Inspired by Indian stories of settlements in present New Mexico and authorized by the Spanish viceroy, Fray Agustin Rodriquez, a Franciscan Priest, led a missionary expedition to the area. Accompanied by Fray Juan De Santa Maria, Fray Francisco Lopez, nine soldiers, and nineteen Indian servants, he left Santa Barbara, Mexico on June 5, 1581. The military escort was led by Francisco Sanchez, who, because of his red beard, was known as El Chamuscado, "The Singed".
Following the Rio Grande, the expedition reached El Paso del Norte. Proceeding through the pass, they spent the remainder of 1581 exploring the vast region from present western New Mexico to the Texas Panhandle.
After Indians killed Fray Santa Maria in September 1581, plans were made to return for a report to the Spanish authorities. Despite the hostile environment, the two remaining missionaries chose to stay. Chamuscado led the others back through the Pass of the North, but died before reaching Santa Barbara.
Believed to have been the first Spanish expedition to use the Pass of the North, the Rodriquez-Chamuscado Expedition marked the beginning of the Spanish influence in the area. Their exploration opened the region, now the American Southwest, to later colonization.