by Donald E. Sheppard
In 1527 the Panfilo de Narvaez expedition left Spain with 5 ships, 600 men and Cabeza de Vaca as the King's Agent. They were to establish a colony in North America. 300 men and 42 horses landed in South Florida in 1528 then wandered northwest fighting Indians, malaria and dysentery. To escape that hostile country they built boats and coasted west along the Gulf of Mexico toward Mexico, Spain's nearest outpost on the continent.
That Winter two of the boats containing 80 sick men wrecked on East Island, Louisiana. All but 15 of those men died due to cold weather, hunger and disease. The fate of those in the other boats is unknown. Cabeza de Vaca spent 6 years on East Island before heading west again, traveling like a Native thru Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Passing from village to village, eating flowers, roots, sweet fruits and nuts, he and three others practiced the science of healing, then moved on, often accompanied by 100's of native well-wishers. In 1536 they arrived in Mexico City where Cabeza wrote the oldest history of today's America.