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A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca

3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  545 ratings  ·  95 reviews
In 1528, a mission set out from Spain to colonize Florida. But the expedition went horribly wrong: Delayed by a hurricane, knocked off course by a colossal error of navigation, and ultimately doomed by a disastrous decision to separate the men from their ships, the mission quickly became a desperate journey of survival.Of the three hundred men who had embarked on the journ ...more
ebook, 316 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Basic Books (AZ)
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John Caviglia
One of the strangest and most fascinating failures in the annals of the Spanish exploration of the New World….

After Hernán Cortés beat him out to the conquest of Mexico, Pánfilo de Narváez convinced Carlos V to grant him the right to explore and colonize land between more northern latitudes (which included northern Mexico and Florida). He put together a large expedition and sailed from Cuba intending to land in Río de las Palmas, Mexico. Instead (in what must be one of the worst navigational ga
Andrés Reséndez’s A Land So Strange reads more like an adventure novel than a dry history text, along the lines of Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild or some of the classic survival tales of polar exploration. In large part, Reséndez is able to accomplish this by the use of endnotes. By moving most of the scholarly debate to the end of the text, the controversies don’t disrupt the flow of the narrative. As a historian, I read the endnotes as they were referred to in the text, being more interested in ...more
Ryan Mishap
“The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca.” This book tells the tale of a failed colonizing attempt made in 1528 by a group of three hundred Spaniards. Due to poor navigation, they didn’t land on what is now the east coast of Mexico, but in what is now Florida. Above a hundred men put ashore and started marching west, thinking they would hit a river that was far away across the sea. By 1536, only three men survived—de Vaca, Dorantes, del Castillo, and Esteban (a slave originally from Africa)—found by ...more
A charming little book. I can't believe this actually really ever happened. Such a nice window into the Pre-Columbian World I call home. Texas sure is a hard scrapple place, I can't imagine living on nothing more than pecans and prickly pears. I read a little bit of Cabeza de Vaca's original journal to see how much Resendez had to go off of and I really respect his assumptions and the narrative liberties that he took.
The amazing story of Cabeza de Vaca and his companions (known more as his story because he recorded it shortly afterwards). Great detail about America (Mexico, Texas, and Florida) during the time of Indian and European contact. Well footnoted. I could have skimmed the first two chapters, however, and the book could have used one more edit as sometimes redundant sentences appeared oddly close together. ... Also good is this book That book as well as this "Land So Strange" really bury the idea th ...more
The story is amazing. The telling of the story is a bit dry, repeats facts a few times, and seems to struggle to find enough information to make a book.

Nevertheless, the story carries this historical tale of survival. Alvar Nunez Cabeza da Vaca, the Royal Treasurer, Captain Alonso del Castillo Captain Andres Dorantes and Dorantes' slave Estebanico are the sole survivors of 300 Spaniards who set off to form a new settlement in Florida in 1528. They are ship wrecked, build rafts, are enslaved and
The story is just incredible. The many references seem to make the events believable. I appreciate it that the author interprets some of the entries that de Vaca made in his journal which was written after his ordeal was over. It's also good that the author explains relevant things regarding people, culture, events and attitudes which relate to de Vaca's story. For example, de Vaca's memoirs were written and published during the Spanish Inquisition. That greatly influenced what he could say. I a ...more
This was a awesome story of how de Vaca survived, i would recommend this book to anyone that likes historical books as well as anyone that is into real life adventure stories. From Florida to a journey that took a decade get to Mexico, getting enslaved along the way making one interesting story of the life of one man and his fight for survival. It's simple read this book its a great and a historical page turner.
Joseph Stieb
In A Land So Strange, Andres Resendez narrates the harrowing journey of Cabeza de Vaca and three other survivors throughout the frontiers of the 16th century Spanish empire in North America. Using historical sources such as the testimonies of the three Spanish survivors and de Vaca’s own Narrative, Resendez skillfully recreates the experience of the voyagers and the lands and cultures through which they travelled. He is duly conscious of the limitations of these sources, especially in regards to ...more
Two years earlier you were the royal treasurer, a position that had been in the family for several generations, and living in Seville. Now you are sitting naked on a beach on an island of the coast of Texas a 1,000 miles from civilization and hoping that the island tribe will feed you rather than consume you.

Cabeza de Vaca chucked away a great job for the time and joined an expedition led by Narvaez who was hoping to what Cortex did in North America. The kind grated him all the land from Florid
this was a really great book. I thought it would just be about Spanish explorers coming to the New World, exploiting what they found, and we all get to read about it hundreds of years later. It was so much more. It tells how the explorers' expedition floundered, how men gave up on each other, and how faith got some of them through it. It was an interesting look at faith and slavery at that time, which I wasn't expecting. The Spanish had slaves when they came to the New World, and one was even an ...more
The gripping story of a doomed mission to North America -- and the four survivors who journeyed for a decade across the new world just discovered by C...more [close] The gripping story of a doomed mission to North America -- and the four survivors who journeyed for a decade across the new world just discovered by Christopher Columbus.
In 1528, a mission set out from Spain to colonize Florida. But the expedition went horribly wrong: Delayed by a hurricane, knocked off course by a colossal error o
A Land So Strange is a nice, engaging telling of a truly fascinating story--the catastrophic failure of an early Spanish attempt to colonize Florida and the long, tortuous travels of the dwindling number of survivors for years afterwards. In a way, it occupies the middle ground between two major books: Charles Mann's momentous, comprehensive and expansive pre-contact American history, 1491, and the powerful "you are there" feel of The Conquest of New Spain , conquistador Bernal Diaz' eyewitness ...more
Jan 28, 2008 Geoffrey rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of history/exploration
I was familiar with the story of Cabeza de Vaca from my study of colonial American history in college. The story is an absolutely amazing one: a Spanish explorer (conquistador) and his party set out to discover their granted land, and through a series of mistakes and bad decisions end up dooming the trip. Beginning the journey in Florida, the inital party of hundreds dwindles to tens and then single digits over the following years as the Spaniards (and one slave) struggle to survive attack, slav ...more
Growing up in Texas, I think I was exposed, more than most people, to the history of Cabeza de Vaca and Esteban’s desperate journey across the American Southwest and Mexico, and I always found it to be fascinating. So, I was pretty excited when this new book, detailing the story of the failed expedition and the unlikely survival of four explorers, came out to positive reviews. I immediately marked it to read.

And Resendez’s book didn’t disappoint. It’s well-written, and I appreciate that Resendez
Christopher Rex
A great "short" version of Cabeza de Vaca's incredible journey. I'm sure there must be longer, more detailed versions out there. However, for those looking for a highly-readable, brisk version of the tale, this is for you. Cabeza de Vaca's journey is up there as one of the great "survival/adventures" of all time. Essentially, he was the first European to experience parts of what is today the US South and Southwest and Northern Mexico - and he did so on foot and lost. It's amazing any of the memb ...more
Steev Baker
In re-reading Tony Horowitz's popular history account of the slow discovery of the Americas by Europeans (A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World), I came across the story of Cabeza de Vaca (yes, his name mean's "cow head") and his amazing sojourn in what would become the southwest United States. More than 200 years before the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, three Spaniards and an African were the first Europeans to see the land of the future USA. They lived in and traveled acro ...more
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS A SPOILER ALERT! Great book! It was so amazing to follow the miseries and adventures of the four survivors of this epic expedition. To me, the biggest mystery of the whole book was when the four men were within a two-day journey of Spanish-occupied coastline, but they turned WEST instead of continuing south along the shore. I wonder if they were truly inspired to continue a God-given journey of healing for the indigenous people. What survivors, though!
A fascinating account of a series of conquest miscues. In the 1520's Caballo de Vaca is the member of a mission to settle the Gulf Coast of Mexico, just south of the Rio Grande. Somehow the expedition departs Cuba heading to Mexico and winds up in Florida. Most of the party disembarks from the ship at Tampa bay and decides to proceed on foot toward their destination, only to find the going impossible. Facing starvation in a swamp, they elect to build crude rafts with sails and set out for Mexico ...more
How does one sail west out of Cuba and end up in Florida and think they've successfully sailed to their destination? This book did not play out quite as I expected it to. It's worth a read but there are huge gaps in the story. What starts out as great back story and an in depth story of the voyage suddenly becomes a paragraph or two devoted to an entire year of activity and a single chapter devoted to years of travel and captivity. Either the source material was so sparse there was no story to t ...more
If more history was written this way more people would read history. Resendez's recounting of Cabeza de Vaca's adventures and 10 year ordeal and travels from being shipwrecked on the Florida coast to arriving, basically as a captive in Mexico City is riveting. I have read Cabeza de Vaca's own journal which is not as captivating. Resendez is able to add depth and context to the story. A great read.
The story of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca is amazing, and his own account of his journey is frequently anthologized and readily available online. (Texas State University has a nice site that includes the full text: So why bother with this retelling when you can get the story directly from the man who lived it? Well, because 'A Land So Strange' does an excellent job of filling in the historical/social/cultural context surrounding Cabeza de Vaca and his jour ...more
Jonathan Self
Holy cow. What a great read. If you are a history buff I think you will truly appreciate what the author researched and put together here. I'm a Southerner and I was really into all the Native American facts that I was able to learn. I was also enjoying the Mexican history as well.
Just an amazing true story of three Spaniards and one North African slave who managed to survive a mistaken landfall on the west coast of Florida who walk for nine years across America to be found by other Spaniards on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Unbelievable not only for the resiliency of these explorers/conqueror/fanatical christian zealot missionaries but from the vivid descriptions of life lived on equal terms with and sometimes enslaved by Native Americans for nine years! Talk about a reve ...more
Remarkable story of survival and exploration across the American south from Florida to the Pacific, and the utopian conversion of the title character as conquistador left with nothing relying for years on the care of many communities of Native Americans.
John Saunders
Resendez brings to life the adventures of Cabeza de
Vaca, Estebanico and the other two survivors of
sixteenth century shipwreck. It is exciting to
learn about this neglected episode in the history
of the Americas. Estebanico and Cabeza de Vaca
both wanted peace and harmony with the native
population. Spaniards from the powerful elite in
Spain and Mexico wanted natives to be slaves. Too
bad that the point of view expressed by Cabeza
de Vaca didn't get a fair hearing. Our history
could have been different.
King Of
i dislike reading very much, i really did not want to read this when my teacher made us, however for some reason i could not put the book down! this is what i had been praying for since my passion for history started... my love is to really feel as though i were within a place in history, within a story. its almost as though the author got inside my head and made this book for me. upon finishing the book and submitting my essay for marks at school, i actually felt sad the journey with cabeza end ...more
I thought this would be more interesting and riveting. It was like reading a boring history text book. I only finished it because it was part of my book club. Ugh!
Having read Cabeza de Vaca's account, I was impressed with how much Dr. Resendez was able to bring the story to life. I liked the original narrative, but this made some of the more obscure or nonsensical sections of the tale, all of a sudden make sense. I really enjoyed reading it. I wish it had been a little more analytical- which probably would have taken away the readability of the book. Still I thought it could have used a little more analysis of the land and situation that Navarez' men foun ...more
a fascinating narrative about de Vaca's journey across America from Florida, through Mexico to California. de Vaca interacted with the native americans back in the early 16th century, first for years as a slave, then as a medicine-man healer who was revered and honored. This was the first time that vast numbers of indigenous tribes had ever encountered a white man. When de Vaca reconnected with the whites for the first time in many years in California, he was a change3d man. He advocated for pea ...more
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Adventure of Cabeza de Vaca. 2 22 May 19, 2008 09:23PM  
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