In 1539 Hernando de Soto and five hundred adventurers began on a journey of exploration that would take 4 years and would travel through 10 states in the southeast United States. His goal was to discover a source of wealth, preferably gold, and around his mines establish a settlement. During his travels through La Florida he encountered numerous groups of native peoples, making friends of some and enemies of others. His expedition was not the first in La Florida; however, it was the most extensive. In its aftermath, thousands of Indians would die by disease that the Spaniards brought from the Old World. De Soto would initially be remembered as a great explorer but, would be later viewed as a destroyer of native culture. However, in truth de Soto was neither a hero or a villain but rather an adventurer.
De Soto was born somewhere around the year 1500 in Jerez de los Caballeros in Extremadura in what is now Spain (Milanich & Hudson 26). Contemporaries of de Soto would include Cortez, Balboa, and Francisco Pizzaro with whom he would share a great adventure. De Soto's ancestors had been part of the reconquista and as aristocrats many had been knighted for their part in driving the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula (Milanich & Hudson 26). Hernando would have played no part in the expulsion of the Moors; however, family legacy would have played no small part in developing his frame of reference. It is thought that by the time do Soto was fourteen he was on his way to the new world.
In 1514 de Soto sailed with the new governor of modern day Panama. Six years later he was a captain who because of his part in military action against the Indians of Panama had earned the right to own Indian Sl...
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...e seen as an adventurer or an entrepreneur trying to make good on his investment.
Milanich, Jerald T. and Charles Hudson. Hernando de Soto and the Indians of Florida. Gainesville: U. of Florida P, 1993.
Milanich, Jerald T. and Susan Milbrath., ed. First Encounters: Spanish Exploration in the Caribbean and the United States1492-1570. Gainesville: U of Florida P, 1989.
Shipp, Bernard. The History of Hernando de Soto and Florida. Philadelphia: Lindsay, 1881.
Varner, John G. and Jeanette Varner., trans., ed. The Florida of the Inca. Austin: U of Texas P, 1951.
Verano, John W. and Douglas H. Ubelaker., ed. Disease and Demography in the Americas. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.
Viola, Herman J. and Carolyn Martolis., ed. Seeds of Change: Five Hundred Years Since Columbus. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.
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