Alonso del Castillo Maldonado

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Alonso del Castillo Maldonado
Born Unknown
Salamanca, Spain
Died 1540s?
New Spain?
Nationality Castillan
Occupation explorer and treasurer (1547)

Alonso del Castillo Maldonado (? - 1540s?) was one of the first Spanish explorers in Americas. He was a of the four last survivors of the Panfilo de Narváez expedition in Texas, along with Cabeza de Vaca, the slave Estevanico and Dorantes. In addition, Castillo Maldonado lived in a Native American tribe in Texas between 1527 - 28 and probably he introduced the Christian faith in them.


Travel in New Spain[edit]

He was born in Salamanca, Spain, the son of the doctor Castillo and Aldonza Maldonado.[1] [2] He was close cousin of Alcalde Mayor of Santo Domingo Alonso Maldonado and of Martín de Guzmán.[3] Raised in a poor noble family of hidalgos, Castillo traveled to Americas in order to obtain wealth. So, was the captain of the Panfilo de Narvaez expedition that began in 1527, in Florida.[1]

The fleet sailed from the Sanlucar de Barrameda coast on June 17, 1527. It consisted of five ships and six hundred men commanded by Narvaez. After several weeks of sailing they arrived at the island of La Española where they were provisioned and stayed for a time. When leaving the island and entering the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, a ship was put under the joint command of Captains Del Castillo and Andrés Dorantes de Carranza.

After the expedition, in early November, the ship led by Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, which was the expeditionary force, consisting of Castillo, Cabeza de Vaca, the slave Estevanico and about forty men, was wrecked because of storms[1][4] in or near the western end of Galveston Island, Texas, baptized as Mal Hado. On this island, the fifteen survivors, who had no clothes, weapons or food, suffered heavy privations and were forced to feed on the cadavers of their peers. The Amerindians helped them with everything they could, allowing them to survive until spring and they offered Castillo and his colleagues work as healers. They accepted as indigenous superstitions could be used to their advantage. Castillo is believed to have introduced the Amerindians from the coast to the Christian faith - he also created his own ritual, which involved praying for the sick Indians and blowing on their bodies. Cabeza de Vaca on the other hand learned the ways of the Medicine men.

The surviving men were on the island until the spring of 1528. At this time, thirteen remaining survivors (of 16) decided to leave the island and leave Cabeza de Vaca, already sick and almost unable to move, and two other members of the expedition. In April 1529 this group, led by Dorantes and Castillo, reached the coast, where they arrived at Matagorda Bay. However, most of the members of the expedition were killed by Indians. Only three survived: Dorantes de Carranza, Castillo and Estevanico.

For almost seven years they lived in poverty among hostile Amerindians. After that period of time the three men managed to reunite with Cabeza de Vaca in September 1534, somewhere west of the Sabine River. Cabeza de Vaca taught his companions the Amerindian art of medicine. In August 1535, the men escaped from the avavare tribe, with whom they were living as medicine men. Then they fled inland.[4] They crossed Texas (being, apparently, the first Europeans to cross the area),[1] taken across the whole,[4] until they left El Paso in late 1535.[note 1]Finally, they headed south and late in 1535 they entered the territory of the Mexican state of Chihuahua,[1] crossing through the territory of the Mexican state of Sonora,[1][4] settling temporarily in the land of the Pimas and Sierra Madre,[4] where they lived with an Indian tribe for three days. There they heard the natives speak of a Spanish village located further south.[1] After entering the territory of the state of Sinaloa in 1536,[1][4] they found a party of slave hunters and managed to avoid the capture of hundreds of Indians who accompanied them, by the proslavery group, led by Diego de Alcaraz.[4] Castillo and his companions were reunited with other Spanish groups residing in the north of Culiacan - included amongst them was the future explorer Melchor Díaz, who received him.[4] From there, they traveled to Compostela, the Nueva Galicia´s capital.[4]

Last years[edit]

When the governor of New Galicia, Nuño de Guzman, was news that Spanish castaways had reached land under their jurisdiction, provided them with horses and clothes and sent them to Mexico City to surrender accounts to viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza.[1] In this city, where was already known his history, they were received with big honors.[4] Nunez Cabeza de Vaca recounted his experiences in his book Naufragios (in Spanish: Shipwrecks), on which he account the period of slavery with the natives and the long march to find back to Spanish.

Alonso del Castillo married in Mexico and was the beneficiary of the encomienda of his wife in Tehuacan, Puebla. So, as "comendero" won a quarter of the income of Tehuacan.

In 1541 he traveled to Spain to solve his inheritance because his father had died while he traveling in North America and some relatives had inherited. He was in Spain briefly and then returned to Americas, living the rest of his life in New Spain. So, in 1545 served as treasurer at Guatemala. In 1547 Alonso del Castillo listed as a trial´s witness [1] and presented information of his service claimed or any pension from the crown, because he was poor. It is believed that he died in late 1540s.[1]


  1. ^ Although for a long time it was believed that they had also come to New Mexico, we now know that that never happened.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Donald E. Chipman (August 6, 2003). "Handbook of Texas Online: Alonso Castillo Maldonado". Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  3. ^ Juicio a un conquistador, Pedro de Alvarado (in Spanish: Trial of a conqueror, Pedro de Alvarado). Written by José María Vallejo García-Hevia,Julio Martín Blasco. Page 215.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Martínez Laínez, Fernando and Canales Torres, Carlos. Banderas lejanas: La exploración, conquista y defensa por parte de España del Territorio de los actuales Estados Unidos (Flags far: The exploration, conquest and defense by Spain of the Territory of the present United States). Page 31-33. Fourth edition: September 2009.

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