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The Journey and Ordeal of Cabeza de Vaca
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The Journey and Ordeal of Cabeza de Vaca (Texas Archaeology and Ethnohistory)

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  922 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Of the 300 Spanish explorers who set out to discover and conquer the wilderness of North America, only four returned — after covering about 6,000 miles in the course of eight harrowing years. Cabeza de Vaca's incredible account of his 1528-1536 expedition of what is now the southern and southwestern United States and northern Mexico is unparalleled in the history of explor ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published November 2nd 2011 by Dover Publications (first published 1542)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,730)
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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
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
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 (ex-Groot)
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
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
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
Natasha GJ Nanny Nakia
En el libro Naufragios, el conquistador español Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca nos narra sus aventuras, con la compañía de otros cuatro náufragos, cuando cruzaron a pie, durante ocho años, Estados Unidos y México.
Lo más importante de esta autobiografía es que muestra a Cabeza de Vaca como el verdadero descubridor de América del Norte, que detalla con gran detalle las poblaciones indígenas mexicanas y que incorpora al lenguaje castellano varias palabras de origen americano.
La obra fue publicada en 1
...more
Jacob
People hate Columbus because he represents the end to the buffalo and wild berries and peace pipes and rain dances that were the daily norm before the white man arrived with his gold mints and white picket fences. And it's true - this world is worse for the wear. But, if you read Cabaza de Vaca's account of his five year captivity among different tribes across the Southern United States and Northern Mexico (as they stand now) the idyllic world of the Native American grinds to a draught-ridden, b ...more
Rachel Niemeyer
Cabeza de Vaca's own account of the nine years he spent lost and wandering in the North American wilderness. He went to conquer, convert, and find gold. He came home naked and penniless. This narrative reads like an epic novel - shipwrecks, hurricanes, slavery, starvation, and miraculous healings - and that's just in the first few years of Cabeza de Vaca's adventure. This book is so interesting, in fact, that some of it is hard to believe, and I wouldn't be surprised if he embellished a bit. Ret ...more
Mike
A real imagination capturer. This translated version of Relacion by Cyclone Covey, takes any amateur traveler, or narrative fan, deep into what we have come to call the American Southwest and Northern Mexico, but one senses the awe both Spaniards and Native Americans felt in this experience that anyone should read. There is a lot to be learned here.

The magnetism of Cabeza de Vaca's journey, and writing, continue to inspire more research and writing. Historian Andres Resendez recently came out wi
...more
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“If one lives where all suffer and starve, one acts on one's own impulse to help. But where plenty abounds, we surrender our generosity, believing that our country replaces us each and several. This is not so, and indeed a delusion. On the contrary the power of maintaining life in others, lives within each of us, and from each of us does it recede when unused. It is a concentrated power. If you are not acquainted with it, your Majesty can have no inkling of what it is like, what it portends, or the ways in which it slips from one.” 0 likes
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