Estevanico the moor

From Academic Kids

Estevanico (c. 1500 – 1539) (also known as "Mustafa Zemmouri", "Black Stephen", "Esteban", "Esteban the Moor", "Estevan", "Estebanico", "Stephen the Black", "Stephen the Moor", and "Little Stephen") of North African origins, possibly from Azemmour, Morocco. He is mentioned in various 16th century Southwestern United States expeditionary logs as a slave servant in the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca's party.


Early life

Estevanico was sold into slavery to the Portuguese in the town of Azemmour, a Portuguese enclave on Morocco's Atlantic coast, in 1513, at an early age. It is unclear if he was born in Senegal of black African parents or was brought to Azemmour from west Africa by the trans-Saharan slave trade. He was converted to Roman Catholicism. He was sold in 1520 to Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, a Spanish nobleman with whom he developed close ties.

American explorer

Estevanico traveled with Dorantes to Hispaniola and Cuba on Pánfilo de Narváez's ill-fated expedition of 1527 to conquer Florida; in doing so Estevanico became the first person born in Africa known to have set foot in what is now the continental United States. He and Dorantes were two of the expedition's four survivors, and had sailed with others on makeshift rafts in an attempt to reach Mexico. The group was shipwrecked on Galveston Island and most of the men either drowned, starved, or were killed by natives; by 1533 only Estevanico, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, and Alonso del Castillo Maldonado survived. The four spent years enslaved by the Ananarivo of the Louisiana Gulf Islands, but they eventually escaped into the American interior, contacting other Native American tribes along the way. The party traversed the continent as far as present-day southeastern Arizona, and through the Sonoran Desert to the region of Sinaloa in New Spain (present-day Mexico), where they were reunited with their countrymen.

In 1539, Estevanico was one of the four who would accompany Marcos de Niza as a guide in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, preceding Coronado. However, the others were struck ill and Estevanico continued alone, opening up what is now New Mexico and Arizona. He was killed at the Zuni village of Hawikuh (in present-day New Mexico); the tribe regarded him with mistrust, partially because his medicine gourd was trimmed with feathers from an owl, a bird that symbolized death to the Zuni.


It is said that Estevanico was a remarkable polyglot and that he was able to learn, in a matter of weeks, the languages of the Native Americans. It is also said that he was accepted as a deity by some Native American tribes because of his knowledge of herbs and medicines. It has been hypothesized that Esteban was not, in fact, killed by the Zunis, but rather kicked out of their village after being imprisoned. He may have then been hidden by the Pimas, who held him in high regard. For most historians, however, the eye-witness accounts of various associates, and the lack of references to Estevanico in later accounts is proof enough of the explorer's death.

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