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The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca (Texas Archaeology and Ethnohistory)

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  942 ratings  ·  126 reviews
This edition of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Relación offers readers Rolena Adorno and Patrick Charles Pautz's celebrated translation of Cabeza de Vaca’s account of the 1527 Pánfilo de Narváez expedition to North America. The dramatic narrative tells the story of some of the first Europeans and the first-known African to encounter the North American wilderness and its Nati ...more
Paperback, 204 pages
Published May 1st 2003 by University of Nebraska Press (first published 1542)
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Erik Simon
1500's, some Spanish ships wash up in Florida, and one guy (Cabeza de Vaca, which implausibly means "The Cow's Head") and his small crew end up crossing the continent to California. And living to write about it.

Years ago, when I lived in Boise, Idaho (I know, who the hell ever lives in Boise?), I saw a foreign film of this and assumed it was fiction. Had no idea the shit actually happened. Or did it?

That's the question hanging over the book. What's true, what isn't? In this book, as in life, I'm
...more
Yann
Deux excellents témoignages, rares, de Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca,un conquistador espagnol qui va se retrouver un première fois perdu en Floride et va errer pendant 10 ans parmi les natifs, de 1527 à 1536, tour a tour esclave, colporteur puis guérisseur miraculeux. Cet exemple montre très admirablement tout l'avantage qu'on peut trouver à abuser la crédulité des hommes pour sauver sa vie, sa liberté et convertir ses persécuteurs en serviteurs dévoués.

Le narrateur finit par retrouver des chrétien
...more
Marti
While much of this story is true, the author (whose name literally means Cow's Head) seems to have embellished to the point where he portrays himself as almost a Christ like faith healer among the Native Americans of 1527 (he had a reason to want to make himself look good to the King of Spain). It's still pretty amazing that he survived this disastrous expedition at all. He seems to have spent 10 years wandering the southern U.S. from the Florida Panhandle to what is Modern Day California or Mex ...more
John
This is a fascinating first-hand account of Cabeza de Vaca's wandering exploration of North America in the early 1500s. Essentially abandoned in NW Florida, Cabeza de Vaca wanders the gulf coast as far as Galveston, then heads inland through northern Mexico, where he develops a reputation as a faith healer. He eventually reunites with Spanish colonials in Culiacan in NW Mexico, after wandering for 9 years and learning more about he native populations of the New World than anyone. His book was wr ...more
Invadozer Saphenousnerves Circular-thallus Popewaffensquat

Having seen the movie with the same title a few times I
found out this amazing book and slammed my head between
the pages like a maniac. I, expecting a pagan
psychotic ranting El Topo type, read that the Spaniard Cabeza
explores the North American continent addled and spun with
thoughts stuck in the Catholic religion. In the movie he's
made into a witch doctor. In the book he's made into a
witch doctor. However, he does everything in God's name
with the sign of the cross over the sick and heals
them. He
...more
Wendy
One of the fascinating aspects of this account is the way it occurs in a space of which the writer has no concept, at the time of his trials and wanderings, or even later, when he has returned home. Everything seems to happen in an indeterminate place, one for which no map is known, and no coordinates exist. I haven't read anything else that gave me so clear an idea of what it was like for Europeans and Native Americans to meet before each one's sense of the other had gelled, at a point when thi ...more
Christopher
Cabeza de Vaca went to Florida in 1528, wound up marooned probably on Galveston Island, lived among Native American groups for many years, and basically walked to Mexico. It's an astonishing story, full of interesting ethnographic details. He draws a very clear portrait of the Capoques, a hunter-gatherer group with whom he lived for over a year, and the last segment of his journey through the southwest and northern Mexico was just amazing. He and the three remaining members of his expedition wer ...more
David
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish nobleman and conquistador, stranded in Galveston, Texas after the failure of the Narvaez expedition in 1528. He and several companions then spent the next 8 years living and traveling in various parts of the American Southwest and Mexico, sometimes trading and sometimes being enslaved. His detailed accounting of the geography, flora and fauna, peoples, languages, and customs he encountered during his nearly 6,000 mile trek make him an early anthropologist ...more
Sheehan
I have seen the author referenced in any number of early Caribbean and Gulf histories, never got around to reading the root text. Found this copy in the donate box at the Library and figured it was worth a read finally.

It was worth it, if only to dip into a memoir of what travel and exploration entailed in the 16th Century, in short, it was NO JOKE! The disparity in the simplest of transit woes between 21st century me an Cabesa de Vaca are so vast as to make any concern I have in the modern day
...more
Silvina
Me pareció muy aburrido. Pero a la vez interesante por la historia que cuenta. No podía creer que todo haya sido real. Pobre Alvar Nuñez que tuvo que pasar todo eso y sobrevivir sin conocer nada y aprovechandose de los indios (obviamente).
Me alegró que sobreviviera y que volviera a Castilla. Aunque ya sabia que eso sucedia.
Es un libro que no leería por placer (lo hice por mis estudios). Pero es interesante sin dudas.
Gabriel Oak
Cabeza de Vaca's narrative is among the most idiosyncratic of any first contact narrative. He spent nine years wandering what is now northern Mexico and the southwestern US after the Narvaez expedition met with disaster on the gulf coast of Florida. In comparison with other explorers, Cabeza de Vaca is remarkable for his openness to native cultures and his acknowledgment of the brutality and greed characterizing the conquest. It's an incredible story of survival, and Cabeza de Vaca's narrative v ...more
Jessica
300 men go on a journey to explore Florida. Four survive. One of these lucky few is Cabeza de Vaca, who provides this enthralling account of the thousands of Native American tribes that inhabit the region between the Florida panhandle and the Pacific Coast of Mexico.
William
This book is amazing. If by some random chance you read this tag, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Simply amazing.
Bob Schnell
This slip of a book is the memoir of a Spanish conquistador who failed to conquer. Cabeza de Vaca writes the story of his travails in the New World as a kind of explanation to King Charles I of what he was doing and why he should be allowed to lead another expedition. During his time in what is now the American Southwest, he learned to live with the Native tribes and find himself occupation, first as a trader then as a faith healer. There are plenty of wild exaggerations to make the modern reade ...more
Rachel Ninnette
Why, oh why was I forced to read this?
Marty
Yes, I love the history of the great explorers, cultures, and conquerers of the new world, but in that vast historiography, Cabeza de Vaca's account seemed low on the totem pole for me. Instead of exploring the historically rich and advanced cultures of Mesoamerica or the Andes region, he wandered around in Texas. (If that sounded like a slight to Texas, it wasn't meant that way, but I have a feeling I'm going to offend some Texans by the end of this anyhow, so prepare yourselves Lone Star State ...more
Franklin Atherton
This is an excellent rendition of the story of Cabeza de Vaca's epic journey through what would become south Texas and Mexico. Published by R. R. Donnelley and Sons of Chicago, Illinois as another in their Lakeside Classics series, it was distributed to the employees of that fine company as a Christmas gift. The book itself could be difficult to find as it is not for sale to the public. Half Price Books or eBay might be an option, but once found, it is worth the trouble. This volume, and every v ...more
Bob
First published 4 years after Cabeza de Vaca's remarkable reappearance in Culiacan (and 12 after the start of his odyssey across North America) the narrative is disappointing because it lacks specificity. Only one native name is given in the book, and customs and places are described in vague terms.
The editor, who sees his role as interpreting "el fin con que fue escrita la obra," fails by putting so more stress on the work's style than the simple narrative can bear. Turning to dogs to preven
...more
Jeff
My students have to read a section of this from their textbook. It's their first assignment of the year for my class. So I thought I might read through the entire journal. It's as dry as you might expect, but there are some interesting things that reveal themselves through the course of the book. Most importantly is the change in de Vaca's interaction and attitude with the native population. The natives that he encounters near Galveston Island are described as much more vicious and savage than t ...more
Daniel L.
An Interesting Travel Story and an Important Anthropological Document

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's account certainly offers a fascinating tale of exploring - and surviving - an extremely hard and hazardous journey through what is now Florida, Texas, New Mexico, and Sinaloa (Mexico). However, it is more than that. Cabeza de Vaca offers a good deal of valuable information on the customs of various Native American tribes that lived in the geographic areas he surveyed, falling short only in the area
...more
Patrick Sprunger


The narrative of Cabeza de Vaca is short enough to read every few years. I've read two translations (and bogged down in the original 16th century Spanish original) and now believe it's a good idea to read a couple of different scholars' take on connotation and nuance.

Though on the surface the narrative seems to be a thrilling survival story (a la raft of the Medusa, Endurance), the real point of interest is how Cabeza de Vaca interpreted his perceived ability to perform miracles, on cue, in Go
...more
aPriL eVoLvEs
A short, but informative report to a Spanish king by a real conquistador who explored North America in the early 1500's. After nine years of death defying travel, he returns to Spain 'naked'. De Vaca is one of four survivors from five ships that set out from Spain with 600 men. This was written before the invention of novels, so the narrative is not satisfactory in terms of "well-written", and it is an English translation of 16th century Spanish, and it is a basically a cut and paste version of ...more
Lindsey
Wow. This is one of my first experiences reading about a historical figure (whom I learned of in school) from a "living book," instead of a textbook. Hearing about Cabeza de Vaca's trials in the New World straight from his own hand blew my mind. I literally remembered nothing about him from school, except his name (memorable) and that he was an explorer. Now I know that he wandered from Cuba, to the coast of Florida, to Texas, and beyond, with nearly every kind of misfortune you can imagine. Now ...more
Karson
This was a primary account of a wild adventure taken by some spaniards in the 1500's. Thier boat ported in Tampa Bay in Florida. They wondered around Florida for a bit, then sailed to the east coast of Texas. From there they went by foot over to the New Mexico/Arizona area, then south to Mexico City. That is where thier adventure ended. They started out with hundreds of men and ended up with four (I think.) The fact that anyone survived is incredible especially with the technology of that time p ...more
Graziano

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (ca. 1492 – ca. 1560) was a Spanish explorer.
He took part in the 1527 Panfilo de Narvaez expedition to explore Florida.
Became famous writing in 1542 The Report, or The Shipwrecked Men. Six hundred men and five ships was reduced to four people.

Cabeza de Vaca’s story of the journey is brief but tells to the readers many important facts related to the first knowledge of the New World. Cabeza de Vaca’s point of view is not the usual of the conqueror, but like one of a mo
...more
Abe Something
I didn't like the inclusion of in-text notes from the editor. I have to say that first in case you're considering reading de Vaca's narrative. There are other editions, this isn't the one to buy if you're looking to enjoy the original author's uninterrupted text.

Now, as for de Vaca's narrative it is enjoyable on many levels (it's a travel narrative, a loosely anthropological survey, a testament to Christianity, and a morality tale spun for the King) and reminded me of Marco Polo's travel narrat
...more
Theo Logos
For many, if not most Americans, early history of the Americas goes something like this - Columbus to the Pilgrims to the American Revolution, end of story. Unfortunately, this abbreviated tale not only leaves many gaps in knowledge, but bypasses some truly amazing stories. `Cabeza De Vaca's Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America' is one of the best examples of the incredible tales that are often overlooked from the early history of European exploration and conquest of the Americas.

This i
...more
Isidore
Castaways is a book full of sorrow, suffering, murder, torture, slavery, theft, starvation, cruelty, great lies, little lies, and everything else that can make a human being long for death.

Cabeza de Vaca joined the Narvaez expedition to Florida in 1527 with expectations that were quite normal for a Spanish aristocrat of his time; he wanted to plunder a wealthy, untouched land for all it had and convert every native he came across to Catholicism. To that end he set sail in a sizable fleet carryin
...more
Dusty
Interestingly, the most engaging of the chronicles of the Spanish conquest of the Americas is this chronicle of failure. In Spanish, the book is often known as Naufragios, which means Shipwrecks, and that's exactly what happens throughout, both literally and metaphorically. The story begins in 1527, when the Spaniard Pánfilo de Narváez led an expedition to colonize Florida. After various storms, wrecks, abandonments, kidnappings, and other calamities, only four of the men who had accompanied Nar ...more
Cyndi
Feb 24, 2010 Cyndi is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Cabeza de Vaca crossed Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico on foot in 1527 (he saw more of my country than I have). This is the official report of his travels; the first hand account of the first European to cross North America. How could something so important be so forgotten! This is an amazing adventure by a wise and compassionate Spaniard.

I tried to read Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreeen about Magellan's circumnavigation (1519), but the discussion of his t
...more
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