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The Seven Cities of Cibola were legendary golden cities in the American Southwest. In 1539 Spanish missionary Marcos de Niza (c. 1495–1558) discovered the Zuni people living in seven villages in present-day Arizona and New Mexico. The Zunis were descendants of the Anasazi cliff dwellers who had settled the Southwest as early as 10,000 B.C. Though de Niza observed the Zunis from a distance, he asserted that their villages were full of treasures, thus creating the legend that motivated other Spaniards to explore the area later. Among these explorers was Francisco Vásquez de Coronado (c. 1510–554), who led a 1540 expedition from northwestern Mexico, with some three hundred Spanish troops and Native American slaves. Coronado conquered the Zunis; yet because he found no gold, he sent out other expeditions in the area. Although members of these expeditions found no precious metals, they discovered natural wonders, such as the Grand Canyon, and met native peoples along the Rio Grande.
Further Information: Faber, Harold. The Discoverers of America. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992, pp. 201–12; Morris, John Miller. From Coronado to Escalante: The Explorers of the Spanish Southwest. Broomall, Penn.: Chelsea House Publishers, 1992; Preston, Douglas. "Following—Painfully—the Route of Coronado After 450 Years." Smithsonian. January, 1990, pp. 40–52; Saari, Peggy and Daniel B. Baker, eds. Explorers and Discoverers: From Alexander the Great to Sally Ride. Detroit: UXL, 1995.
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