This story, “The Account” was written by Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca in 1527. Cabeza de Vaca was born in Jerez de la Frontera , Spain around 1490. He was from a wealthy family and was a successful soldier who was in the service of King Carlos V of Spain. “The Account” is the first example of Latino literature of an adventurer’s experience from Spain to the Florida coast in the United States. Cabeza de Vaca died in Seville, Spain between 1556 and 1564.
On June, 1527, Governor Panfilo de Narvaez, six hundred men, and six ships departed from the port of San Lucar de Barrameda on order of King Carlos V to conquer and govern the provinces of Cape Florida. They arrived and remained for forty-five days in Santo Domingo. After that they sailed to Santiago of Cuba where they stayed for a few days to supply with men, arms, and horses. Cabeza de Vaca and the rest of the men arrived in Trinidad, a town located on the same island. The weather conditions were really bad. There was a lot of rain and after the insistence of a town resident, Cabeza de Vaca decided to leave the ships and be in some place secure in town. The rest of the men stayed on the ships. When the storm finished, Cabeza de Vaca returned to the ships. He found fallen trees and disfigured bodies that were really difficult to recognize. Only six people and twenty horses were on the ships. Cabeza de Vaca and his men stayed on the island waiting for the Governor to arrive with his four ships. During this time, many of the men got sick and died. They didn’t have anything to eat. They slaughtered horses to survive. While they were waiting for the Governor to arrive, they built some small boats using resin from trees, and from the horses’ tails, they made rope.
When Cabeza de Vaca and a few survivors got to Florida, they were enslaved by the Indians. The whole time the survivors ate prickly pears and drank juice from this fruit from holes in the ground. The Indians didn’t have vessels, so the survivors skinned the horses’ legs to make something for carrying water. Sometimes the Indians gave pieces of meat to these men, but if the survivors tried to roast meat, the Indians would take back the meat and eat it.
The Indians were infidels (people without faith). They told a very strange thing to Cabeza de Vaca. The Indians said that a man called “Evil Thing,” came from the ground,had a small body, a beard, and never saw his face. This “Evil Thing” appeared when the Indians were dancing. Sometimes, this thing dressed as a woman and other times as a man. The Indians offered him food, but he never ate. When Cabeza de Vaca and the rest of the men heard about that story, they laughed and made fun of it. They told the Indians that the thing was evil, and they would no longer have to fear him if they became Christians. Cabeza de Vaca was so miserable during this time because he was so hungry and mistreated by the Indians.
I believe that it was really difficult for the Spaniards to get out of their original territory to go and explore other lands, especially when they didn’t know anything about the other territory or what kind of habitants lived in those places. The adventures that these people had were really extraordinary. When they didn’t have anything to eat and decided to kill the horses to survive or when they drank the pricky pears’ juice from the holes, they made in the ground, I was shocked. But if I think about it,that was how our ancestors lived. A lot of things change in time. When the Indians saw the “Evil Thing,” it was something that made them afraid, and after the Spanish people converted them to Christians, that fear went away. The Indians didn’t have a choice to be or not to be Christians. Today everyone is free to choose their religion, and I am happy to live in this century. This story to me was very exciting, but it was published in 1542, I think the real truth disappeared through the years, and we will never know the original version of this story.
This is part of “The Account” a story from Cabeza de Vaca when he and six hundred men foot land in Florida coast in 1527.