Luna y Arellano, Tristán de (unknown–1573)

By: John G. Johnson

Type: Biography

Published: March 1, 1995

Updated: August 7, 2020

Tristán de Luna y Arellano, conquistador, was of a Castilian family of the Borobia estates in the villas of Cicia and Borobia in Spain. He was a cousin of the viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, and of Juana de Zúñiga, wife of Hernán Cortés. He first sailed to New Spain in 1530 or 1531. In 1545 he married Isabel de Rojas, widow of Juan Valásquez and Francisco Maldonado and heiress to their fortunes; Luna and Isabel had two children. In 1540 Luna was at first captain of horse in the Coronado expedition, then maestre de campo, and last lieutenant general. Left in charge of Coronado's army at Culiacán, he moved it to Sonora and then through heavy snow to Tiguex. He traveled with Coronado towards Quivira for thirty-seven days, about 650 miles, before being sent back with the main force to Tiguex when Coronado decided to trim down his force. In 1548 Luna quelled an Indian uprising in Oaxaca. About 1557 the viceroy of Mexico, Luis de Velasco, chose him to head an expedition to Santa Elena (present Tybee Island, Georgia). The purpose of the expedition was to build a Gulf settlement, establish an overland route from there to Santa Elena, and then establish a Spanish outpost on the Atlantic Ocean. It was thought that the viceroy's ultimate plan was to open a trail from Zacatecas to Santa Elena. Luna was given the title of governor of Florida. He led 500 soldiers and 1,000 colonists and servants with 240 horses; the expedition left Mexico on June 11, 1559, and landed at Pensacola Bay on August 14. There Luna established the city of Santa María de Filipinos. On August 19 a hurricane destroyed all but three of his ships. Luna had difficulty locating Santa Elena overland, and a ship sent there was wrecked in a storm. These troubles, along with dissension among his followers, resulted in the failure of the expedition, and Luna was relieved of his duties. He was ordered to Spain on January 30, 1561, to give an account to the king. The expedition left him an invalid and destitute, and he returned to Mexico in 1567. He died in Mexico City on September 16, 1573.

Herbert Eugene Bolton, Coronado: Knight of Pueblos and Plains (New York: Whittlesey; Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1949). Herbert Ingram Priestley, The Luna Papers (2 vols., Freeport, New York: Books for Libraries Press, 1971). Herbert Ingram Priestley, Tristán de Luna, Conquistador of the Old South: A Study of Spanish Imperial Strategy (Glendale, California: Clark, 1936). David J. Weber, The Spanish Frontier in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992).

  • Exploration
  • Explorers (Spanish)
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

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

John G. Johnson, “Luna y Arellano, Tristán de,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

March 1, 1995
August 7, 2020

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