It was in the early 1519s when I had first set sail for the exploration of the coastlines of the Gulf of Mexico. I was one of the hundreds of soldiers that were under the command of Alonso Alvarez de Pineda. The reason we had decided to set off to the New World was to explore the coast along the Gulf, in hope to find a strait to the Pacific Ocean. We explored for Spain and were the first Europeans to map parts of the Gulf.
We left Jamaica in March of 1519. All of our crew members were nervous for the long journey ahead of us. We sailed along the west coast of Florida, expecting to find the passage that apparently separated Florida from the mainland. Instead we made a very significant discovery. What we discovered was that Florida wasn’t an island like it was recorded, it was actually a peninsula! I remember how shocked all of us were when we didn’t find the water way. We had tried to land on the coast of Florida but we were attacked by hostile natives and had to move on.
Pineda then led us west along the coast. The conditions were harsh. I sometimes wondered if we were ever going to make it home. We came across a large river mouth during our trip. Pineda named it Rio del Espiritu Santo. This was the Mississippi River as it is named now. Pineda also named the Corpus Christi Bay when we discovered it.
Pineda had us sail up a river to find a place to fix our ships. We spent around 40 days repairing and cleaning out our ships. There were many indigenous peoples’ villages around us. I wondered if the Natives were scared we were there to convert them to our religion. The crew and I were worn out but we managed to keep our spirits up. I remember many people had gotten sick during that time and some of them even died because of it! I was scared that I might get the sickness as well.
Pineda along with some of our crew had decided to stay there as settlers. We set up a camp. The living conditions were pretty rough. Most of the time we didn’t have enough food for everyone to eat and many people ended up getting diseases. We were doing fine living there on our own until we were attacked by Natives! I can still remember the night I woke up with a start because there were loud yells coming from the other side of camp.
None of us knew what was going on and we were all horrified. I later learned that Huastec Indians were trying to take over our settlement! About sixty other members of the crew and I were evacuated to safety, but our leader Pineda and the rest of our crew didn’t make it. They were killed by the Indians. I remember being so scared knowing what had happened to my fellow crew members.
When the ships of the voyage returned back to Jamaica the pilots had recovered Pineda’s famous map drawn of the Gulf of Mexico. I remember how all the crew members had helped with recording the coastlines.
When I arrived back in my home country, Spain, I was so relieved to finally be safe again. The journey to the New World was tough, but in the end it was worth it. The crew and I that was led by Alonso Alvarez de Pineda had made many discoveries that will benefit people for future expeditions to the New World.