Chichilticalli
Tracking Coronado

Over the years a lot of people have searched for Chichilticalli and the list of potential sites is long all over the map. From Casa Grande to Young, AZ, the Safford Valley and the Sulphur Springs Valley, Emil Haury thought it was in the Arivaipa Valley and Charles DiPeso thought it was in the San Bernardino Valley, possibly even in Mexico. You would think that these places might all look similar since they were all thought to be the location of Chichilticalli but they are very different, some are out in the flats of the low desert, some are in the foothills and some are up high in the mountains, the only thing these places have in common is that they all have ancient ruins. But there is so much more to the description of Chichilticalli that we have from the historical record than just ruins, so I have created this checklist of the criteria for a location to be Chichilticalli. This should be a handy guide for anyone going out to attempt to find Chichilticalli, or a litmus test for anyone who thinks they may have already found it.

  1. Near the Gila River
    “The country rises continually from the beginning of the wilderness (Chichilticalli) until Cibola is reached” Casteneda
    “it is impossible to cross the uninhabited region which stretches from hero to Cibola, on account of the heavy snows and the cold” – Melchor Diaz writing from Chichilticalli
    “At Chichilticalli the country changes its character again and the spiky vegetation ceases. The reason is that… the mountain chain changes its direction, they had to cross and pass through the mountains in order to get into the level country” – Casteneda
  2. At or very near a pass through some mountains
    “we crossed a mountain chain, to this pass we gave the name of Chichilte Calli, because we learned that this was what it was called” – Jaramillo
    “They went through a narrow defile (portezuela) which was named Chi-ehiltic-calli” – Mota-Padilla
    “we heard news of what is called Chichiltic Calli. Crossing the mountains we…” – Jaramillo
  3. Near high mountains, possibly on several sides
    “The rest of the country is all wilderness, covered with pine forests” – Casteneda
  4. Red adobe pueblo ruins that would have had standing walls in 1540, in a defensive location
    “Chichilticalli is so called because the friars found a house at this place which was formerly inhabited by people who separated from Cibola. It was made of colored or reddish earth. The house was large and appeared to have been a fortress” – Casteneda
    “Chichilticalli was summed up in one tumble-down house without any roof, although it appeared to have been a strong place at some former time when it was inhabited, and it was very plain that it had been built by a civilized and warlike race of strangers who had come from a distance. This building was made of red earth” – Casteneda
    “named Chi-ehiltic-calli (which means red house “because there was a house there plastered on the outside with red earth, called almagre)” – Mota-Padilla
  5. At the end of the low desert portion of the journey
    “At Chichilticalli the country changes its character again and the spiky vegetation ceases” – Casteneda
  6. In a grassy valley with many pronghorn
    “There is a great abundance of wild goats, of the color of bay horses; there are many of these here where I am” – Melchor Diaz writing from Chichilticalli
  7. Fresh grass and abundant water even in late June, the hottest and dries time of the year in this area.
    “I rested for two days at Chichilticale, and there was good reason for staying longer, because we found that the horses were becoming so tired; but there was no chance to rest longer, because the food was giving out” – Coronado
    “we heard news of what is called Chichiltic Calli. Crossing the mountains, we came to a deep and reedy river, where we found water and forage for the horses” – Jaramillo

Using the above criteria we can test prospective Chichilticalli sites, assigning one point per item above, the perfect candidate should score 7. Here is my scoring for several of the most popular Chichilticalli candidates.

  • 76 Ranch, Arivaipa Valley (Bolton, Haury): 6
  • Casa Grande: 2
  • San Bernardino Valley (DiPeso, Polzer): 3
  • Kuyklendall Ruin (Brasher): 3
  • Mangus Creek (my candidate): 7
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About Andy Ward

I am an independent researcher, writer and artist interested in all things Southwestern. Southeast Arizona is my home and area of primary interest.

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