Age of Contact 1519-1689

Spain’s conquest of the Americas began on a series of islands in what is now the Caribbean Sea. By 1519, exploration had turned to conquest of Mexico, when Hernán Cortés landed on the Yucatán peninsula then pushed inland to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.

To the north, on the gulf coast, the focus remained on exploration. A 1519 expedition led by Alonzo Álvarez de Pineda sailed west from Florida toward Mexico, mapping the coastline of the land that became Texas.

Some 80 men were wrecked on a barrier island – perhaps present-day Galveston. In 1536, Cabeza de Vaca traveled across North America to a Spanish outpost on the Gulf of California and returned with fantastic tales to tell about the lives of Native American groups.

Pulled by the potential riches in the area, other Spanish explorers left for Texas in hopes of finding treasure.

No one found the rich treasure they sought. By the mid-1500s, the Spanish government began to lose interest in the search for gold, and by the turn of the century large expeditions to Texas had come to an end.

By the beginning of the seventeenth century, France and England also claimed large areas: the English along the mid-Atlantic coast, and the French in present-day Canada.

In 1690, a group of Franciscan monks established the first missions in East Texas. It was the beginning of a wave of Spanish missions and colonies, to convert the natives to Christianity.

Source: Age of Contact 1519-1689
Courtesy Texas Our Texas, Texas PBS

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