Francisco López de Gamarra, Spanish explorer and sea captain, participated in the search for René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. When the expedition of Martín de Rivas and Pedro de Iriarte searching for La Salle's colony failed to return to Veracruz on schedule, two frigates were dispatched to look for them. The captains were Francisco López de Gamarra and Andrés de Pez y Malzárraga, officers in the Armada de Barlovento. Theirs was the third of the five sea voyages sent to search for La Salle.
López and Pez set sail from Veracruz on June 30, 1687; Rivas and Iriarte reached port on July 3 and 4. The frigates ran the north shore of the Gulf of Mexico as far as Cape San Blas on the Florida coast, repeating much of the previous reconnaissance. Events of the voyage are detailed in the diary of the pilot Luis Gómez Raposo, which supplements the diary of Juan Enríquez Barroto, chief pilot of the Rivas-Iriarte voyage.
On the Texas coast the frigates sighted the mouth of the Rio Grande, Aransas Pass, Galveston Bay, and Sabine Pass but missed Matagorda Bay, where Rivas and Iriarte had found the wreckage of La Salle's ships four months previously. Handicapped by their size, the deep-draft vessels sailed two days out of sight of land along the shoaly Louisiana coast. They then explored the mouth of the Mississippi River in poor visibility, a feat that would have had considerable importance had not Rivas and Iriarte done it earlier and, with their shallow-draft piraguas, more thoroughly. They returned to Veracruz on September 4, 1687.
Few facts are at hand on the life of López de Gamarra. It is known only that he and Enríquez Barroto perished in a common disaster on September 18, 1693, when their respective ships were lost in a hurricane on the Carolina Banks, fifteen leagues from the mainland shore. There were no survivors.
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William Edward Dunn, Spanish and French Rivalry in the Gulf Region of the United States, 1678–1702: The Beginnings of Texas and Pensacola (Austin: University of Texas, 1917). Robert S. Weddle et al., eds., La Salle, the Mississippi, and the Gulf: Three Primary Documents (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987). Robert S. Weddle, Wilderness Manhunt: The Spanish Search for La Salle (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert S. Weddle,
“López de Gamarra, Francisco,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
February 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
August 7, 2020
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