Hernando De Soto (1500?-1542) was a Spanish explorer who sailed the Atlantic Ocean and was the first European to explore Florida and the southeastern US.
De Soto was born in the Spanish province of Extremadura (near Portugal). In 1524, he went on an expedition to Nicaragua, South America, with Francisco de Cordoba. De Soto sided with Pedro Arias de Ávila (also called Pedrarias Dávila) against Cordoba (who had tried to claim land for himself), and Cordoba was killed. De Soto lived for a while in Nicaragua, prospering by engaging in the slave trade.
Francisco Pizarro enlisted de Soto for an expedition to Peru (1531-1532). During this expedition they met and killed Atahualpa, the ruler of the Incas, and conquered the Inca empire.
De Soto returned to Spain in 1536, and was granted the rights to conquer Florida and was named governor of Cuba in 1537.
De Soto arrived on the west coast of Florida on May 30, 1539 with 10 ships carrying over 600 soldiers, priests, and explorers. They spent four years searching for gold and silver, exploring the area, and brutally contacting native societies, including the Cherokees, Seminoles, Creeks, Appalachians, and Choctaws. De Soto died during the explorations and was buried on the banks of the Mississippi River in late June, 1542.