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 Official Agent. They were to establish a colony in North America. 300 men and 42 horses landed in Florida on April 7, 1528, then wandered northwest fighting Indians, mosquitos and hunger. Planning escape, Narvaez built five barges to transport his army to Mexico, Spain's nearest outpost on the continent. [His boat-building-port was visited by Hernando de Soto's army in 1539 when they followed his Florida trail to it.] Narvaez sailed west along Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
That fall two barges with Vaca and 92 sick men wrecked at Last Island, Louisiana. All but 15 of them died due to cold weather, illness, thirst or torture. Most others, on the Narvaez led barges, suffered worse fates. Cabeza de Vaca spent six years near Last Island, practicing the science of healing, before escaping west with three other survivors, traveling naked like natives thru Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and, finally, Mexico. They passed from village to village, eating whatever they could find, often accompanied by 100's of natives. In 1536 they arrived in Mexico City. The following year Vaca returned to Spain and published the oldest history we have of our Southernmost States.
Cabeza de Vaca's Background Florida Landing Site Search
SUMMARIES of De Vaca's:
FULL ANNOTATED NARRATIONS of CABEZA DE VACA's EXPEDITION: