Seven Cities of Cibola

By: Donald E. Chipman

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: February 19, 2019

Among the myths that propelled Spaniards into the far reaches of northern New Spain (Colonial Mexico) was the legend of the Seven Cities. That myth was an outgrowth of the Muslim conquest of Portugal in the early eighth century. Allegedly, in 714 seven Catholic bishops and their faithful followers had fled across the Atlantic to a land known as Antilia, the name of which, incidentally, was the source of the name Antilles, which was initially applied to the West Indian islands of the Caribbean. The Antilian islands failed to produce large quantities of gold and silver, and by 1539 lands reported on by Cabeza de Vaca and his companions were believed to contain an El Dorado known as Cíbola. In that year, Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza dispatched Fray Marcos de Niza and the African Estevanico on a reconnoitering expedition. This exploration cost the life of Estevanico at Háwikuh, the southernmost of the Zuñi pueblos in western New Mexico. On his return to New Spain, Fray Marcos reported seeing golden cities, the smallest of which was larger than Mexico City. In 1540 the follow-up expedition of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado captured Háwikuh and learned the true nature of it as well as other nearby pueblos. In the following year, disappointment over the Seven Cities of Cíbola prompted Coronado to launch a futile search for Quivira-an undertaking that crossed the Panhandle.

Donald E. Chipman, Spanish Texas, 1519–1821 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992). Stephen Clissold, The Seven Cities of Cíbola (London: Eyre and Spottiswood, 1961). William D. and Carla Rahn Phillips, The Worlds of Christopher Columbus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).


  • Exploration
  • Communities and Jurisdictions

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

Donald E. Chipman, “Seven Cities of Cibola,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 19, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 19, 2019