Commissioned by the Spanish crown, veterans of the Reconquista followed Columbus, to colonize and conquer America’s Southeast. Their hold of the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America lasted until the 1800’s. They successfully established coffee inn Mexico in the late 18th century. We suspect that a finite amount of coffee was consumed by all expeditionary forces most likely by the officers first given how precious it would be. At least two military expeditions of Spanish soldiers, translators, prisoners, priests and slaves would traverse what would become Asheville, North Carolina. The first coffee in Asheville might have been roasted, brewed and served around the mid 1500’s along with the last of their Spanish wine.
In 1541, Hernando de Soto and his expedition are said to have traversed the banks at the confluence of the Swannanoa River and South French Broad Rivers – an ancient road crossing of Native American foot paths. They were looking for both gold, the fountain of youth (Muscadine Grapes) and a route through the mountains and southward to their colonial cities in Mexico. De Soto expeditionary force traveled westward over the Saluda Mountains and into the Asheville Valley looking for three things that evaded them. They found little gold, no path to Mexico and no fountain of youth. In vain and with a perfect all that they sought was beneath their noses. The Spanish were not able to extrapolate that part of the healthy lifestyle of Native Americans in Western North Carolina Asheville and their good health and long age might be due to the consumption of muscadine grapes which hold valuable anti-aging anti-oxidants. They probably consumed the Muscadine and even attempted to make wine from it. The Spanish were only 80 miles for a massive Charlotte gold field. For all the massacres, wars, disease and depredations the Spanish wreaked on Native Americans in North Carolina in search for gold. – it’s especially ironic to consider that the Charlotte gold field had ingots of pure gold occur above the surface – ready to simply be picked up. Just a few hours from Fort San Juan – they missed the secret Native American foot pass to the Mississippi Valley via the Catawba Trail to the Cumberland Gap – a route to pivot Southward and to their colonial capital Mexico City.
The confluence is located where Biltmore Avenue, Asheville’s historic Vanderbilt family home – The Biltmore Estate, Asheville’s Biltmore Village, French Broad River Park and Asheville’s River Arts District. Lamentably, the Spanish soldiers and missionaries left disease and untold wreckage behind them. They did trade and negotiate with the stronger Native American nations leaving a taste for Spanish roasted coffee, Spanish grape wine and Spanish jewelry in their wake.