Welcome to this article about Hernando de Soto! He was a renowned explorer and conquistador from Spain in the early 15th century. De Soto is best known for being the explorer who helped to conquer Central America and South America. He is also one of the first Europeans to cross the Mississippi River and also helped to begin the conquest of the Inca Empire of Peru. Join us as we take a look at the life of this accomplished explorer.
Interesting Facts about Hernando de Soto
1. De Soto was born in a poverty-stricken region of Spain.
Hernando de Soto was born around 1495 in the western region of Extremadura in Spain. His parents were considered Hidalgos, who were Spanish nobility. However, De Soto’s birth town had a harsh standard of living and many of its inhabitants struggled to survive in the town. Not much is known of his childhood. At a young age, De Soto had dreams of leaving the tedious life of his town and exploring opportunities in ‘the new world’. In 1514, his father sent De Soto to Seville where he worked under Pedro Arias Davila, who would send him on an expedition to the West Indies.
2. He became a captain at the age of 25.
Davila and his crew, including De Soto, arrived in the rainforests of Central America after two months of sailing. These areas were dominated by the indigenous tribes who had to be fought with by the Spaniards. Unfortunately, most of these tribes were either killed or captured and the native folk became increasingly scared of the invaders. Eventually, De Soto would lead some of these invasions himself and established his name as a formidable soldier.
3. The thirst for adventure increased during the conquering of Central America.
Ultimately, De Soto was named as the Captain and under Davila’s command, he was able to explore the rest of the continent. He discovered the lands of present day Honduras and Costa Rica. He also discovered and conquered Nicaragua and was crowned as its Mayor in 1524.
4. De Soto joined Pizzaro’s expedition to South America.
Around 1531, De Soto left Nicaragua and decided to join Francisco Pizzaro on his expedition towards Peru. This was when Peru was conquered by the Inca Empire, which was at its peak. The Spanish forces, led by Pizzaro with the help of De Soto, had a strong advantage over the Incan army; they had far more superior weapons and most of the Inca were plagued with disease and illness. They succeeded in capturing and executing Chief Atahualpa, despite the immense amount of treasure that they were promised from the Incas. De Soto was appointed as the Representative. He went on towards capturing the Inca city of Cuzco and claimed much of the wealth in the city for himself. After his outstanding feats, De Soto travelled back to Spain in 1536 as a rich man.
5. After marriage, he chose to go exploring again and conquered La Florida.
De Soto married Isobel de Bobilla who was the daughter of Davila. However, married life did not grow on him as much and he yearned to set sail for new lands once again. De Soto was granted permission to travel to the colony of La Florida (present day Florida) and act as the governor of the area from 1539. Following this, with his men, De Soto would explore the rest of the continent, particularly the current Southeastern region of the United States.
6. De Soto traveled and explored much of the United States.
With the rest of his men, De Soto continued their expeditions from 1540 and departed from Florida. The crew traveled northeast towards Georgia, passing through North and South Carolina and entering Tennessee via the Appalachian mountains. As they were mostly in search of gold, they found no traces, and decided to head south towards Alabama. Conflict with the Native Americans at this point occurred. After this, De Soto’s crew traveled towards Mississippi. In 1541, they came up to the Mississippi river and built rafts to cross it, thereby becoming the first Europeans to cross this large river.
7. He lost his life during the American expedition.
Following the Mississippi river crossing, the crew headed towards Arkansas. After they came across no gold, they returned to cross the Mississippi. Unfortunately, after this crossing, De Soto fell severely ill and was unable to recover steadily. He passed away on 21st May 1542 at the age of 47.
Hernando de Soto made a tremendous effort to investigate the Americas, particularly North America during his last years. However, as much as his discoveries came across as brilliant, he did cause negative influences; the indigenous tribes that De Soto’s crew encountered were exposed to European diseases such as smallpox and measles. Owing to their lack of immunity, many of these native people lost their lives. Having said that, De Soto contributed a lot to our present understanding of the New World and its explorations. The records and maps that were created through his exploring were invaluable and helped to form the groundwork for future navigation and exploration, as well as providing information about the cultures of the indigenous tribes of that period.
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