Maldonado, Rodrigo (unknown–unknown)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: October 1, 1995

Rodrigo Maldonado, a native of Guadalajara, Spain, and brother-in-law of the Duke of the Infantado, was one of the appointed captains of cavalry on the expedition of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. He was listed as having "five horses, one coat of mail with trappings and breeches, one beaver and sallet, and native weapons." When Tristán de Luna y Arellano established San Gerónimo de Corazones on the Sonora River in 1540, he sent Maldonado with a party of soldiers to contact the sea expedition of Hernando de Alarcón on the Gulf of California. Although he was unable to locate the fleet, Maldonado brought back a Seri Indian "so big and so tall that the biggest and tallest man in camp did not come up to his nipples," according to Pedro de Castañeda, the expedition's chronicler. Maldonado helped capture Cíbola, or Háwikuh, the westernmost Zuñi pueblo, and was transferred from Luna's division to Coronado's staff. During the winter of 1540–41 Maldonado was a leader in the siege of Moho and sporadic battles with other Rio Grande pueblos in the native province of Tiguex. While wandering on the Llano Estacado in May 1541, he led his company in advance of the main army and discovered "a large barranca" believed to have been either Tule or Yellow House Canyon. Here he received tanned skins and "a tent as big and tall as a house" from Teya Indians (a warlike Plains tribe perhaps related to the Apache) who had previously come in contact with Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his companions. Afterward, Maldonado accompanied the main army to the Wichita village of Quivira in what is now Kansas. He was horseracing with Coronado when the latter's saddle girth broke and Coronado fell under the hoofs of Maldonado's mount. The resultant injury contributed to Coronado's order for the expedition to return to Mexico in the spring of 1542. In 1547 Maldonado was among those who testified on behalf of García López de Cárdenas, during the latter's trial for his conduct as one of Coronado's more prominent officers, and in 1560 he was a character witness for Juan Troyano, a soldier on the Coronado expedition. Little else is known about him, but after his death his widow reportedly "almost lost her head, killed some slaves, and was imprisoned."

Herbert Eugene Bolton, Coronado: Knight of Pueblos and Plains (New York: Whittlesey; Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1949). George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, eds. and trans., Narratives of the Coronado Expedition, 1540–1542 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1940). Frederick Webb Hodge and Theodore H. Lewis, eds., Spanish Explorers in the Southern United States, 1528–1543 (New York: Scribner, 1907; rpt., Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1984). George Parker Winship, trans. and ed., The Coronado Expedition, 1540–1542 (Extract from the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, Washington: GPO, 1896; rpt., New York: AMS Press, 1973).


  • Exploration
  • Explorers (Spanish)

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Maldonado, Rodrigo,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 23, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 1, 1995