Exploration Of The Mainland Coasts And The Search For A Strait
Voyages toward the South.—The discovery by Columbus (1498) of pearls on the southern mainland, combined with the Portuguese successes in India, gave new incentive to voyages, and within the next few years many thousands of miles of coastline of South and Central America were explored in the interest of trade, discovery, and international rivalry. In 1499 Ojeda explored from near Paramaribo to the Gulf of Maracaibo. In 1500 Pinzón and DeLepe sailed north to the Pearl Coast from points near 8° and 10° south, respectively, and Bastidas made known the coast from the Gulf of Maracaibo to Nombre de Diós, on the Isthmus of Panamá. The chain of discoveries was carried in 1502 from the north shore of Honduras to Nombre de Diós by the fourth voyage of Columbus, made primarily in search of a strait through the troublesome lands which he had discovered. In 1504 La Cosa and Vespucius, during a trading voyage on the Gulf of Urabá, ascended the Atrato River two hundred miles by a route which has since been proposed as an interoceanic canal. Meanwhile numerous other voyages were made to the Pearl Coast for commercial purposes. They added little more to geographical knowledge, but led to colonization on the southern mainland.
Portuguese competition.—Spanish efforts to find a passage to the Indian Ocean by going to the southward were stimulated by the Portuguese voyages in the same direction. In 1500 Cabral, on his way to India, took possession for Portugal at a point near 18° south latitude on the Brazilian coast. In the following year a Portuguese expedition, in which Americus Vespucius was pilot, explored the coast from 5° to 32° south latitude, discovering the La Plata River on the way. It was to this voyage of Vespucius, made in the interest of Portugal, that America owes its name. First applied to South America, it was soon extended to the northern continent. A Portuguese voyage made in 1503 by Jaques, in search of a passage to the East, is said to have reached 52° south.
Establishment of the Portuguese Empire in the East.—Gama's voyage was promptly followed by the founding of Portuguese colonies in the East. The chief actor in this work was Alburquerque, who accompanied an expedition to India in 1503 and became viceroy in 1509, an office which he held until his death in 1515. During his rule the Portuguese established themselves at Goa, which gave them control of the Malabar coast, and at Malacca, from which point they were able to control the trade of the Malay Peninsula and the Spice Islands. Ormuz was captured, making them supreme in the commerce of the Persian Gulf. In succeeding years they acquired Ceylon and established trading settlements in Burma, China, and Japan.
Continued quest for a strait.—These Portuguese successes were an incentive to further Spanish efforts to find the strait. In 1506 Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, accompanied by Juan de Solís, in search of a passage explored the Gulf of Honduras and eastern Yucatán from Guanajá Islands, the western limit of Columbus's voyage, to the Island of Caría. In 1509 Solís, in the service of Spain, reached 42° south, while in search of the desired route. The discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Balboa in 1513 aroused Spain to renewed efforts to find the strait. Exploration was at once undertaken on the southern shores of Panamá, and in 1515 Solís again was sent down the Brazilian coast. Reaching the La Plata River, he was killed and eaten by the savages.
Magellan and Elcano.—The solution of the problem of the southern strait was left for Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese who had seen service in the Far East. Returning to Portugal, he proposed to the king the opening of a route to the East by going west. His offer being refused, like Columbus he turned to Spain, where his plan found favor. Sailing with five vessels in 1519, he discovered the Straits of Magellan and crossed the Pacific Ocean to the Philippines, where he was killed in 1521. Part of the crew, led by Elcano, continued round the world and reached Spain in September, 1522, after one of the most remarkable voyages in all history.
The mapping of the Gulf coast.—Meanwhile the outlines of the Gulf of Mexico had been made known, and by 1525 the continued search for the strait and efforts to settle on the mainland had carried Spanish, explorers nearly the whole length of the North Atlantic coast. In 1508 Ocampo had circumnavigated Cuba. Sailing from Porto Rico in 1513 Juan Ponce de León, who was interested in slave-hunting and exploration, discovered and coasted the Peninsula of Florida.
Four years later Córdova, under a license from Velásquez, governor of Cuba, explored Yucatán, finding signs of large cities and of wealth. The reports aroused new interest in the mainland, and Velásquez sent out Grijalva, who coasted the shore from Yucatán to Pánuco River, securing on the way twenty thousand dollars' worth of gold. To take advantage of Grijalva's discoveries, Velásquez organized another expedition and put it in charge of Hernando Cortés. Garay, governor of Jamaica, also sent out an expedition, under Pineda, with instructions to seek new lands and look for a strait. Sailing north to the mainland in 1519, Pineda completed the mapping of the Gulf by coasting from Florida to Vera Cruz and back. On the way west he discovered the Mississippi River, which he called Río del Espíritu Santo. On the strength of Pineda's discoveries, Garay now secured a patent to the northern Gulf shore, and undertook to colonize the province of Amichel.
The North Atlantic coast.—The exploration of the North Atlantic coast soon followed. In 1513 De León had rounded the Peninsula of Florida. Eight years later Gordillo, sailing from Española in the employ of Ayllón, and Quexos, a slave hunter whom Gordillo met on the way, reached the mainland at 33° 30', near Cape Fear in a region called Chicora. Ayllón in 1523 secured a patent authorizing him to seek a strait in the north and found a colony. In Ayllon's employ, Quexos in 1525 coasted north perhaps to 40°. In the same year Stephen Gómez, under contract to seek a northern strait, descended the coast from Nova Scotia to Florida. Over the northern part of his route he had been preceded by the English explorer John Cabot (1497). With the return of Gómez the entire Atlantic shore from the Straits of Magellan to Nova Scotia had been explored by expeditions made in the name of Spain.
Next: The Mayas And The Nahuas
Previous: Beginnings Of Colonial Administration And Policy