Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

Alvar that Panfilo de Naravez (Who had been

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de VacaBy: Tiffany Phan and Yasmeen HabbachiAlvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer. He was born in the year 1490, but the exact date is unknown. The place where he was born was Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. Cabeza de Vaca died on May 27, 1559, in Seville, Spain by natural causes. When he was young, his parents died, so he lived with his aunt and uncle. Cabeza de Vaca most likely had a comfortable early life. Once he was a teenager, he was appointed as a chamberlain for the house of a noble family. Later, he served the household in the battle of Ravenna in Italy in 1512. He returned in 1521 and enlisted in the crown’s army as an officer. In the summer of 1527, Cabeza de Vaca embarked with six hundred other men that Panfilo de Naravez (Who had been chosen by Emperor Charles V to lead the expedition) had assembled to explore Florida. He was chosen to be the second in command for the expedition. Unfortunately, because of a hurricane and logistical problems, the party landed in what is now Tampa Bay with only half of the original force and a limited number of supplies (food, weapons, horses, etc.) Cabeza de Vaca encouraged Naravez to stay close to the coast and the ship so that they could head back in a moment’s notice. The others, however, appealed to Naravez with the idea of heading inland and searching for treasure. Agreeing with this option, Panfilo de Naravez led most of the men into Florida while the others stayed behind on the ship. Naravez offered Cabeza de Vaca a chance to stay on the ship, but he refused the offer, saying that it would be a greater honor for him to join Naravez and the others on the expedition onward. Soon, the expedition ran into a group of Native Americans, and they forced the natives to find a supply of corn for them. The supply of gold in the village greatly surprised Naravez, and the Native Americans told them that in a nearby land called Apalachee, they would find more riches than they could ever want. Naravez hoped that Apalachee would rival the Aztecs in riches, and prepared to set out to find the village. However, the next day, the Native Americans surprisingly ambushed them in the morning, but then abandoned their village, forcing the expedition to rely on enslaved guides. Once Naravez, Cabeza de Vaca, and everyone else reached Apalachee, they were immediately caught in an ambush. Once they managed to beat the Natives back, they found a huge supply of corn in a village, but no gold. In the next town, the Apalachee Indians had unfortunately burned everything to the ground, so there was nothing left. Ambushes, diseases, and lack of food were starting to take a toll on the men, so they decided to go back to the ship, but it was nowhere to be found. Since their original mode of transportation was gone, the expedition made some makeshift boats to carry them across what is now the Gulf of Mexico. After two months, they set sail. However, months later while the fleet was still at sea, a storm broke out, destroying many of the ships. Many men died from drowning, and the others washed ashore near what is now Galveston Islands, Texas, where they then surrendered to a group of Natives armed with bows and arrows and bearing food to share. Naravez did not survive. Cabeza de Vaca wrote: “They are a very generous people, sharing whatever they had with others.” The Native Americans enslaved Cabeza de Vaca and gave him the job of gathering roots, which was normally done by the women. Cabeza de Vaca hated the way he was treated and decided that he wanted to run away to another tribe, where he hoped he would be treated better than he currently was. However, he met up with the only 3 other survivors of the expedition- Alonzo del Castillo Maldonado of Salamanca, Estavanico, Andrés Dorantes of Béjar, and an African-Moorish slave born in Açamo (Morocco). They were all slaves of different tribes. This situation made it nearly impossible for them to plan an escape, and they became very frustrated. After a while, though,  the four managed to escape to another tribe, and when they said they were healers, the tribe accepted them. Soon, other tribes gradually came to acknowledge them, and their reputation spread. Cabeza de Vaca also performed the first surgery in Texas.      In the late winter of 1536, Cabeza de Vaca confronted four Spaniards and took them to a small town called New Galicia. He then stayed in Mexico for a few months until he was able to return to Spain in 1537. Since Cabeza de Vaca was experienced in his expeditions, King Charles V. put him in charge of another expedition to Rio de la Plata, which is located in South America. His reign as the governor showed the lessons from his travels, though, because he sought to end the abuse of Native Americans. However, his motives were unpopular and unheard of, and the colonists rebelled against him in 1544 and sent him back to Spain. Once he arrived back at Spain, he faced the court for open hostility against the crown. Cabeza de Vaca did get off in 1552, when he received a pardon, but not before the Crown forbade him to go back to the New World. He then became a judge in Seville, Spain. He stayed a judge until his death on May 27, 1559. Although Cabeza de Vaca died a broken and vilified man, he died after finishing his memoirs. His memoirs are one of the few accurate descriptions of the “New World”, and are valuable. Cabeza de Vaca was one of the first to report on the inner areas of present day Florida, and was the first to explore what is now Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, although he was a slave for the Natives at one time and a “famous” Healer for them at another. Because of him, we discovered the Southwest Area of the United States. He was a role model for other conquistadors, and because of him, we know of the Southwest today.

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