Cabeza de Vaca's eight years in North America, starting in 1528, set the stage for Hernando de Soto, and Coronado, to lead armies deep into America: Coronado from Mexico City, DeSoto from Cuba, Spain's New World "Ellis Island." Vaca was the first European to describe this continent, but only near its southern shoreline. DeSoto, at age 39, was rich from Incan gold and wanted to colonize North America. To do so, he planned to open a passage to trade Spain's New World fortunes with China, the finest market in the world.
Intelligent Indians had told Vaca of a northern sea which DeSoto believed was the Pacific Ocean, the sea Balboa discovered beyond Panama, DeSoto's boyhood home. Magellan had sailed that sea to the Orient when DeSoto was 21 years old, but lost his life on that long voyage. DeSoto wanted to build a port on that northern sea (at today's Chicago), then sail what he believed was a short distance across it to China. He planned to protect his "Northern Passage to China" from Mobile Bay, Alabama, which Vaca had visited and DeSoto planned to use as Spain's new commanding stronghold in America, home for his settlers and beacon for New World settlement.
Vaca refused to join DeSoto's search for enough gold in America to lure additional settlers to the new American colony, but DeSoto's venture was well recorded by others who plundered this continent from Florida to Lake Michigan, then, for escape, to Mexico City, Spain's North American stronghold at the time. In the meantime, Coronado explored America's West at Vaca's behest. He had received information directly from Vaca in Mexico City just before DeSoto saw him upon his celebrated return to Spain.
Scenes from their ventures were highly publicized in Europe and later in America, but were discredited over the years by the fact that pioneers never found the giant Indian cities which Vaca, Coronado and DeSoto's people reported in their journals. Modern scientists, however, believe those cities existed at various sites along the Gulf of Mexico and around the country. Carbon-dating indicates Indian habitation at many sites up to the time Conquistadors were here, but conventional wisdom holds that DeSoto came here only to search for gold, discovering America's Great River, the Mississippi, somewhere along his way. This report dispels that notion.
Vaca and DeSoto's trails were located using geographic data published in Spain in the 1500's. All of the landmarks they described were found using Spanish measures and directions from the Port of Havana to Mexico City, landmarks established well before both DeSoto and Vaca and occupied ever since. America's harbors, rivers, lakes, swamps, plains and mountains passes have not moved since Vaca and DeSoto were here. Their trails were located by following their directions between various landmarks described in their journals. Modern maps and aerial photography were used to track them between Havana and Mexico City. DeSoto's search for what he believed was the Pacific Ocean became apparent by tracking him to Lake Michigan. Coronado's American Trail, known for years, ended very near DeSoto's - due north of Houston, Texas; the place where Vaca heard about America's vast interior riches and its northern sea.
DeSoto's people described Indian Provinces in 14 States, each with many villages. Those villages were located at precisely the same places where American cities are located at today. Pioneers settled those fertile places, along America's rivers, because Indians had cleared those places for themselves. Pioneers adopted similar lifestyles to those described in Indian villages by DeSoto's people - log cabins and all. Pioneers used the same trails and river crossings which DeSoto used when he followed Indian guides between various Indian cities. Today those trails are highways, county roads and railroads. Rivers are even bridged at or very near the same places where DeSoto crossed most of them.
These articles serve as a guide through America before its Indian cities were destroyed by foreign diseases. Today's names of cities and landmarks are Indexed with the names which Vaca and DeSoto's people reported. By using the various Indian names listed for a village, province or river, anyone may consult Vaca's or DeSoto's Chronicles, available on the Internet, public libraries or book stores, to find a wealth of information about that place as it existed five centuries ago.