1. Marco Polo: Marco Polo was an Italian explorer who spent several years in China. When he returned in 1295, there became a sudden interest in finding a quicker route to Asia. Polo, along with father Niccolo and his uncle Maffeo, was among the first westerners to travel the Silk Road.
2. Francisco Pizarro: Francisco Pizarro was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who conquered the Incas located in Peru, in 1532. He claimed land from Panama to Peru for Spain, and also added to their silver.
3. Juan Ponce de Leon: Juan Ponce de Leon was a Spanish explorer who explored Florida in 1513 and 1521 thinking it was an island. Leon was in search of gold and “the fountain of youth”. He never found the fountain, but he did manage to claim Florida as territory for Spain.
4. Hernando de Soto: Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer who explored land from western Florida to Mississippi in the 1540’s in hope of finding gold. He also discovered the Mississippi River.
5. Montezuma: Montezuma was an Aztec chieftain who believed that the Europeans were gods. He sent them gifts and welcomed them into the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan. Montezuma eventually attacked the Spanish, however, the Spanish ended up taking over Tenochtitlan.
6. Christopher Columbus: Christopher Columbus was an Italian navigator who was funded by the Spanish government to find a route to the Far East. He discovered the “New World,” although he believed he found India. Columbus visited the New World four times, but he first saw land on October 12, 1492.
7. Hernan Cortez: Hernan Cortez was a Spanish explorer who conquered the Native American civilizations of the Aztecs in 1519, in current Mexico.
8. Francisco Coronado: Francisco Coronado was a Spanish soldier and commander. In 1540, he led an expedition from Mexico into Arizona, in search of the Seven Cities of Gold. Coronado only found Adobe pueblos.
9. Robert de La Salle: Robert de La Salle was a French