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Portrait of Alonso Alvarez de Pineda

Alonso Álvarez de Pineda

Pineda was born in 1494 in a small town in Spain called Aldeacentenera, though there are no records documenting this or in fact anything concerning Pineda’s life before 1519. Pineda was an explorer who explored the Gulf of Mexico and is credited to produce the first map of this region (Look at Pineda’s map), but we must go back to Christopher Columbus (Refer to Columbus painting) to understand the importance of his contribution in history.

Christopher Columbus wanted to discover a quicker route from Europe to Asia and he came up with the idea that traveling west along the Atlantic Ocean would be the best route. Columbus needed money to finance his voyage and he asked John II, King of Portugal and King Herny VII from England for support but both rejected his proposal. Columbus then went to Spanish crown ruled by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella to request a meeting with the monarchs that was granted on May 1, 1486. Columbus presented his idea to Queen Isabella (Refer to painting of Columbus meeting with Queen) along with the queen's council. Her council recommended her not pursue Columbus' idea but instead gave a pension as a way from him not to take his ideas somewhere else. 

In 1492, Columbus was able to finally successful and was granted permission and financed by Spanish Crown to find a route between Europe to Asia. August of that same year Columbus left Spain from Palos de la Frontera with three ships, La Niña, La Pinta and the Santa Maria. Columbus landed in the islands of the Caribbean such as the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Cuba believing he had reached Asia. Columbus drew a map of one of the many settlements he encountered, (Refer to Columbus Map) and he as well wrote a letter to King Ferdinand about his voyage (Refer to Columbus' Letter). 

Francisco de Garay accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to the Americas. Garay was related to Christopher Columbus' son Diego's wife María de Toledo and she was related to King Ferdinand of Spain. In 1502, Garay found gold in Dominican Republic but years later he was in debt. This lead him in wanting to conquer the island of Guadalupe but he failed. He then became the mayor Hispaniola, but in 1514 Garay traveled to Spain in 1514 and King Ferdinand gave him the title of governor of the island of Jamaica and as well to explore new land to search a passage to the Orient. Garay commissioned Captain Alonso Álvarez de Pineda for this expedition.

Pineda was to explore the lands previously discovered by Juan Ponce de León. Ponce de León was with Garay during Columbus' 2nd voyage to the Americas. In 1506 León discovered the island of Borinquuen where he found large deposits of gold. He left the island but returned two years later under orders of the King Ferdinand to explore and colonize the island. León renamed the island Puerto Rico and was the governor for two years until the king replaced him with Columbus' son Diego to be the new governor. Hurt by the king's action León sailed the ocean again in search of lands, gold and the mythical fountain of youth but all he found was land that he name La Florida. (See image of León land arriving in Florida).

Pineda would explore the area of Florida many years later and through his travels would conclude that Florida wasn't an island as León had believed but was instead a peninsula. In the spring of 1519 under orders of Governor Garay, Pineda set off to sea with four ships, 270 men to explore and to find a passage to the orient. Pineda was at sea for nine months until he reached Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz he wanted to claim this land for Garay but Hernán Cortés (See painting of Cortés) had claim to this area already. Pineda left Vera Cruz and sailed up north to Río Grande area or as Pineda called Río de las Palmas. There is evidence claiming that Pineda was in the region because of a tablet found by the Harlingen Naval Reserve Unit in 1974 (See Pineda's tablet) written words in Spanish Pineda, Garay, 1519 and 270 men information that relate to Pineda's expedition. Though some have said perhaps this tablet could be a fake because of the significant difference of handwriting between the tablet and the writing during that time period (Refer to Garay's Royal Grant).

There is some uncertainty whether or not Pineda returned to Jamaica since there are no records of his journey but according to Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Pineda died at Pánuco River (See image) and died while fighting with the Indians of the region. It is believed that Garay sent Captain Diego de Camargo to the Pánuco where he learned about Pineda's death. Camargo made an attempt to establish a settlement but the Indians rebelled against him and he and rest of his crew fled to Vera Cruz where he joined Cortés forces. In 1523 after receiving Pineda's map from Garay the Spanish king gave a patent to Garay to establish a settlement in the Río de las Palmas but upon arrival Garay learned that Cortes had establish a small town called Santiesteban del Puerto. It is uncertain whether Garay was taken by force or willing went to Vera Cruz to meet Cortés. They discussed about the rights to colonize the area they came to an agreement and went to Christmas Eve Mass together. Garay fell ill and died three days later. 

Unfortunately records about Pineda's journey have been lost so there will always be an uncertainty about what exactly Pineda discovered on his journey. We though have the map that Pineda drew of the Gulf of Mexico the first of its kind and his voyage proved that Florida was not an island. After Pineda's death many explorers and conquerors kept on fighting for what Pineda wanted which as to establish a Spanish settlement in Texas. 


The Tejano monument project is a collaborative effort between the University of Texas at Austin, College of Education Bilingual/Bicultural Education program and the Tejano Monument Committee. The goal is to develop journey boxes (collections of primary sources and document based questions) that will promote deeper thinking about history and the contributions of Tejanas/os in history. As a future bilingual teacher—I am proud to present other perspectives and more complicated understandings of the people, culture, and time."



Author: Leslie Bonilla

Web Site Author: Gilberto Lara and Patricia Núñez

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