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Biographies Unit Biographies

Juan Cabrillo 1500?-1543
Conquistador and Explorer

Juan Cabrillo (cah BREE oh) came to the Americas as a conquistador. Nothing is known about his earlier life, not even the exact year he was born. His name first appears in a list of officers who fought under Cortés against the Aztecs. After the Aztecs' defeat, Cabrillo helped conquer other American Indian nations in southern Mexico and Central America. He finally settled in present-day Guatemala. The king of Spain gave him land there in reward for his services.

Cabrillo became a shipbuilder. Around 1540, the Spanish governor of Guatemala asked him to build ships for expeditions to explore the Pacific coast. Cabrillo built the ships. He also agreed to lead an expedition. He became the first European to land on the coast of what is today the state of California.

Comprehension Check

What kind of work did Cabrillo do when he lived in present-day Guatemala?

Critical Thinking

Write one fact and one opinion about Juan Cabrillo.