Antonio de Mendoza, the first viceroy of Nueva España, 1535-1550

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Don Antonio de Mendoza was the first viceroy (governor) of Nueva España. He first came to the Americas from Spain on the orders of King Charles V in 1535. Among his entourage was a young, ambitious Francisco Vázquez de Coronado.

Mendoza played a pivotal role in the Coronado Entrada. As the King's offical envoy in the Americas, Mendoza not only approved the formation of the expedition to the north and oversaw its organization, but backed an earlier scouting expedition to modern-day New Mexico led by fray Marcos de Niza and Esteban de Dorantes to confirm rumors of wealthy cities to Tierra Nueva1. Mendoza also handpicked Vázquez de Coronado to lead the entrada instead of the experienced and powerful Hernán Cortés, a political move that infuriated Cortés.

In retrospect, one of the major contributions from Mendoza to historians today was the alarde (muster roll) of the expedition. This was a formal inventory of Europeans on the journey and what they brought with them (he may have also reviewed the native allies that joined the entrada, but if he did no documentation survives or has yet to be found2). The alarde is important for a number of reasons. It was the first review of an entrada of its kind by a Spanish administration, providing an insight into the organization and logistics of such a massive undertaking. It gives us names of all 289 European "men-at-arms" and a brief list of their possessions (weapons and armor); a facincating peek into the 1540 military expedition. The alarde is also, in coarse terms, a sort of artifact list for today's archaeologists.

When the entrada returned from the north with no wealth in tow (or large civilizations conquered), Mendoza was nearly ruined financially. He reportedly lost 60,000 pesos and as late as 1545 still claimed to be in debt from being one of the four large financial backers of the entrada3.

Mendoza, however, was not defeated by the failure of the expedition as perhaps was Vázquez de Coronado. He went on to serve as viceroy of Peru in 1550, and died soonafter in 1552.

1 Richard Flint, Great Cruelties Have Been Reported, New Mexico, 2002, p554-55
2 Richard Flint, No Conquest, No Settlement, New Mexico, 2008, p75
3 Richard Flint, Great Cruelties Have Been Reported, New Mexico, 2002, p555

Last updated: January 25, 2018

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