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 the Americas. He was one of the last four survivors of the Panfilo de Narváez expedition in Texas, along with Cabeza de Vaca, the Estevanico slave and Dorantes. In addition, Castillo Maldonado lived in a Native American tribe in Texas between 1527 and 1528. He most likely introduced the Christian faith to the tribe.


Travel in New Spain[edit]

He was born in Salamanca, Spain, the son of the doctor Castillo and Aldonza Maldonado.[1] [2] He was a 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 the Americas in order to obtain wealth. He 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 (this ship had the expeditionary force consisting of Castillo, Cabeza de Vaca, the slave Estevanico and about forty men), was wrecked because of storms[1][4] on or near the western end of Galveston Island, Texas. 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 Native Americans helped them with everything they could, allowing them to survive until spring and offered to Castillo and his colleagues jobs as healers. They accepted the offer because the indigenous superstitions could be used to their advantage.

The surviving men were on the island until the spring of 1528. At this time, thirteen survivors (of 16) decided to leave the island, abandoning Cabeza de Vaca (because he was sick and almost unable to move), and two other members of the expedition there. In April 1529 this group, led by Dorantes and Castillo, reached the coast, landing at Matagorda Bay. However, most of the members of the expedition were killed by Native Americans. There were only three survivors: Dorantes de Carranza, Castillo and Estevanico.

For almost seven years they lived in poverty among hostile Native Americans. 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 Native American art of medicine. In August 1535, the men escaped from the Avavare tribe, with who 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 territory[4] until they arrived in 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 also Mexican state of Sonora.[1][4] Then, they temporarily settled in the land of the Pimas and Sierra Madre,[4] where they lived with a Native 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 led by Diego de Alcaraz and managed to avoid the capture of the hundreds of Native Americans who accompanied them.[4] Later, Castillo and his companions reunited with other Spanish groups residing in north Culiacan - included among them 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, received news that Spanish castaways had reached land under their jurisdiction, he provided them with horses and clothing and sent them to Mexico City to surrender accounts to the viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza.[1] In this city, where his story was already known, they were received with great honors.[4] Nunez Cabeza de Vaca recounted his experiences in his book Naufragios (in Spanish: Shipwrecks), on which he recounts 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 traveled across North America and some relatives had inherited. He was briefly in Spain and then returned to Americas, living the rest of his life in New Spain. In 1545, Castillo served as treasurer at Guatemala. In 1547, Alonso del Castillo was listed as a witness in a trial [1] and presented information of his labor service or any pension from the crown, because he lived in the poverty. It is believed that he died in late 1540s.[1]


  1. ^ Although for a long time it was believed that they also had 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. ^ Vallejo García-Hevia,José María; Martín Blasco, Julio (2008). Juicio a un conquistador, Pedro de Alvarado (in Spanish: Trial of a conqueror, Pedro de Alvarado). Volume I. Page 215. S.A. Ediciones de Historia.
  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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