Estevanico was an explorer who lived between 1503- 1539 who was reported to have explored the Gulf Coast, some of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Estevanico was a slave of Andres Donates de Carranza, who joined an expedition for the Governor of Mexico to find wealth in neighboring lands. When several hurricanes hit, the captain of the ship deserted them and left 250 passengers stranded. Four of them, one of whom was Estevanico, survived and landed near what is now Galveston, Texas. During their travels back to Mexico, all four were taken as hostages by Native Americans. While in captivity, Estevanico learned the languages of several natives. He also learned to communicate with them with Native American hand signs. After escaping, he made it back to Mexico by posing as a Native American medicine man. He came back to Mexico and was asked to tell his stories. His stories were so remarkable that he was asked to lead an expedition north into what is present day Arizona. He was killed by Zuni Native Americans before he could return to Mexico tell his more stories of his great adventures.
Although Estevanico was a slave, he was not the kind of slave that one typically thinks about when slavery is mentioned in America. Instead Estevanico was considered to be a Morisco. A Morisco is a person who is a descendent of someone who lived in Spain under the Andalusian Empire, but was exiled or forced to become baptized as a Catholic after the Inquisition of 1492. The Andalusian Empire was ruled by Muslims for about 700’s years and consisted of both light skinned and dark skinned Moors, some of whom came from Arab descent, and some of whom came from Spanish descent, but converted to Islam during the time when Muslims were flourishing in Spain.
When Moriscos were expelled from Spain, most of them went to live in Morocco or Algeria. Some stayed in Spain as galley slaves until they were exported to Morocco in the early 1600’s. Before the 1700’s any one group of people who lost a war likely became slaves of the people who had won. Therefore, Estevanico was not snatched secretly from his home in Africa as most would imagine how most African Americans became slaves at the time. Instead, he came from among a group of Muslims who were first living in Spain and then persecuted because of their religion and ethnicity. For this reason, it is difficult to know just how much Estevanico really practiced Islam. Although, it is documented that he was born in Morocco and was considered to be a Morisco, very little else is known about his personal life. Such was the case for most Moriscos at the time.
- What is a Morisco? Why were most of them slaves?
- What skills did Estivanico have that his slave owners did not?
- Research the other names of Estivanico by searching the web. List them.
- Research the Andalusian Empire. Describe the area it controlled, the names of it’s leaders, it’s rise and fall, and some of the contributions of its people.
- Describe the terrain of Arizona and New Mexico and list some of the challenges the Estivanico must of faced as he explored the area.
- List the cities or landmarks that Estivanico traveled to in the order that he arrived there.
- Why is there little known about Estivanico’s personal life and his religious practices or beliefs?