Marcos de Niza

Marcos de Niza, OFM (or Marco da Nizza; c. 1495 – 25 March 1558) was an Italian missionary and Franciscan friar.[1] He is credited with being the first European in what is now the State of Arizona in the United States.[2] He is most known for his conquests and rumored sight of the legendary rumored place, Seven Cities of Cibola. His report, written after viewing the Seven Cities of Cibola brought much attention and fame to Marcos de Niza, that it sparked the interest of the viceroy Antonio de Mendoza.[3] This led to the appointee of another expedition for Marcos de Niza but this time he would be accompanied by the legendary conquistador, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado.[3]


Marcos de Niza (Marco da Nizza)

TitleProvincial of the province of the Holy Gospel
Bornc. 1495
Died25 March 1558(1558-03-25) (aged 62–63)
Known forFirst European in what is now the State of Arizona
Senior posting
PredecessorAntonio de Ciudad Rodrigo
SuccessorFrancisco de Soto

Adult lifeEdit

Stone Inscription, thought by some to be a forgery from a time in the 1930s, very often attributed to Fray Marcos de Niza,[4] located in Pima Canyon near Phoenix, Arizona South Mountain Park. The city of Phoenix built an iron cage around the inscription for protection. History Detectives hired a welder to remove some bars from the cage for a few minutes to allow access for Dr. Ronald Dorn, a professor at ASU, to take rock samples. Dr. Dorn’s forensic tests gave the definitive answer. The inscription was made between 1850 and 1920, not by De Niza. It's a fake and they suggest De Niza never made it that far, leading to his nickname, Father Liar. *It should be noted this dating was determined using the "little ice age" test. At that time, it was not known that the inscription had previously been covered by graffiti from a high school rival of Marcos de Niza high school. The cleaning products used to remove the graffiti invalidates the dating provided by the "little ice age" tests. therefor, it's true age has not been determined. This fact is now referenced in several history related television shows.

He emigrated to America in 1531 to explore new land, and after serving his order zealously in Peru and Guatemala, de Niza was chosen to explore the country north of Sonora, whose wealth was depicted in the accounts of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.[5] In 1537 he arrived in Mexico City at the request of the viceroy Antonio de Mendoza. Preceded by Estevanico, the Magrebi-Berber companion of Cabeza de Vaca in his wanderings and the Black Mexican of Zuni traditions, he left Culiacán in March 1539, crossed south-eastern Arizona near the present-day Lochiel, ventured to the Zuni or the Seven Cities of Cibola, and in September returned to Culiacán. He saw Cibola only from a distance, and his description of it as equal in size to Mexico City was probably exact; but he recorded much mere hearsay in his report, Descubrimiento de las siete ciudades, which led Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, guided by Fray Marcos to make his famous expedition next year to Zuni Pueblo, in present-day New Mexico. But the realities proved a great disappointment.

Fray Marcos had been provincial superior, of his order for Mexico, the highest office of the Franciscans in the colonies. But after the second trip to Zuni, he returned in 1541 to Mexico City in shame.

Background and First ExpeditionEdit

Monument build along the Great Expedition Path that de Niza traveled

Marcos de Niza first came to the Americas in 1531 because of his work as a Friar. He visited and lived in many places including Peru, Guatemala, and Culiacan, Mexico.[6] Word of a place with multiple rich cities was starting to spread, alerting Antonio de Mendoza, this struck his interest and he looked for someone to venture on this mission to find these said cities or communities. [7][8] Mendoza then sent Marcos de Niza, and two partners, a priest named Honorato, and a Moorish servant, Estevan Dorantes. It is believed another rationale for the expedition was the belief that Mexico was still an island and that they would find the ocean to the north or northwest.[7]

Signature of letters and reports

They ventured north in search of the long lost cities in 1538.[9][10] Honorato fell ill shortly into the expedition and had to turn back.[7] As the two remaining explorers ventured into the unknown, they came across a city called Vacapa.[7] While in Vacapa, Marcos de Niza sent Estevan ahead to scout the route.[11] Estevan soon sent word and reported that he had spoken to a group of natives who informed him of the existence of a northern trade center.[9][7] The name of the place given was Cibola.[12] Marcos de Niza then ventured further to catch up to Estevan.[7] Along the path, Marcos de Niza picked up of group of native "admirers" who accompanied him on his journey to Cibola. These companions reinforced the idea that a great city was ahead of them. [7] But after some days, a few members of Estevan's party came back barely alive and bloodied, with news of Estevan and others being killed.[7][13][11] Instead of risking his life and forfeiting the opportunity to report the information, Marcos decided not to go into the city of Cibola but to get close enough to view it. He described viewing the beautiful city of Cibola from a distance on a ridge. He described it as "bigger than the size of Mexico".[14][7][12][9]

Effects: Second ExpeditionEdit

Marcos de Niza's expedition report spurred Mendoza to launch one of the biggest of all Spanish expeditions. It was led by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado.[11][14][7] Marcos de Niza accompanied Coronado and his army on the journey back to the rumored Cibola.[15] They ended up finding only a group of Zuni villages, not the Seven Cities of Cibola. At this time, Marcos de Niza was pronounced a liar and he was returned Mexico City.[14][9] Even though his report never mentioned gold, the Spanish and Coronado expected to find riches.[7]

Legacy and ControversyEdit

After being scapegoated, Marcos de Niza went back to Mexico City, where he held a very high position within the Franciscans leadership.[14] He died in Mexico, City on March 25, 1558 due to persistent bad health.[14]

Controversy still follows Marcos de Niza. Scholars and historians have continued to analyze Marcos's story of his journey to Cibola to figure out what actually happened, developing many different theories questioning whether or not Marcos actually made it to or saw the city of Cibola. Some theories state that Marcos simply would not have had enough time to actually reach Cibola.[7] Another scholar came to the conclusion that he must have turned back way before he even came close to seeing the city based on the timeline and political complexities of exploration.[7] Yet others researchers and scholars believe he did reach the long lost city of Cibola.[7][14][10]


  1. ^ "Marcos de Niza | Spanish explorer". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Marcos de Niza". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ a b "TSHA | Niza, Marcos de". Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  4. ^ Katharine Bartlett and Harold S. Colton (a nice man), A Note on the Marcos de Niza inscription near Phoenix, Arizona, Plateau, vol.12, n°4, p.53-59.
  5. ^ "The journey of Coronado, 1540-1542: from the city of Mexico to the Grand ..." By Pedro de Castañeda de Nájera, Antonio de Mendoza, Juan Camilo, p.5 (Google Books ISBN 1-55591-066-1)
  6. ^ "Marcos de Niza | Spanish explorer". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n dhornisher (2010-10-15). "The Mysterious Journey of Friar Marcos de Niza". Planetary Science Institute. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  8. ^ "Discovery of New Mexico by the Franciscan Monk Friar Marcos de Niza in 1539". UAPress. 2017-07-12. Retrieved 2021-05-07.
  9. ^ a b c d dhornisher (2010-10-15). "The Mysterious Journey of Friar Marcos de Niza". Planetary Science Institute. Retrieved 2021-05-07.
  10. ^ a b Nallino, Michel; Hartmann, William K. (2003). "A Supposed Franciscan Exploration of Arizona in 1538: The Origins of a Myth". Kiva. 68 (4): 283–303. doi:10.1080/00231940.2003.11758479. ISSN 0023-1940. JSTOR 30246428. S2CID 130023803.
  11. ^ a b c Hereford, Mailing Address: 4101 E. Montezuma Canyon Road; Us, AZ 85615 Phone:366-5515 Contact. "Fray Marcos de Niza - Coronado National Memorial (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved 2021-05-07.
  12. ^ a b Deverell & Hyde (2018). Shaped by the West: A history of North America. In Shaped by the West: A history of North America. Oakland, CA: University of California Press. pp. 30–33.
  13. ^ Nallino, Michel; Hartmann, William K. (2003). "A Supposed Franciscan Exploration of Arizona in 1538: The Origins of a Myth". Kiva. 68 (4): 283–303. doi:10.1080/00231940.2003.11758479. ISSN 0023-1940. JSTOR 30246428. S2CID 130023803.
  14. ^ a b c d e f "TSHA | Niza, Marcos de". Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  15. ^ "Fray Marcos de Niza – Franciscan Priest – Legends of America". Retrieved 2021-05-07.
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by Provincial of the province of the Holy Gospel Succeeded by

External linksEdit