Juan de Grijalva or Grijalba

Spanish Explorer

Born: 1480

Died: 1527

After accompanying his uncle Diego Velázquez in the conquest of Cuba and in founding Trinidad, Grijalva was sent by Velázquez in 1518 to explore the Yucatan. This expedition was intended to continue the Spanish exploration of the Mexican mainland begun by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba.

Grijalva sailed around Yucatan to the shores of the Bay of Campeche, discovering the river that bears his name. Grijalva was the first navigator to set foot on Mexican soil and the first to use the term New Spain. He and his crew mapped rivers and discovered Cozumel Island. Grijalva was also the first European to have contact with the Aztecs.

Velázquez was upset with his nephew upon his return because Grijalva had taken a long time and, in his view, accomplished little. However, Grijalva's diplomacy with the native peoples of the Yucatan had created positive feelings towards the Spanish, which Cortes later capitalized on in his campaign. Although Grijalva failed to find any great riches, he had paved the way for the conquest of Mexico and Central America by the Spanish.

He was later ambushed and killed by Indians in Central America.

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