that of Cabeza de Vaca’s ten years wanderings in Texas and Mexico. The first that we hear Naufragios de Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca. This was published. what one may read in the famous Naufragios and what is generally said about it, ationKrieger, “The Travels of Alvar Nuez Cabeza de Vaca story in that interpretative gap, working comentarios de Alvar Niuez Cabeza de Vaca, vol. 1, ed. Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was born around in Andalusia [3], a region of Spain [4]. Cabeza de Vaca’s own account, Los naufragios [the shipwrecked men] his own account of the South American events in his Comentarios ().

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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Reduced fac-simile from the original in the Lenox Branch of N. This history describes the only — and comparatively meagre — results of the nauragios under- taken by Pamfilo de Narvaez inand an outcome which had nothing more to do with Narvaez and his ill-conducted scheme. Nevertheless, the impor- tance of the story of Cabeza de Vaca must not be overestimated. A perusal of the nar- rative shows that the forlorn wanderers were not — as it has long been admitted — the “discoverers of New Mexico.

On the other hand, more precise than their information on this point is what they said about the plains, their Indians; and it seems above all doubt that the first knowledge of the American Bison, or Buf- falo, is due to their descriptions.

The people saw in their reports an outline for a possible advance into the unknown be- yond. The picture of the country traversed was, in the main, not enticing, but the allu- sion to permanent settlements beyond vacz unprepossessing plains was looked upon as full of promise. The outcome was a mod- erate “excitement” among the adventurous and the idle, and this excitement was ably taken advantage of by the Viceroy of New: Spain, Don Antonio de Mendoza.

This high functionary, as sagacious as he- was cautious, regarded the real merits of Cabeza de Vaca who is the representative figure in the whole episode with reserve. On February nth old style, he wrote to the Empress recommending Cabeza de Vaca and Dorantes the letter mentions Dorantes, but it was Castillo who went ta Spain with Cabeza de Vaca to the benevo- lence of the monarch, in consideration of: In that same letter he states that the wanderers had already vacx a report to him on their jour- ney, which report he had sent to the Empress previously.

It reads like a resume, or condensation, of the narrative comdntarios in this volume. This fragment terminates abruptly at the time when a meeting of Cabeza de Vaca and Do- rantes was being prepared.

It is entitled, “Relacion de Naifragios de Vaca, tesorero alvaar fue en la canquista,” and preceded by a truncated copy of the directions which the King issued to Cabeza de Vaca as ”Factor” of the expedition.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca

The influence which the return and re- ports of Cabeza de Vaca and companions may have had upon the subsequent enter- prise of Hernando de Soto was, if any, but slight. Capitulacion que se to mo con Hernando de SoifOj para conquistar y pohlar desde el Rio de las Palmas hasta la Florida does not per- mit any conclusion on this point.

The first report of the outcasts had probably reached Spain before that time, but on August 15, of the same year, Cabeza de Vaca was still at Lisbon. The statements of other sur- vivors of the expedition of Narvaez men- tioned at the close of our narrative as having been met by Cabeza de Vaca in Mexico and in Spain cannot have been very encourag- ing to a fresh attempt at penetrating Florida.

Of the biography of Cabeza de Vaca only such portions are well known as relate to his career in America. It is also known that he was born in Jerez de la Frontera, in Spain, and hence was an Andalusian. The family of Cabeza de Vaca bore, originally, the name Alhaja. A few days before the battle, a shepherd by the name of Alhaja offered to show the Chris- tian forces a path by which they might cir- cumvent the mountain-passes held by the Moors in strong force.

To indicate it, he placed at the entrance of the defile the skull of a cow.

Several of his descendants held com- paratively high positions, among them Don Pero Fernandez Cabeza de Vaca, elected grand master of the order of Knights of St. After the disastrous termination of [Narvaez’s expedition and his almost mirac- ulous return to Spain, he obtained as a re- ward for his sufferings the position of Gov- ernor of the settlements on the La Plata river, vacant cabeaz the death of Pedro de iMendoza.


Reaching his post in 1he soon became the object of sinister intrigues on the part of his subordinates. The ani- mosity against him broke out, inin open revolt.

He was seized and sent to Spain as a prisoner. His mild captivity there lasted eight years. Concerning the conduct of Cabeza de Vaca as Governor on gaca La Plata, or Parana, the opinions of eye-witnesses are divided.

Some naufragioz in his favor; others, like the German Cabezx or Huldreich Schmiedel, of Straubing, accused him of haughty demeanor towards his men and cruelty. Oviedo, who knew him personally and conversed with him on the matter, is non-committal. It seems likely that Cabeza de Vaca was an honest and well-intentioned man, and he may have been a good sub- altern but unfit for superior command.

It was never carried out. It is therefore not unlikely that he was not a- negro proper, but from one or the other of the tribes of the desert. His subsequent fate is well known. As guide and advance scout of Father Marcos, of Nizza, he became the victim of his comentarips imprudence, or larck of understanding of the differences in customs and beliefs be- tween Indian tribes far distant from each other.

It is well comentaeios that Cabeza de Vaca wrote two principal works, both of which were published at Valladolid in by Francisco Fernandez de Cordova.

The first one of these two books is a second issue of the one translated here. Of the Naufragios here nauftagios Only two copies of it are known: Its text alcar been followed exclusively in this translation. Botli are small quartos. But Cabeza de Vaca was one of the three who framed the Letter to the Audiencia, and this document is merely a more concise narration than his book, and does not, on important points, conflict with it.

The latter was written in Spain, when the author had leisure to recol- lect and to write. In a foot-note I have al- luded to the statement, made in the book, about little bags filled with silver, which, Oviedo says, contained only mica. This, however, he distinctly attributes to a mis- print, not to a misstatement by the author.

On the whole, the difference between the two documents is so slight that there has been no occasion to publish the Letter to the Audiencia also. This is fully established by the communications of the Viceroy, Mendoza, notwithstanding Her- rera says he returned to Spain with his companions.

The objection may be re- moved, however, by supposing, as is very likely, that the Letter was writen in Mex- ico, when the three were still together.

A very serious objection to the credibility of the three narratives, however, arises from the fact that all are based upon recollections only, and not upon journals comentarioss field-notes of any kind. It was, of course, impossible for the outcasts, shifted and shifting from tribe to tribe, to keep any written record of their trip. At the end of the eight years of constant misfortune and suffering, memory clings most to personal vicissitudes, and the narra- tive of these does not appear exaggerated.

It is acknowledged that through Cabeza de Vaca the first knowl- I caveza of the buffalo reached Europe, and his I description of the hunchbacked cows, while-‘ very brief, is quite accurate. Still, many may yet prove to be of ethnologic value,- The general picture of the condition of these tribes is very likely to be exact, while, on the other hand, many details are probably misstated, df having been misunder- stood or superficially observed.

Indian medicine itself bases largely upon conceptions of the kind, and empirical hypnotism plays a part in the per- formances of their medicine-men. Cabeza de Vaca, unconsciously and by distinct methods, imitated the Indian Shamans and probably succeeded, in at least many cases, since the procedure was new and striking.

That they attributed their success to the di- rect aid of divine power was in strict accord- ance with the spirit of the times and by no means to their discredit. On the contrary, there is a commendable modesty in their dis- claimer of merits of their own. It should also not be forgotten that men in their ex- ceptional situation, without reasonable hope of salvation, relentlessly persecuted by mis- fortune and the worst hardships for many years, have their imagination finally raised to the higest pitch, and exaggerations and misconceptions become therefore excusable.

There is no doubt that they sincerely be- lieved their own statements. In regard to the route followed by the outcasts, there are but very few ascertained points. Opinions vary so much that I shall not attempt to trace the course of their wan- derings except by referring to the sketch- map appended. The route traced is a mere suggestion of possible approximations, as stated on it. It will certainly be modified by the results of investigations in the coun- tries themselves, which I have not been and am not able to carry on myself.


The title of this the text of which was taken from the Edition of reads: It is well known that the two volumes of Vedia’s reprints of older narratives and histories touching upon America form a part of the voluminous col- lection entitled, Bihlioteca de Autores Espa- noles, published at Madrid, and that the two volumes of Vedia were printed in Of English translations there have ap- peared thus far three: Relation of the Ueet in India, ivhereof Pamphilus Naruaes was gouernor.

This translation is just- ly prized. In the French language there is the well- known translation by H. Ternaux Compans in the first series of his collection: A word yet touching the translation here given. The narrative of Cabeza de Vaca is yery difficult to translate for the reason, that the criticism by Oviedo about its lack of clearness is too well founded. Many parts of chapters and also whole chapr- ters are so confused that it is impos- sible to follow the original more than re- motely, and paraphrasing had to be resorted to.

Even then, in several instances, the meaning remains possibly somewhat ob- scure. It is as if the author, in consequence of long isolation and constant intercourse with people of another speech, had lost touch with his native tongue. There is less of this in his later work, the Comentarios, written after a number of years of uninterrupted in- tercourse with his countrymen. New York City, March 28, The fleet he took along consisted of five vessels, in which went about men.

The officials he had with him since they must be mentioned were those here named: We arrived at the Island of Santo Domingo, where we remained nearly forty-five days, supplying ourselves with necessary things, especially horses. Here more than men of our army forsook us, who wished to re- main, on account of the proposals and prom- ises made them by the people of the country.

From there we started and arrived at San- tiago a port in the Island of Cuba where, in the few days that we remained the Gov- ernor supplied himself again with people, arms and horses. It happened there that a gentleman called Vasco Porcallo, a resi- dent of la Trinidad which is on the same islandoffered to give the Governor certain stores he had at a distance of leagues from the said harbor of San- tiago.

The Governor, with the whole fleet, sailed for that place, but midways, at a port named Cape Santa Cruz, he thought best to stop and send a single vessel to load and bring these stores. Therefore he ordered a certain Captain Pantoja to go thither with his craft and directed me to accompany him [A. Arrived at the port of Trinidad with these two vessels.

Captain Panto j a went with Vasco Porcallo to the town which is one league from there in order to take possession of the supplies. I remained on board with the pilots, who told us that we should leave as soon as possible, since the harbor was very- unsafe and many vessels had been lost in it. Now, since what happened to us there was very remarkable, it appeared to me not un- suitable, for the aims and ends of this, my narrative, to tell it here.

The next morning the weather looked ominous. It began to rain, and the sea roughened so that, although I allowed the men to land, when they saw the weather and that the town was one league away, many came back to the ship so as not to be out in the wet and cold.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca – Wikipedia

But I excused myself, stating that I could not leave the ships. At noon the canoe came again with an- other letter, repeating the request with much insistency, and there was also a horse for me to go on. I gave the same reply as the first time, saying that I could not leave the vessels.

But the pilots and the people begged me so much to leave and hasten the transportation of the stores to the ships, in order to be able to sail soon, from a place where they were in great fear the ships would be lost in case they had to remain long.