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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary man -- an extraordinary story!
Cabeza de Vaca's first hand narrative of his experiences in the New World is one of the most gripping true life adventure stories that you can find.

The story is almost five hundred years old. It begins with his selection as treasurer for a Spanish invasion force of six hundred that was intended to conquer Florida (then thought to be an island), sieze the...
Published on September 10, 2006 by Alex Lint

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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tale by de Vaca himself of his trials in America
Hard to follow at times, you get confused as to how many people are actually following him! It is sometimes slow reading. Yet, the informantion in the book is good.
Published on December 11, 1998


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary man -- an extraordinary story!, September 10, 2006
By 
Alex Lint (Deep in the Heart of Texas) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Castaways: The Narrative of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Paperback)
Cabeza de Vaca's first hand narrative of his experiences in the New World is one of the most gripping true life adventure stories that you can find.

The story is almost five hundred years old. It begins with his selection as treasurer for a Spanish invasion force of six hundred that was intended to conquer Florida (then thought to be an island), sieze the natives' gold and add their bodies to the Spanish crown while their souls would be dedicated the the Christian God.

Everything went wrong. A hurricane hit. The expeditionary force was separated from their ships and ended up marooned on the Florida Gulf Coast, surrounded by hostile, deadly Indians. Eventually, the survivors slaughtered their horses for food, then melted down their armor to make nails and built boats in the hope of finding their way to Mexico.

Many more men were lost before they made their way to what is now known as Galveston. The survivors experienced starvation, the cowardice of their leader, slavery and even cannibalism. Out of six hundred conquistadores, only four men survived.

Those four men walked across the rest of Texas, wandering almost aimlessly in a search for the Spanish colony of Mexico. By the time they finally arrived in Mexico, after years of privation, they were no longer the same self-sure conquerors who had sailed from Spain. They had developed a following of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Indians who hailed them as "Children of the Sun". Cabeza de Vaca, who had emerged as their leader, fit the description of an Old Testament prophet. His hair had not seen a comb or scissors for several years, while his feet had not seen shoes for almost as long.

Here's an extended quote from Chapter 19:

"A few days after these four Spaniards had departed there came a time of cold and storms so severe that ... five Christians who were encamped on the beach came to such straits that they ate one another until only one was left, who survived because there was no one left to eat him.... The Indians were so indignant about this, and there was so much outrage among them, that undoubtedly if they had seen this when it began to happen they would have killed the men, and all of us would have been in dire peril: in a word, within a very short time only fifteen of the eighty men from both parties who had reached the island were left alive; and after the death of these men, a stomach ailment afflicted the Indians of the land from which half of them died, and they believed it was we who were killing them; and as they were wholly convinced of this, they agreed among themselves to kill those of us who were left."

How's that for action? It's true that the narrative style itself is archaic and stilted at times. But this translation emphasizes simple modern English and cuts through a lot of the difficulty of reading a story that's half a millenium old.

I've read the story of Cabeza de Vaca two or three times over the years. In it, I see an almost mirror image many of the other explorers like De Soto or Cortez: a man who learned to view the New World in a different way, and who became a different man by the experience. His story has action, sure: hurricanes, starvation, slavery, faith healing, a stupid, greedy leader, and a cast of thousands. But at the heart of this journey is the journey of one man's heart.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely basic to anyone living in Texas and the Southwest, July 10, 1999
This review is from: Castaways: The Narrative of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Paperback)
To read so much live detail about the way of life of the original inhabitants of parts of Texas and the Southwest is to have one's very conceptions about these places changed. It's an amazing, short read and the editor helps with notes in critical places. I think this is basic reading for anyone even part-way interested in the history of Texas and neighboring states. Cabeza de Vaca's account covers hair-raising events which occurred in the 1530s right here on Galveston Island, so it gives a longer sense of post-Columbian history than one usually gets as a lay reader of Texas and Southwest history. I too don't know why more folks aren't talking about this book. I'm buying copies to give away.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible story, February 28, 2014
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This review is from: Castaways: The Narrative of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Paperback)
This is a tale that everyone should read. It gives an excellent glimpse into America hundred of years ago at what it took to survive.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tale by de Vaca himself of his trials in America, December 11, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Castaways: The Narrative of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Paperback)
Hard to follow at times, you get confused as to how many people are actually following him! It is sometimes slow reading. Yet, the informantion in the book is good.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And the Spaniards also suffer, April 2, 2007
This review is from: Castaways: The Narrative of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Paperback)
I have learned to dispise the Spanish colonizers for their actions in the New World. I have read enough of their sharpening their swords and practicing on the Native Americans and slaying the men, women and children of native settlements if they didn't convert to Christianity or produce enough gold. So this is a new perspective. This is a story of the Spanish colonizers failing and suffering through unimaginable hardship in a challenging hostile wilderness along the coast that is now, 500 years later, our destination of choice for retirement.

This is a nearly fantastic book, only nearly so because it is true (unless De Vaca embelished his story). If you are intrigued with pre-settlement America and the cultures of Native Americans you will appreciate this read in addition to the survival story. This is a look at Florida and Texas in a different era. This is a story about the ambitions of Spain and the privations men could endure for their religion and their country. Even the style of the writing adds to the true insight into the time and perspective on their outlook on the new world. The chapter titles such as "Of What Befell Lope de Oviedo with Some Indians" and "How We Departed After Eating the Dogs" give you the idea of how the book is structured in addition to how they suffered.

In many historical accounts the Spanish are said to have believed that the New World was the dominion of the devil and all its' people,lands, forests and creatures were works of the devil. It is in accounts like this that you can start to gain some perspective on this and understand their reasoning and belief despite how wrong it is today.
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Castaways: The Narrative of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
Castaways: The Narrative of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Paperback - September 23, 1993)
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