Juan Pardo was an officer in the Spanish Army. A junior officer under the command of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Juan Pardo led two entradas into the southern Appalachian Mountains during the mid-16th century in an effort to extend Spanish control in the region. Little is known of Pardo’s origins, but there is a possibility that he came to America with Menéndez. Menéndez established Santa Helena near Beaufort, South Carolina, as a presidio and mission to control and convert the local native people. He placed Pardo in command of the garrison there.
As part of this initial attempt by Menéndez to incorporate La Florida (the Spanish term for the Southeast) into the Spanish empire, Pardo led entradas during 1566–1567 and 1567–1568 from Santa Helena through the Carolinas and the southern Appalachians into the chiefdom of Coosa. Along the way, Pardo built five small forts to link the interior with the coast, garrisoning each with only a handful of soldiers. All of these fortifications disappeared within a year as the soldiers fled back to the coast, were killed by hostile natives, or were absorbed by the local natives.
These expeditions may have helped spread diseases into the interior of La Florida that led to widespread native depopulation in the region and destabilized many of the chiefdoms there. Additionally, one of the garrisons left behind by Pardo allied with some local natives and destroyed the chiefdom of the Chiscas in southwest Virginia.
This group later moved down out of the Appalachians to raid the Spanish missions in Florida during the 17th century. After these two expeditions into the interior of the Southeast, Pardo disappeared from the historical record. Nothing is known about the rest of his life. The official records left by the Pardo expeditions have provided modern scholars with valuable information concerning the location of many native groups in the interior Southeast during the 16th century.
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Originally posted 2022-04-29 14:20:18.