Captain Pedro Menendez de Aviles (Feb. 15, 1519-Sept. 17, 1574) was a brutal Spanish sailor, soldier, explorer, and conquistador. The King of Spain sent Aviles to Florida in the New World, to start a Spanish settlement (St. Augustine, in northeastern Florida), and to decimate a nearby French settlement (Fort Caroline).
Sebastian Meléndez Rodríguez Cermenho (also written Cermenon) was a Spanish navigator and explorer (Cermenho was Portuguese by birth). Cermenho was directed by Cortés to explore the California coastline in 1595. With a crew of 70 men on the Manila (Philippines) Galleon San Agustin in the service of Spain, Cermenho sailed from the Philippines to California. After running aground near Point Reyes (north of San Francisco), Cermenon named the nearby bay San Francisco (it is now called Drakes Bay). They built a smaller boat from the wreckage and sailed to Acapulco, Mexico, charting the coastline all the while.
Juan de Fuca (15??-1601?) was a Greek navigator who sailed for Spain under a Spanish name; his original name was Apostolos Valerianos. De Fuca sailed up the western coast of North America from Mexico to Vancouver Island in 1592, looking for a passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. He was perhaps the first European to see this area. He sailed through the Strait of Juan de Fuca (which was named for him in 1725) and believed it to be the beginning of a route to the Atlantic Ocean (it is not). This strait connects the Pacific Ocean to the Puget Sound and the Georgia Strait, and is located between the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, USA, and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
After sailing back to Acapulco, Mexico, de Fuca was not rewarded by Spain for his journey, and his discovery of the strait was not entirely believed until Captain Vancouver retraced de Fuca’s route 200 years later.
Juan de Oñate y Salazar (1550?-1626) was a Spanish conquistador who established the colony of New Mexico for Spain and became New Mexico’s first governor. Oñate, the son of a conquistador who made a fortune in silver, was married to a granddaughter of Hernán Cortés. In 1595, Oñate requested that he be sent to conquer and rule New Mexico, search for treasure (especially the legendary silver treasure of Quivira), and bring Christianity to the local Indians. After governmental approval, Oñate left for New Mexico in January, 1598, with 400 settlers and soldiers (and their livestock). In July 1598, the expedition crossed the Rio Grande at El Paso. They arrived at the Tewa pueblo of San Juan and were helped by the local Indians. Oñate’s group built San Gabriel, New Mexico’s first capital. After they realized that the area was not rich in silver, many settlers wanted to return to Mexico, but Oñate would not let them go, and executed many of them. He was also incredibly brutal to the local Indians, killing, enslaving, and mutilating hundreds of Indian men, women, and children.
In 1601, Oñate led an expedition to the Great Plains of America that tried, unsuccessfully, to find the legendary silver of Quivira (thought to be in what is now central Kansas, east of Salina). While he was gone, most of his settlers returned to Mexico City. In 1604, he explored the area west toward the Colorado River and south to the Gulf of California. In 1606, Oñate made plans for the town of Santa Fé.
Later in 1606, Spain removed him from office (Don Pedro de Peralta was appointed to be the new governor); Oñate was later tried and found guilty of cruelty, immorality, mismanagement, dereliction of duties, and false reporting. Oñate was exiled from the colony. Later, on appeal, he was was cleared of the charges. Onate, sometimes called the “Last Conquistador,” died in Spain in 1626.
Sir Francis Drake (1545-1596) was a British explorer, slave-trader, privateer (a pirate working for a government) in the service of England, mayor of Plymouth, England, and naval officer (he was an Admiral). Drake led the second expedition to sail around the world in a voyage lasting from 1577 to 1580 (Magellan led the first voyage around the world).
Sir Martin Frobisher (1535?-1594) was an English privateer (a pirate licensed by the British government), navigator, explorer, and naval officer. After years of sailing to northwestern Africa, and then looting French ships in the English Channel, Frobisher sailed to northeastern North America to search for a Northwest Passage (a sea route across northern Canada from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, making the trip to Asia easier).
Sir Humphrey Gilbert (1539-1583) was an English nobleman, Army officer, member of Parliament, and explorer.
Early in his career, Gilbert started English settlements in Ireland (to try to stop the Irish rebellion) and, much later, sailed to North America in search of a Northwest Passage (a sea route to Asia through North America). He founded an English settlement in Newfoundland.
Sir John Hawkins [also spelled Hawkyns] (1532- 1595) was an English naval officer, slave trader, privateer, and cousin of Sir Francis Drake.
Hawkins sailed to Hispaniola (now Haiti) in 1562-1563 for a London syndicate of businessmen in order to trade Guinean (West African) slaves in the Spanish West Indies. Hawkins was the first English slave trader. He was hated by the Spanish, who did not want foreigners entering their highly profitable slave-trading business. Queen Elizabeth backed a second and third slave-trading expedition (1564-1565).
During a third West Indies slave-trading trip with Drake, a need for repairs sent their six ships to a harbor in San Juan de Ulua, near Veracruz, Mexico. The Spanish fleet then attacked the English ships; only two ships survived (those commanded by Hawkins and Drake).
This attack led to a series of battles that later culminated in a war between the Spain and England. In this war, England crushed the Spanish Armada in 1588 and became the dominant world power. Hawkins was third in command during this struggle. He invented the strategy of blockading the Spanish Armada at the Azores (islands in the Atlantic Ocean far off the coast of Spain) and stealing the treasures that the Spanish had stolen from the New World.
Hawkins died on Nov. 12, 1595, before an attack of Puerto Rico; he and Drake had sailed with 27 ships to raid the Spanish West Indies.
Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618) was a British explorer, poet, historian, and soldier. Raleigh led expeditions to both North America and South America; he was trying to found new settlements, find gold, and increase trade with the New World. In 1585, Raleigh sent colonists to the east coast of North America; Raleigh later named that area Virginia, in honour of Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. He is often credited with bringing tobacco and potatoes from the New World to Britain, but they were already known there. Raleigh was later executed by King James I for treason.
Andres de Urdaneta (1508-1568) was a Spanish explorer who accompanied Garcia Jofre de Loaysa on the second sailing expedition around the world when he was 17 years old. On this 1525 trip, only one ship of the original seven survived.
Urdaneta found a sailing route from the Phillipines to Mexico in 1565. This route was extensively used by the Manila galleons until 1821, when the Spanish rule in Mexico ended.