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#208 Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca

Posted By Karen Soto, Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was an explorer from Spain who came to the New World during the Narvaez expedition in 1527. Initially, the expedition was composed of about 600 men, and Cabeza de Vaca was one of four men that survived after having arrived in Tampa Bay. It was then up to them to colonize La Florida for Spain. Most of their voyage, however, was spent trying to leave Florida as it was found to be mostly swampy and uninhabitable. They decided to head for Mexico to meet the other Spanish explorers there by building makeshift boats. They were stranded on Galveston Island for some time struggling to survive. Cabeza de Vaca’s role changed all the time throughout this voyage. At first he was the treasurer but circumstances sometimes led him to be enslaved by native tribes. Even so, he developed a curiosity for Native Americans and his reflective diaries are considered to be some of the first documented anthropological work ever conducted. He also became somewhat of a shaman to the people that he encountered because he claimed divine power to be able to heal the sick and wounded. Native Americans sometimes referred to him and his company as the “children of the sun”. Cabeza de Vaca was thus important to the colonization of America as a whole, despite the fact that the Narvaez expedition was not all that successful. I am planting these native Florida seeds in honor of Cabeza de Vaca here in a swampy part of Tropical Park to commemorate one of the obstacles that deflected Cabeza de Vaca and company in their colonization of La Florida.


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