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Hernando de Soto. Engraving from Herrera's Historia General, 1615. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ6-674).


de Soto, Hernando (1500?–21 May 1542), Spanish conquistador and explorer, was the son of Francisco Mendez de Soto, an important landowner in Jerez de los Caballeros, Badajoz Province, Spain, and Doña Leonor Arias Tinoco, a noblewoman from a family prominent in the city of Badajoz. De Soto usually gave his birthplace as Jerez de los Caballeros and considered it the seat of his family line....


Menéndez de Avilés, Pedro (15 February 1519–17 September 1574), captain general of the armada of the Indies and adelantado of Florida, was born in northern Spain, in the Asturian seaport of Avilés, the son of Juan Alfonso Sánchez and María Alonso de Arango. A descendant of minor hidalgos, he was connected by blood and marriage to several noble families, but as one of the youngest of twenty children, he could count on little else. Raised by relatives after his father died and his mother remarried, Pedro married a distant cousin, María de Solís, with whom he would have four children; invested his patrimony in a small, rapid sailing vessel; and became an unlicensed privateer....


Narváez, Pánfilo de (1478?–1528), Spanish conquistador and accidental explorer of Florida, was born in Valladolid, Spain, the son of noble parents. Nothing is known of his youth. He sailed to the Caribbean in about 1500 and served in the conquests of Jamaica and Cuba. As a reward for his service in Cuba, he received grants of land and ...