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Hispanic Exploration in America

Grades: 4-12
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  • Overview

    Spain’s explorations were driven by the desire to expand its knowledge of the world, to discover spices and riches and to expand Christianity. In 1492, when Christopher Columbus, sailing for Spain, took a westerly course across the Atlantic Ocean searching for an alternative route to the Indies, he inadvertently “discovered” a new continent. This set of primary resources from the Library of Congress provides a window into this time period, as well as a Teacher's Guide with historical context and teaching suggestions.

  • Huexotzinco Codex, 1531

    The Huexotzinco Codex is an eight-sheet document on amatl, a pre-European paper made in Mesoamerica. It is part of the testimony in a legal case against representatives of the colonial government in Mexico, ten years after the Spanish conquest in 1521. Huexotzinco (Way-hoat-ZINC-o) is a town southeast of Mexico City, in the state of Puebla. In 1521, the Nahua Indian people of the town were the allies of the Spanish conqueror Hernando Cortés, and together they confronted their enemies to overcome Moctezuma, leader of the Aztec Empire.

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    Public Domain

  • Oñate's Inscription

    This image shows Juan de Oñate's mark on Inscription Rock. Oñate passed the landmark on his return to the Rio Grande from “the south sea.”

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    Public Domain

  • Francisco Pizarro

    Francisco Pizarro conquered the Inca Empire and took part in explorations of the northern Caribbean coast of South America.

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    Public Domain

  • Juan Ponce de León

    Juan Ponce de León accompanied Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to the New World. He was appointed the first Governor of Puerto Rico and is also credited with the first known European excursion to Florida.

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    Public Domain

  • St. Augustine

    St. Augustine was founded by the Spanish and is the oldest city in the present-day United States of America.

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    Public Domain

  • Tabula Mexicae

    This map shows the extent of New Spain and Florida, New France, the American colonies, and the West Indies, rivers, towns, and trade routes.

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    Public Domain

  • Sebastián Vizcaíno

    Sebastián Vizcaíno, a Spanish soldier, entrepreneur, explorer, and diplomat was commissioned to explore and map the western coast. He designated many of the coastal landmarks that we know today, including San Diego.

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    Public Domain

  • World Map in 1507

    In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller, a German cartographer, created a map that first showed the area of Columbus’s discovery. Waldseemüller named this new land “America” in honor of Amerigo Vespucci, who recognized that a “New World” had been reached through Columbus’s voyage.

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    Public Domain

  • One of the Oldest Churches in the United States (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

    Santa Fe was founded as the capital of the Spanish colony of New Mexico. San Miguel Mission, one of the oldest churches in the United States, is in this city.

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    Public Domain

  • Mission San Diego de Alcala

    Father Junípero Serra is famous for the founding of the California Franciscan Missions.

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    Public Domain

  • A Map of the Internal Provinces of New Spain

    This primary source shows Father Junípero Serra, famous for the founding of the California Franciscan Missions. "Mapa, que comprende la Frontera, de los Dominios del Rey, en la America Septentrional" was the result of the Marques de Rubí’s 1766-68 survey of the presidio system in New Spain. It was commissioned by Charles III. Mission San Diego de Alcala, Misson Valley Road, San Diego, San Diego County, California is one of Father Serra’s California Missions.

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    Public Domain

  • South Side of Inscription Rock, New Mexico

    Inscription Rock, or El Morro (The Castle), as the Spaniards called it, is a striking landmark on the ancient trail between Acoma and Zuni. Spanish explorers recorded their names and dates on smooth surfaces of the cliff, which also reveal numerous Indian petroglyphs.

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    Public Domain

  • Frontera Mapa

    "Mapa, que comprende la Frontera, de los Dominios del Rey, en la America Septentrional" was the result of the Marques de Rubí’s 1766-68 survey of the presidio system in New Spain.

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    Public Domain

  • Alabado

    This Spanish song of praise forms part of a group of field materials documenting Spanish Californian mission music performed by the Boys of St. Joseph's Seminary, conducted by Father Bertrand Hobrecht on March 27, 1938, and collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell at the Mission Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, California.

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  • Coronado's March, Colorado

    Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explored Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado, the Grand Canyon, and the Texas panhandle while searching for the Seven Golden Cites of Cibola in what is now Arizona. Coronado led Spaniards and Native Americans on an expedition of the southwestern part of the U.S.

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    Public Domain

  • Hernando Cortés

    Hernando Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers that began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Hernando Cortés formally claimed Mexican land for the Spanish crown in 1519.

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  • Discovery of the Mississippi: By Ferdinand De Soto, and his Followers

    Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer and conquistador, claims to have been the first European to see the great Mississippi River.

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    Public Domain

  • Dominguez-Escalante Expedition

    This map by Antonia Vélez and Escalante shows missions, Indian towns, and prisons from Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

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    Public Domain

  • The First Voyage

    This primary source shows Christopher Columbus bidding farewell to the Queen of Spain on his departure for the New World on August 3, 1492.

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  • Grand Canyon, Colorado River, Arizona

    This primary source shows the view from top of the Grand Canyon. The first European known to have viewed the Grand Canyon was García López de Cárdenas from Spain.

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    Public Domain

  • V.R. del V.P.F. Junípero Serra

    This illustration shows Junípero Serra holding a crucifix in one hand and a stone in the other preaching to a crowd of Natives.

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    Public Domain

National Standards for History

Gain insight into the Hispanic exploration, colonization, and conquests in North America by examining a collection of primary sources.


  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

  • Source:

    Library of Congress

    http://www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/hispanic-exploration/

Contributor: Library of Congress-grayscale