Hernando de Soto, born on October 27, 1500, was a famed explorer known for colonizing various parts of the Americas. He embarked on his first voyage to the Americas as a teen and continued to travel across that part of the world until his death. He is credited as being a key player in the development of Spanish nations in parts of central, southern, and northern America. His legacy has been tainted because of his role in the hostile interactions between Europeans and indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, although he helped map out enormous parts of these territories that had not yet been explored by Europeans. On the occasion of the man’s birthday, let’s discover more about his tangled past.
Hernando de Soto
October 27, 2022
May 21, 1542 (age 480)
Hernando de Soto was born on October 27, 1500, in the Extremadura area in Spain. He was a Spanish explorer and colonialist who is best known for his role in the Spanish exploration and colonization of the Americas. His parents were both members of the Spanish nobility. Not much is known about his childhood or early education. After Christopher Columbus sailed to North America in 1492, many young Spanish men were inspired to explore the globe, and De Soto was no exception.
In 1514, De Soto set off on his first expedition to the Americas. He participated in the conquistador force that conquered control of Nicaragua in Central America a decade later. As a result, the new Spanish Nicaraguan government gave him many honorary positions in the government. De Soto was a key player in the 1533 capture of Atahualpa’s army, the last Incan emperor, in Peru, South America. Three years later, drenched in looted wealth, he made his way back to his native country.
De Soto embarked on an expedition to explore North America in 1539 with over 600 men. His crew is thought to have arrived in what is now Florida and traveled through what is now Texas and Arkansas. The men’s two-year journey throughout the nation included numerous attacks, murders, and enslavement of indigenous Native Americans. By 1541, De Soto’s forces had arrived in Mississippi. He became unwell and passed away from a fever a year after crossing the river. Most of his expedition headed back to the Spanish colony in Mexico City when he passed away.
De Soto sets sail for the Americas for the first time.
De Soto plays an integral role in the Spanish capture of the Central American nation.
The conquistador assists in the Spanish capturing of Peru and the murder of the last Incan emperor.
De Soto travels back to Spain for a short period.
Moving on from Central and South America, he participates in the colonization of North America and travels to Florida.
De Soto’s expedition crosses the great North American river.
Why We Love Hernando Desoto
He was instrumental in the Columbian exchange
The Columbian Exchange refers to transferring plants, animals, diseases, technology, and people between the “New World” in the Americas and the “Old World” in Africa and Europe. De Soto’s voyage is considered to have played a significant role in this transfer. Although some aspects of the transfers would be negative, multiple positive transfers enhanced the “Old World.”
His interactions with Native Americans teach us to take a better approach
Before De Soto’s expedition to North America, relations between Europeans and Native Americans had been largely cordial and civil. However, De Soto’s troops were most often the aggressors in clashes with Native Americans and soured relationships between indigenous people and colonizers. This interesting piece of history that De Soto has provided teaches us to live in peace and harmony with each other and to avoid violence.
He discovered the Mississippi
De Soto discovered the Mississippi in 1541. The first significant European voyage into the interior of Southeast North America, then known as La Florida, was led by Hernando de Soto in 1539. Without his discovery, we wouldn’t have known of the many talented musicians, blues music, and fertile soil which all reside in Mississippi.
5 Surprising Facts
He crossed the Mississippi river
De Soto was the first European to cross the North American river.
He taught an emperor to play chess
While the Incan emperor Atahualpa was held captive by De Soto, the conquistador taught him how to play chess.
His North American route is disputed
Because of conflicting narratives, there is very little agreement regarding the route De Soto took through North America.
No one knows where he died
De Soto's actual place of death is disputed, much like the route his army took; however, it is believed that he passed away in either Louisiana or Arkansas.
He features on the $500 bill
The U.S. half-thousand dollar bill’s background is a painting of De Soto colonizing the Americas.
Hernando Desoto FAQs
Did Hernando De Soto find gold?
No, and the Spanish monarchy considered his expedition a failure because of it.
Did Hernando De Soto have siblings?
Yes, he was one of four children.
Did Hernando De Soto have a child?
No, he did not have any children.
Hernando Desoto’s birthday dates