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 in 1528 then wandered northwest fighting Indians, malaria and starvation. To escape, Narvaez built five boats to transport 242 survivors to Mexico, Spain's nearest outpost on the continent. [His trail to this point was verified by Hernando de Soto's army in 1539 when they followed much of it.] Narvaez sailed west along Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
That fall two boats with Vaca and 80 sick men wrecked on Last Island, Louisiana. All but 15 of them died due to cold weather, illness and torture. Most others on the boats with Narvaez suffered worse fates. Cabeza de Vaca spent six years near Last Island, practicing the science of healing, before heading 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 sailed back to Spain and published the oldest history we have of our Southernmost States.
Cabeza de Vaca's Background Florida Landing Front Page
SUMMARIES of De Vaca's:
FULL ANNOTATED NARRATIONS of CABEZA DE VACA's EXPEDITION: