Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (ca. 1488/1490–ca. 1558) was a Spanish explorer of the New World. He is remembered as a proto-anthropologist for his detailed accounts of the many tribes of Native Americans. He is also remembered as one of four survivors of the Pánfilo de Narváez expedition to Florida in 1527.
After surviving that trek, Cabeza de Vaca returned to Spain and wrote an account of his travels, first published in 1542 as La Relación (The Report), and later known as Naufragios (Shipwrecks). He was appointed governor of New Andalusis in 1540, and held the position until 1544. Cabeza de Vaca was unusually sympathetic to the native people, and soon lost support among the ruling class and was sent back to Spain. He died a poor man around 1558.
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca in "Eyewear"
In 1532, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was the de facto leader of the last survivors of the Pánfilo de Narváez expedition. Along with him were Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, Dorantes' Moorish slave, Estevánico, and Alonso del Castillo Maldonado. They had no choice but to cross New Spain on foot, and each day before sunset, Cabea del Vaca would dramtically announce that the "Christians are that way".
One day, the group came to a crossroads. When a debate arose as to which route they should take, Estevánico put on a pair of spectacles, and selected the path favored by Cabeza de Vaca. He explained to the others how he'd found the eyewear on guard duty two nights prior, and that the eyewear could give the wearer clues as to the best course of action. The other three wore it in turn, and were amazed and concerned by the device. While Castillo worried that the eyewear might be a trick of Satan, Cabeza de Vaca disagreed, pointing out that Satan wouldn't need to go to such lengths. However, Dorantes decided that Estevánico should use the eyewear exclusively, on the off-chance they were somehow a Satanic trap.
They continued on. While they were on the correct path, they couldn't move very fast. They frequently came to Native villages, where, thanks to the eyewear, they had success as healers. The Spaniards also preached Christianity to the natives. With Estevánico as their "compass", they made contact with Spanish soldiers near Culiacán in 1636. Upon their contact with the Spanish, the group tacitly agreed to say nothing of the eyewear. The group then made their way to Mexico City. Cabeza de Vaca never saw Estevánico again.
Domingo Martínez de Irala
|Governor of New Andalusia
Domingo Martínez de Irala