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Spanish Explorations
Why did the Spanish explore and
conquer large areas of the
Juan Ponce de Leon
Hernando Cortes
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado
Francisco Pizarro
Hernando de Soto
Martin Luther
• Describe aims, obstacles, and
accomplishments of Spanish explorers.
• Trace the routes of Spanish explorers
and identify their claims.
The Spanish Explore Florida
Juan Ponce de Léon
The king of Spain encouraged more
explorers, offering large sums of
money, called grants.
Spanish explorers became known as
Ponce de León had sailed with
While in Puerto Rico he had heard
that the island of Bimini contained
the fountain of youth.
In 1513, Ponce de Léon set out to find
the fountain of youth, water that
supposedly made old people young
He never found any fountain of
youth, but he did explore some of
today’s southeastern united
states, in Florida
Ponce de leon in Florida
The Spanish explorer, Ponce de leon, was the first explorer to set
foot on land that became part of the United States.
He named the land La Florida, for ‘flowery’ and claimed it for Spain.
Early Conquistadors
In 1519 – Hernando Cortez was sent by Spain to find gold in the land of the AZTECS
He landed in now Mexico with 650 soldiers, and they marched west toward the Aztec
capital, Tenochtitlan.
5 million people lived in the Aztec Empire.
The Fall of the Aztecs
The Aztecs believed that a light skinned god
would come to rule them.
Montecuhzoma was the Aztec ruler and he
welcomed Cortez.
But this peace would not last long.
Cortez took Montecuhzoma prisoner and
fighting broke out between the Spanish
and the Aztecs
The Aztecs were strong fighters but they
did not have horses or guns.
Many Aztecs died in battles, but most
died from diseases carried by the
By 1521, Cortez had conquered the
On the ruins of Tenochtitlan, the Spanish
built Mexico city.
This city became the capital of Spain’s
new Empire in the Americas.
They blocked boat traffic to and from the mainland, keeping the Aztec in their city without
supplies. It became worse for the Aztec when an epidemic of smallpox or measles occured in
the city .
Finally, in 1521, after fierce fighting, with most of their warriors dead from disease, starvation,
or war wounds, the Aztec gave up. It had taken only two years for the Spanish to destroy the
Aztec Empire !
Coronado and the Southwest
Francisco Vasquez do Coronado, in 1540, set out with about 300 soldiers, several
enslaved Africans, and more than 1,000 enslaved Native Americans to find the
golden cities.
Coronado found no riches, but had claimed lands for Spain.
Coronado’s expedition was one of the largest
and most expensive expeditions Spain had ever
sponsored. It included more than 1,300 people
and cost about $4 million in today’s money.
Costs: boats, food, animals, injury, loss of life
Benefits: wealth, land, spreading religion
Spanish Expeditions Continue
Pizarro and the Incas
In 1531, the Spanish Conquistador, Francisco
Pizarro led 180 soldiers on an expedition into
the western coasts of South America.
There he met with people from the Incan
Empire, the leader was Atahualpa.
A Spanish priest told the Inca leader they had to
accept Christianity and Spanish rule.
Atahualpa said no, and Pizarro and his soldiers
attacked the Incas.
The Spanish took Atahualpa prisoner, so they
had no leader.
After capturing Atahualpa, Pizarro traveled to
Cuzco, the capital of the Incan Empire, and took
control of the region.
Hernando de Soto explored the southeastern
United States.
In 1539, he and 600 men sailed from Cuba and
landed near Tampa Bay. They later met the first
Europeans to see the Mississippi River.
De Soto and his soldiers met many Native
Americans during this expedition.
These meetings ended in bloody battles. One of
the worst was against the Mobile tribe in present
day Alabama.
In 1542, de Soto died of a fever. Of the 600 men,
about 300 survived.
De Soto and his men claimed a lot of land for
Spanish claims now covered half of what is now
the United State
De Soto in the Southwest
Missionaries to America
During the Age of Exploration in the Americas people in Europe began to question the
power of the Catholic Church.
The church had forced people to follow its rules , to pay taxes, and it even had its own
court system.
The Church would punish people for disagreeing with Church laws.
Martin Luther began to call for reforms, or changes.
This period of reforms is called the Reformation.
Luther was forced out of the Church, but gained many supporters.
Those who followed him were called Protestants.
The Catholic Church started to counter these efforts by writing books
that went against his teachings. This was called the CounterReformation.
A part of the Counter Reformation
was that the church wanted to
spread its power in the Americas.
Church leaders wanted to gain new
followers, and share in the wealth
claimed by European nations.
To do this, the Church sent
missionaries to convert Native
Americans to the Catholic Church.
AT first these missions were to gain
wealth and land. They also aimed at
spreading the Catholic religion.
It was not until later that the
missionaries actually started teaching
them about Catholic beliefs.
Some missionaries forced Native
Americans to become Catholic and
also enslaved them.