Hernando De Soto
Explorers for Kids
Hernando De Soto was a Spanish explorer. When he was a young man, he traveled to the West Indes and made a fortune in the Central American slave trade. He ran into an impoverished explorer named Pizarro. Pizarro wanted to explore high in the Andes Mountains of South America. He had heard tales of an Indian tribe with great riches. Hernando De Soto supplied ships and paid for the exploration, and accompanied Pizarro on his quest.
He was with Pizarro when they captured the Sapa Inca, the leader of the Inca Empire, high in the Andes Mountains of South America, and held the Sapa Inca for ransom. He was supposed to receive the lion's share of the riches, but he disagreed with Pizarro that the Sapa Inca should be killed. He had become friends with the Sapa Inca during his capitivity. Very angry with Pizarro, Hernando De Soto returned to Spain in 1536.
While he was in Spain, he married. It took a little time, but De Soto convinced the King of Spain to assigned him control and right of exploration of a place in the New World called La Florida. He left his family and returned to the New World.
Hernando De Soto explored La Florida, and far beyond, and claimed new land for Spain while looking for riches. He was the first European to cross the Mississippi River. Unlike Champlain, another explorer to the north in Canada to whom being first was everything, being first did not interest De Soto. Collecting wealth was his mission. Hernando De Soto, no matter how rich he became, never seemed to have enough wealth. That was his undoing. He kept looking for gold and jewels, mile after mile after mile, until he had explored 4000 miles of what would become the southeastern region of the United States.
About a year after he crossed the Mississippi, he and his men swung back that way. By the time they arrived back at the river, De Soto had a raging fever. He died of it. His men buried him in the waters of the Mississippi River.