Create a 2 pages page paper that discusses alvar nuez cabeza de vaca: texas campaign. Introduction Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca is debatably the “first European of historic importance to set foot on the soil of present-day Texas”. In early November 1528, he and about eighty other Spaniards and an African slave named Estevanico sailed to the Texas coast to the west of present-day Galveston Island. Over the next eight years, “Cabeza de Vaca experienced hardships and misfortunes that would have defeated a lesser man. He not only survived incredible odysseys in Texas and Mexico, which he later recorded in his Relación (account), but also entered the annals of colonial Texas as its first merchant, geographer, historian, ethnologist, and physician-surgeon”. He also experienced extraordinary individual intensification and came to accept Indians on their own terms. In the first book published on portions of the future United States of America, Cabeza de Vaca shaped our earliest impressions of the land that became Texas, and his subtle influence may still be seen in the contemporary Lone Star State, where he reigns as the “patron saint” of the Texas Surgical Society.


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Don Alvar also remembered attractive particulars about the Yguazes. He described them “as well-built archers”. But their main food came not from hunting. Rather, they “dug two or three varieties of roots, which were hardly ideal foodstuffs in that they caused severe bloating”. Furthermore, the roots were difficult to dig, required two days of roasting, and were bitter to the palate. The Yguazes occasionally supplemented their diet with deer and fish, but they were often so hungry that they ate “spiders, ant eggs, worms, lizards, salamanders, snakes and poisonous vipers.” Their diet also included dirt, rotten wood, and even deer dung. Besides these named foods, the Yguazes consumed “other things” that Cabeza de Vaca could not bring himself to record. One may well wonder what these “unmentionables” might have been! Don Alvar added a concluding thought that “my observations lead me to believe that they would eat stones if there were any in that land.

Cabeza de Vaca discovered the trained eye of an ethnologist by memorizing the things that he saw and by asking good questions. For example, “he observed that the Mariames regularly killed infant daughters and fed their bodies to dogs. When asked why they would do such a seemingly cruel and irrational act, the Indians replied that it was an unseemly thing to marry them to relatives, an option no doubt proscribed by incest taboos”. The substitute was to marry daughters outside the group, “but since the Mariames were surrounded by more numerous and powerful tribes with whom they were constantly at war, married daughters would bear children that strengthened their enemies”.

Cabeza de Vaca found the Yguazes to be missing in character, given as they were to robbery, drunkenness, and misrepresentation. He also recorded his thoughtful aversion for sodomites among this hunting and congregation culture, who were “so repulsive that they candidly have another man for a wife” and so effeminate that they “do not recognize a thing about men but executed every activity pertaining to women.” On the other hand, don Alvar marveled at other Yguaze men with astonishing physical stamina, which permitted them to pursue deer on foot, for they could “run from morning to night without resting or becoming tired.” In times when food was plentiful, such as during the harvest of prickly pear cactus, he described the Indians as especially merry, “because they are not hungry then and spend all their time dancing.” Not surprisingly, these Indians suffered terribly from plagues of mosquitoes, which Cabeza de Vaca with the eye of a naturalist discerned as three distinct species. To ward off the insects, the Indians burned damp firewood because it emitted a lot of smoke. The downside to this means of insect repellent, as campers can attest, is eyes that water all night, and the Spaniards and Estevanico also found their sleep interrupted by a sharp kick or beating by an Indian when it was time to gather more firewood. Despite the best efforts of the Iguazes, Cabeza de Vaca described those who suffered the most severe reaction to mosquito bites as resembling lepers or the Biblical Lazarus.


As governor of Asuncion, Cabeza de Vaca gave particular notice to Indians under his authority, decreeing that those who were ill-treated by their masters be placed under more kind hands. He also imposed limitations on Spaniards who held Indian women in concubinage and on the prohibited trade of Indian slaves. However, Cabeza de Vaca could do nothing about the foundation of slavery itself, for the New Laws of 1542-1543, which eradicated Indian servitude, had not been promulgated in the Americas.


1. Steffen W. Schmidt, Barbara A. Bardes, Mack C. Shelley., American Government and Politics Today: The Essentials.

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