When Alonzo Álvarez de Pineda explored the Gulf Coast from peninsular Florida to Veracruz in 1519, the territory was named Amichel. The name is known from only two sources: the royal patent granted Francisco de Garay (Álvarez's sponsor) to settle the region and a map known as the Cortés map, published in 1524. Although Garay's report of the Álvarez voyage was sent to Spain before the end of 1519, it was not acted upon until 1521. On June 4 that year the royal cédula was issued at Burgos. Royal officials acting for King Charles II (Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire) exulted that through the efforts of Garay, Diego Velázquez, and Juan Ponce De León, the entire Gulf Coast had been discovered and proved to be contiguous mainland. According to this document, the entire coast was pleasant and fruitful, inhabited by pacific natives of affectionate nature who gave every indication of being suitable subjects for conversion to the Catholic faith. In places the people were as much as seven feet tall; in others they were midgets of no more than 3½ to four feet. Some of the natives, it is said, wore gold jewelry in their nostrils and earlobes, and there was wide distribution of the precious metal in the territory.
The voyage made for Garay having shown the new lands "suitable for settlement," the crown granted him permission to send a colonizing expedition at his own expense with the title of adelantado. The land recently discovered, it was noted, "is called the province of Amichel and is so named."
Garay launched two efforts to establish a colony in Amichel. An error in the historical literature has placed these attempts at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Actually, they were on the Río Pánuco. Both ended in abject failure. Not having been disposed to await the ponderous turning of official wheels, Garay sent Álvarez de Pineda back to the Pánuco in late 1519 or early 1520. The colony he sought to establish there was destroyed shortly afterward in a Huastec uprising that cost Álvarez his life.
Garay himself led the second attempt. He sailed from Jamaica on June 14, 1523, unaware that his authority had been revoked in favor of Hernán Cortés and his province of Amichel attached to New Spain. On reaching the Pánuco, Garay found Cortés's minions firmly in control. Seeing his own troops defecting to Cortés while his ships rotted in the harbor, Garay went to Mexico to treat with Cortés personally and died there the following December of pneumonia.
The name Amichel does not appear on the map sketch attributed to Álvarez de Pineda, the first to show the Gulf of Mexico and the Texas coast in reasonably accurate proportions. It does appear on the "Cortés map," published with the August 1524 Nuremberg edition of Cortés's second letter to the crown. Authorship of the map, however, is not known. Use of Amichel, which originated with his rivals, in preference to names of his own origin, suggests that the author definitely was not Cortés.
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Martín Fernández de Navarrete, Colección de los viages y descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los españoles desde fines del siglo XV (5 vols., Buenos Aires: Guarania, 1945–46). Robert S. Weddle, Spanish Sea: The Gulf of Mexico in North American Discovery, 1500–1685 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1985).
Communities and Jurisdictions
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert S. Weddle,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 14, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 1, 1994
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