The land surrounding Iguaçu Falls has been inhabited for about 10,000 years. The first European to uncover the falls was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1541. He named his discovery Saltos de Santa Maria. Cabeza de Vaca was the same Spanish conquistador who explored today’s southern United States from Florida to California. In 1897, Brazilian army officer Edmundo de Barros suggested a park be created to preserve the natural beauty of Iguazu Falls. 42 years would pass before his dream was realized. Iguaçu National Park was established in 1939, five years after the Iguazú National Park in Argentina. The park in Brazil became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.