Estevanico the Moor from Morocco, 1539
The First African Documented in North America, originally from Morocco, North Africa.
Dr. Barbara Richardson, author of "Black Pioneers in New Mexico" introduced L'Heureux to the chronicles of Estevanico the Moor, as written by Father de Niza in 1539.
In 1527 Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, the chief officer for the expedition of 600 Spanish explorers, sailed for North America under Pánfilo de Narváez.
After crossing the Atlantic, the Spanish fleet was destroyed off the coast of Cuba. Narváez secured a new ship and sailed for what is now known as Florida. Having lost most of his men in 1528, and after several years, Cabeza de Vaca met up with the only other survivors of the Narváez expedition: Alonso Maldonando, Andrés Dorantes, and Estevanico, an African slave originally from Morrocco. In 1528, the four escaped from the indigenous peoples that had enslaved them near what is now Galveston, Texas. They walked for six years until they reached Culiacán, Mexico in 1536.
In 1539, Governor Mendoza of Mexico chose Estevanico to guide a French priest, Fray Marcos de Niza, to find the legendary Seven Cities of Gold in what is now known as New Mexico. Estevanico spoke numerous Indian languages and had two grey hound dogs with him. Also with the expedition were 300 Mexican Indian allies. Fray Marcos travelled some distance behind, would receive fabricated wooden crosses, each one increasing in size, to indicate if Estevanico was approaching the Seven Cities of Gold.
On reaching the Zuni Pueblo town of Hawikuh, Zuni (New Mexico), Estevanico sent his personal medicine gourd ahead to the Zuni villages. The gourd had a white and red feather, and copper bells on it. The Zuni chiefs flung the gourd to the ground and said:”This is not from our people, this person must be a spy”. Estevanico was killed there, and Fray Marcos returned to Mexico City.
Estevanico, the Moor slave who was the first documented African in North America, lives on in the form of Tsa’kwayna, a kachina.
Estevanico, The Moor 1539 Original Oil Painting by L'Heureux.
Collection of the State of New Mexico