Tracking Coronado

Tomorrow I start on my first expedition to find Chichilticalli, the pueblo that Coronado stayed at in southeast Arizona on the trail to Cibola.

My interest in Chichilticalli goes back over 15 years to my work on the Salado sites in the West Turkey Creek area. It was when I became aware of the large Salado population on the west side of the Chiricahuas that I realized the lost pueblo of Chichilticalli did not need to be as far north as the Penalenos but could easilly exist in that area. Of course it would have to be farther north than Turkey Creek since Coronado’s party crossed the mountains at “Chichilticalli Pass” the day after leaving, and there are no passes across the Chiricahuas in that area. But what about several miles north at Apache Pass?

My friend Amy Campbell and I explored the area below Apache Pass around 1998 and found nothing but some Mogollon sites that were much too old to be Chichilticalli . While leaving the area however we looked at the mountains south of Apache Pass and noticed the extremely red color of the earth there, the maps revealed several alternate routes across the mountains in that area, Bear Springs Pass and Immigrant Pass. Amy and I determined to return at a later date and explore that area.

I moved to Louisiana some time after that and before I returned Amy moved to Colorado. Now I will be hiking across Bear Springs Pass with my 12 year old son to fulfill a dream older than he is.

In my estimation Chichilticalli must be:

  • In a location where the earth is extraordinarily red. Southern Arizona has a great deal of red earth, this pueblo would have to be built of exceptionally red earth for it to have been noteworthy.
*Saladoan, given the time period, 1540, that this puddled adobe ruin was roofless but not tumbled down indicates it’s late date of occupation, probably no later than 1500. In this part of Arizona such a late date has to be Saladoan.
  • At the foot of a large mountain range and near a pass over the mountains.
  • Someplace where a continued North or North-East route would require them to cross over the mountains. Chichilticalli was said to be “where the land turns west”.
  • An important trading village. Located on what was probably the main trade route between Mexico and Zuni at a spot where it could controll trade over the mountains, we are probably looking at a very important trading center.
  • In a prominent location. Chichilticalli was a major landmark on the trail, mentioned by the Spanish who recorded the trak and probably by the indians guiding them since they talk about “the fame of Chichilticalli”. At the late date this pueblo was inhabited it would not seem unusual to expect Chichilticalli to be on a hilltop or some other defensive location, and therefore visible for many miles down the trail.

Stay tuned…


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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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