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García López de Cárdenas

García López de Cárdenas was a Spanish conquistador who was the first European to see the Grand Canyon.


Cárdenas was born in Llerena, Spain, son to Alonso de Cárdenas y doña Elvira de Figueroa and Maria García Osorio. He was the comendador of Caravaca.

López de Cárdenas was a conquistador attached to the exploits of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. Expeditions, including one led by Pedro de Tobar, had heard reports of a large river north of Cíbola (Zuñi). Cárdenas was dispatched in September 1540 by the general stationed in Cíbola with the express mission of locating such a river and returning within 80 days. Pedro de Sotomayor accompanied him to record the event as a cronista. After some twenty days of marching in a northerly direction, he was successful; but his band found difficulties in reaching the river (called the River Tizon), owing to the sheer vertical distance down from their position. They were standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. After several days of failed attempts to descend to the water (his men were suffering from thirst), his party was forced to return to Cíbola.

Cárdenas was the only member of the Coronado Expedition to be convicted of war crimes afterward because of his role in the brutal Tiguex War.[1]

View of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim

Popular culture

Cárdenas was featured on the 2014 PSAT/NMSQT in an article discussing the raw beauty of the Grand Canyon as he experienced it with comparison to the disappointment that occurs when the actual sight of the Grand Canyon does not live up to the expectations an individual may produce in response to an image of the sight.


  1. ^ Herrick, Dennis. (2013) Winter of the Metal People: The Untold Story of America's First Indian War. Mechanicsburg, PA: Sunbury Press, 240.
  • Winship, George Parker. (1990) The Journey of Coronado, 1540-1542 (Fulcrum Series in American History). p. 12. ISBN 1-55591-066-1.
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