Bonilla, Francisco Leyva de (unknown–unknown)

By: Frank Goodwyn

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 1, 1994

Francisco Leyva de Bonilla, a Portuguese captain in the service of Spain, was dispatched in 1594 by Governor Diego de Velasco of Nueva Vizcaya to pursue beyond the frontiers of that state a rebellious band of Indians that had committed acts of theft. Once across the border, Bonilla and his party determined to explore New Mexico and the plains beyond and to search for Quivira (see CORONADO, FRANCISCO VÁSQUEZ DE, AND CÍBOLA, SEVEN CITIES OF). Six soldiers refused to participate in this unauthorized expedition, and Capt. Pedro de Cazorlá warned Bonilla that to make such a move was to commit treason. Nevertheless Bonilla and his followers marched to the upper Rio Grande pueblos and spent about a year there, making Bove (San Ildefonso) their principal headquarters. In 1599 they wandered northeast via Cicuye (Pecos) onto the Great Plains, where they found large herds of buffalo. They arrived at the real Quivira, an agricultural Indian village of grass huts on what was probably the Arkansas River in present Kansas. After a few days there, the expedition continued on toward a larger stream, believed to have been the Platte in what is now Nebraska, some twelve days' journey beyond the Arkansas. According to Jusepe, a Mexican Indian who was with the party, Bonilla was stabbed to death after a quarrel with his lieutenant, Antonio Gutiérrez de Humaña, who then assumed command.

Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542–1706 (New York: Scribner, 1908; rpt., New York: Barnes and Noble, 1959). Charles W. Hackett, ed., Pichardo's Treatise on the Limits of Louisiana and Texas (4 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1931–46).
  • Exploration
  • Explorers (Spanish)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Frank Goodwyn, “Bonilla, Francisco Leyva de,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994