Noteworthy Dates


Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America

1492: October 12: Christopher Columbus sails into the Caribbean Sea and sees its islands inhabited by the peaceful Taínos.

1496: Spaniards establish port of Santo Domingo on Hispaniola, later divided between Haiti and Dominican Republic.

1503: Estimated year Esteban is born in Azemmour, Morocco, or perhaps in sub-Sahara Africa.

1519: Alonso Álvarez de Pineda explores and maps the Gulf Coast from Florida to the Río Pánuco in Mexico.

1519–1521: Hernán Cortés with the help of smallpox and tens of thousands of Tlaxcalan Indian allies conquers the Aztecs. He turns the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan into Mexico City in its place.

1522: This year or soon after, Esteban is believed to have become a slave of Andrés Dorantes de Carranza in Spain.

1527 June 27: Esteban leaves Spain by ship on the Pánfilo de Narváez expedition, arriving two months later at the island of Hispaniola.

1527 October: Hurricane sinks two of Narváez’s five ships on the south coast of Cuba.

1528 April 14: Esteban reaches Florida with the rest of expedition near today’s St. Petersburg.

1528 June 25: Expedition occupies a small village in Apalachen.

1528 mid-July: Expedition abandons Apalachen village and retreats to the Gulf of Mexico coast at one or more settlements known as Aute. Continuing attacks by Apalachee warriors result in the surviving expeditionaries abandoning their campaign to conquer Florida.

1528 August 4: Expeditionaries begin building boats near Aute to escape from Florida.

1528 September 22: Esteban boards crude boat whose passengers include his owner Dorantes. and Alonso del Castillo Maldonado to flee Apalachee Indians in Florida. His boat and four others built by expeditionaries float along the Gulf of Mexico coastline.

1528 October: The Mississippi River’s current pushes the boats out into the Gulf of Mexico, forcing them to drift apart.

1528 November 5: Esteban’s boat washes ashore on “Malhado Island” near today’s Galveston, Texas.

1528 November 6: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s boat washes ashore about four miles south of Esteban.

1528 Early November: Two other expeditionary boats wreck along a hundred-mile stretch of the Texas coastline, all south of Esteban and Cabeza de Vaca’s boats. After landing, the fifth boat is blown back out into the gulf with Narváez aboard and never seen again.

1528–1534: Esteban and three Spanish survivors—Cabeza de Vaca, Dorantes, and Castillo—spend nearly six years as slaves to Karankawa Indian tribes.

1534 September or October: The four survivors escape Indian captors in Texas and turn southward, then later northward into Mexico and westward, approaching the Gulf of California coast.

1536 March: Esteban and Cabeza de Vaca meet conquistador slave hunters in western Mexico.

1536 July 23: Esteban and the three surviving Spaniards arrive in an escort at Mexico City.

1539 March 7: After staying three years in Mexico City, Esteban begins journey with Friar Marcos, traveling north from Culiacán, Mexico, to seek the Seven Cities.

1539 March 30: At Vacapa, Marcos sends Esteban on ahead. The friar follows on Aprl 7.

1539 early to mid-May: Esteban arrives at the Zuni village of Hawikku in western New Mexico near the Arizona border and disappears from the historical record.