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In 1502, on his fourth voyage, [[Christopher Columbus]] became the first European known to have reached what is now Nicaragua as he sailed southeast toward the [[Isthmus of Panama]].<ref name="Brief" />{{rp|193}}<ref name="Newson" />{{rp|92}} Columbus explored the [[Mosquito Coast]] on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua<ref>{{cite news|title=Letter of Columbus on the Fourth Voyage|publisher=American Journey|url=http://www.americanjourneys.org/aj-068/summary/index.asp|access-date=2007-05-09|url-status=dead|archive-url=https://web.archive.org/web/20070403152053/http://americanjourneys.org/aj-068/summary/index.asp|archive-date=2007-04-03}}</ref> but did not encounter any indigenous people. 20 years later, the Spaniards returned to Nicaragua, this time to its southwestern part. The first attempt to conquer Nicaragua was by the conquistador [[Gil González Dávila]],<ref name=EBH>{{cite encyclopedia|title=Nicaragua: History|url=http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-214487/Nicaragua|encyclopedia=Encyclopædia Britannica|access-date=2007-08-21}}</ref> who had arrived in Panama in January 1520. In 1522, González Dávila ventured into the area that later became known as the [[Rivas Department]] of Nicaragua.<ref name="Brief" />{{rp|35}}<ref name="Newson" />{{rp|92}} It was there that he encountered an indigenous Nahua tribe led by a chieftain named Macuilmiquiztli, whose name has sometimes been erroneously referred to as "[[Nicarao (cacique)|Nicarao]]" or "Nicaragua". At the time, the tribe's capital city was called Quauhcapolca.<ref name="Encuentro" /><ref name="HealyPohl1980">{{cite book|author1=Healy, Paul |author2=Pohl, Mary |title=Archaeology of the Rivas Region, Nicaragua|url=https://archive.org/details/archaeologyofriv0001heal|url-access=registration |year=1980|publisher=Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press|isbn=978-0-88920-094-4|page=[https://archive.org/details/archaeologyofriv0001heal/page/21 21]}}</ref><ref name="Dyck2015">{{cite book|author1=Dyck, Erika |author2=Fletcher, Christopher |title=Locating Health: Historical and Anthropological Investigations of Place and Health|url=https://books.google.com/books?id=m-c5CgAAQBAJ&pg=PA107|date=October 6, 2015|publisher=Routledge|isbn=978-1-317-32278-8|page=107}}</ref> González Dávila had brought along two indigenous interpreters who had been taught the Spanish language, and thus he was able to have a discourse with Macuilmiquiztli.<ref name="Sanchez" /> After exploring and gathering gold<ref name="Encuentro" /><ref name="Brief" />{{rp|35}}<ref name="Newson" />{{rp|55}} in the fertile western valleys, González Dávila and his men were attacked and driven off by the Chorotega, led by the chieftain [[Diriangen|Diriangén]].<ref name="Encuentro" /><ref>{{cite news|title=The Spanish Conquest|url=http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+ni0014)|work=Library of Congress|access-date=2007-08-21}}</ref> The Spanish attempted to convert the tribes to Christianity; the people in Macuilmiquiztli's tribe were baptized,<ref name="Encuentro" /><ref name="Newson" />{{rp|86}} but Diriangén, however, was openly hostile to the Spaniards.
[[File:Ruinas leon viejo36.jpg|thumb|right|Ruins of [[León Viejo]] ("Old León"), founded by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba in [[1524]]]]
 
The first Spanish permanent settlements were founded in 1524.<ref name=EBH/> That year, the conquistador [[Francisco Hernández de Córdoba (founder of Nicaragua)|Francisco Hernández de Córdoba]] founded two of Nicaragua's principal cities: [[Granada, Nicaragua|Granada]] on [[Lake Nicaragua]] was the first settlement, followed by [[León, Nicaragua|León]] at a location west of [[Lake Managua]].<ref name="Brief" />{{rp|35, 193}}<ref name="Newson" />{{rp|92}} Córdoba soon built defenses for the cities and fought against incursions by other conquistadors.<ref name="Newson" />{{rp|92}} Córdoba was later publicly [[Decapitation|beheaded]] as a consequence for having defied the authority of his superior, [[Pedro Arias Dávila]].<ref name="Brief" />{{rp|35}} Córdoba's tomb and remains were discovered in 2000 in the [[León Viejo|ruins of León Viejo]].<ref name=ET>{{cite news|title=Nicaragua Briefs: An Historic Find|publisher=Central American University – UCA|url=http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/1418|work=Envío|access-date=2007-08-21}}</ref>
 
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