The Hispanic-American History Timeline
1524-25 Estevan Gomez Explores
North America's East Coast
Spanish ship captain Esteban Gomez explores the east coast of North America – from Nova Scotia to Florida – leading a 29-men, single-ship expedition in search for a northwest passage to the Spice Islands, and ends up as the namesake northeast America.
Gomez (or Estêvão Gomes) is a Portuguese navigator and cartographer who sails for Spain. While searching for a waterway across North America, he enters every bay and river along the way. And while never finding the long-sought passage, Gomez charts the entire American east coast. Based on his charts, European mapmakers create the most accurate maps of North America (to date) and call the entire Northeast "La Tierra de Esteban Gomez."
How many Americans in the Northeast know that they live in "The Land of Esteban Gomez?" When they see the Hudson River, how many New Yorkers know that Gomez first named it "El Rio San Antonio?"
It all starts when, while in prison for deserting the Ferdinand Magellan expedition around the world, Gomez convinces King Charles V that he can find a faster and safer ride to the Indies than the treacherous route around the tip of South America, where he had deserted Magellan three years earlier.
In a rush to beat France to find the passage, King Charles V releases Gomez from prison and gives him a chance to prove himself in a new expedition.
Sponsorship for this better route to the Spice Islands means the creation of a new 50-ton caravel called Nuestra Señora de la Anunciada. With financial backing from the king, the budget allows for a crew of 29, including Gomez and 28 others (mostly Basque fishermen) to join the voyage.
La Anunciada sails from La Coruña, Spain, to Nova Scotia, where Gomez gets tired of waiting for warmer weather and decides to head southwest to try to escape the cold. His ship sails along the east coast from Nova Scotia to the Penobscot River in Maine and to New York harbor, where Gomez finds the mouth of a great river he calls “El Rio San Antonio,” later to be renamed “Hudson.”
After 10 months and 27 days checking rivers, bays and all waterways that could possibly cross North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Gomez gives up the search for the mythical northwest passage and decides to return to Spain.
Yet, before returning home, to offset the cost of his unaccomplished journey, Gomez abducts 50 Native Americans to be used for slave trading. But once back in Spain, this is seen as foolish idea by King Charles V, who forces Gomez to release the slaves he is planning to sell.
Although he does not find the northwest passage, and makes a foolish mistake on his way home, Gomez gives Europe the most accurate map of the east coast of North America.
In 1529, using Gomez’s charts, celebrity Portuguese cartographer Diogo Ribeiro creates a detailed map of the New World and calls northeast North America, “Tierra de Estevan Gomez.” And that map is used in Europe for many years.
By Michael Torres, Lehman College