Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (Dictionary of World Biography: Renaissance)
Article abstract: Cabeza de Vaca’s capture by Native Americans in Texas gave him the chance to explore the region in detail and write an invaluable account of the people and topography of Texas and northern Mexico that stimulated further exploration.
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was born at the end of the fifteenth century in a town near Cadiz. Sources differ about the exact year of his birth, with estimates ranging from 1490 to 1500. He was the oldest of the four children of Francisco de Vera and Teresa Cabeza de Vaca. The young man used his mother’s surname because of its honored association in Spain with the struggle against the Islamic Moors. At a battle in 1212, an ancestor used a cow’s head to designate an unmarked pass for Christian soldiers against the Moors. As a result of this action, which helped to win the victory, the ruler at the time gave the name “Cow’s Head” to the ancestors of Cabeza de Vaca’s mother.
Cabeza de Vaca’s parents died when he was young, and he lived with an aunt and uncle until he launched his career as a soldier. He began as a page while still in his teens and was involved in fighting in Italy. He received serious wounds at a battle near the Italian town of Ravenna in 1512. During the next fifteen years, Cabeza de Vaca fought in battles with the armies of the Spanish king against rebels and also in struggles with the French in Navarre.
(The entire section is 1894 words.)
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