PHILIP DOSSICK

Peaches and Plumbs Booksellers

The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca

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The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca

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The story is over five hundred years old. In early 1527, Alvar Nunez  Cabeza de Vaca joined a sea-faring expedition under the leadership of explorer Pánfilo de Narváez

The opportunities seemed boundless: gold was the immediate lure, but there were other treasures to be had: silver, pearls, emeralds, tobacco, cacao, sugar.

No one imagined the travails to come or that, of the original group of some six hundred men and ten women, only four of those to go ashore in Florida would survive to recount their experience.

Everything went wrong. A hurricane hit. The expeditionary force was separated from their ships and ended up marooned on the Florida Gulf Coast, surrounded by hostile, deadly Indians.

Eventually, the survivors slaughtered their horses for food, then melted down their armor to make nails and built boats in the hope of finding their way to Mexico.

Those four men walked across the rest of Texas, wandering aimlessly in a search for the Spanish colony of Mexico.

By the time they finally arrived in Mexico, after years of privation, they were no longer the same self-sure conquerors that had sailed from Spain. They had developed a following of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Indians who hailed them as "Children of the Sun".

The journal of Cabeza de Vaca makes for almost hallucinatory reading: a dream-like journey across the Americas as Cabeza de Vaca is first enslaved by the natives before becoming their holy man.


Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1488-1560) was a Spanish explorer of the New World, and one of four survivors of the 1527 Narváez expedition. During eight years of traveling across the US Southwest, he became a trader and faith healer to various Native American tribes before reconnecting with Spanish civilization in Mexico in 1536.

 

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