Saturday, February 5, 2011

Review: The Shipwrecked Men by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca

The Shipwrecked Men (Penguin Great Journeys)
by Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca
Penguin Classics (2007), Paperback, 160 pages

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (ca. 1492 – ca. 1560) was a Spanish explorer.
He took part in the 1527 Panfilo de Narvaez expedition to explore Florida.
Became famous writing in 1542 The Report, or The Shipwrecked Men. Six hundred men and five ships was reduced to four people.

Cabeza de Vaca’s story of the journey is brief but tells to the readers many important facts related to the first knowledge of the New World. Cabeza de Vaca’s point of view is not the usual of the conqueror, but like one of a modern anthropologist: accepting the people with their way of life, without judging or trying to change something.

Although there are several theories about the exact route of Cabeza de Vaca’s journey, it is known that they travelled across Dominican Republic, Cuba, Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico City where they have been rescued.

‘Since the lodges afforded so little shelter, people began to die, and five Christian quartered on the coast were driven to such extremes that they ate each other, until but one remained, who, being left alone, had no one to eat him.’ (page 50)

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