Hernando de Soto was an influential figure in Spain’s conquest of the New World in the 1500s. Born in the Spanish province of Extremadura, de Soto was a boy who dreamed of designing and manufacturing his own automobile someday. Though he never lived to realize such a dream, the designs that he drew were later found and then used for the first DeSoto automobile’s make and model.
De Soto had put his dreams aside to be able to concentrate on his pursuit of becoming an explorer. He began his career at a very early age on an expedition to the tropical rain forest of what we now know as Panama. Do you want to know more about this great explorer? Then, one great way to do it is taking a look at his accomplishments.
1. He Had a Great Role In Defeating The Incas For Spain, Which Led To The Conquest Of Peru.
In the 1530s, when de Soto was already an excellent horseman and soldier, received a message from another notable explorer, Francisco Pizzaro, to join him on a journey to Peru to defeat the Incas. Through treachery and lies, both of them managed to lure the Incan emperor, Atahulapa, into an ambush. Though the Inca Indians paid a very huge amount of ransom for their leader, the Spanish explorers still executed him and even kept the money.
As one of Pizarro’s most trusted captains, de Soto played the most important role in seeing the plot happen. When they found the massive Inca civilization, it was de Soto who first met with the Inca leader. He gained his trust, but then betrayed him to Pizarro. By 1536 after the conquest, de Soto returned to Spain with great wealth. Though he could have retired a very rich man after collecting so much treasure in this expedition, he decided to continue exploring. King Charles I authorized him to colonize the southeastern region of the US, of which journey passed through what are now Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Alabama and eventually Mississippi, where he died from fever by its river’s banks in 1542.
2. He Is Believed To Be The First European To See The Mississippi River.
As mentioned above, de Soto is chiefly famous for helping to invade the Inca Empire in the New World and for being the leader of the first European expedition to reach the Mississippi River. Also a conquistador, he is believed to be the first European to see the river. But unfortunately for him, he is also believed to be the first European to die at the place, leading to the colonization plan of Spain not going the way it should have been.
3. He Became a Conquistador And Governor At a Very Young Age.
During the 1510s, with the Spaniards having already settled most of the Caribbean Islands, they were pursuing to conquer the mainland. While still at his teenage years, de Soto had managed to become an apprentice on a ship bound for the New World, and as such, he quickly became an expert sailor. Amazingly, he was made governor by the 1520s in a Central American colony in what we now know is Nicaragua. As you can see, it is not that easy to accomplish so much at an early age. However, de Soto was captivated by wealth and schemed to accomplish even more. By any means, he was still an excellent leader, though he was seen as a cruel one who tried everything to gain gold and power.
4. He Had a Successful Expedition Campaign In The Southeastern Part Of The US.
On the 6th of April 1538, de Soto and his fleet departed from Sanlúcar to sail to the US. They stopped in Cuba, where they stayed for a while to help the city of Havana with recovering after it was sacked and burned down by the French. By the 18th of May 1539, his group finally set out for Florida, landing at Tampa Bay on the 25th of May. For the next 3 years, they managed to explore the southeastern part of the US, enslaving natives and overcoming ambushes along the way. After Florida, they came to Georgia and then Alabama, where they encountered their worst battle yet against Tuscaloosa Indians.
5. He Helped Spain With Expanding Its Knowledge Of The Biology And Geography Of North America.
While the activities of de Soto did not obtain much prosperity for Spain, there were nevertheless some positive consequences to them. For instance, his expeditions helped the Spanish with expanding their knowledge about the North American biology and geography. Aside from this, de Soto and his team were the last group of explorers to witness and document the culture of Mississippi. The pigs they transported to the US eventually escaped and established the southeastern region’s razorback pigs.
6. His Expedition Contributed To The Process Of The Columbian Exchange.
The Columbian Exchange was the widespread transfer of human populations, culture, plants, animals, technology and ideas between the American and Afro-Eurasian hemispheres during the 15th and 16th centuries. This is related to the European trade and colonization after the 1492 journey of Christopher Columbus. And as stated above, de Soto and his group were the ones who unintentionally introduced the razorback pigs in the southeastern region.
The contact between the two regions circulated a wide variety of new livestock and crops that supported the increase in population in both hemispheres. Traders returned to Europe with potatoes, maize and tomatoes, which became essential crops in Europe by the 18th century. Consequently, the Europeans introduced peanut and manioc to West Africa and tropical Asia, where they flourished in soils that would otherwise did not produce large yields. However, communicable diseases also became a by-product of the Exchange, though it was unlikely to be intentional at the time.
De Soto is a member of the Explorer Hall of Fame that is located in Genoa, Italy. However, the vote to induct him was unanimous by no means, owing to his cruelty to his enemies. You can just wonder if he would have been a nicer individual who made automobiles.