Narváez’s and Cabeza de Vaca’s Expeditions (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: Four survivors of the expeditions are the first Europeans to see the Gulf coast and the Southwest.
Summary of Event
After the conquest of the Aztecs in 1521, Spain had expanded its empire from a few islands to include Mexico, or New Spain (Mexico). Operating from bases in the Caribbean, Juan Ponce de León and other Spanish explorers had also explored and established a short-lived colony in Florida. These expeditions fueled the imagination of other Spaniards, and after the conquest of Mexico, Florida acquired important strategic value. In 1527, the Crown approved another expedition to Florida, to be commanded by Pánfilo de Narváez, a veteran of the conquests of Cuba and Mexico. The treasurer and second-in-command of the expedition was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.
Although he had not been to America, Cabeza de Vaca had an impressive military background and pedigree. His mother’s surname, which means “head of the cow,” was an honorary title her family had received when an ancestor marked a mountain pass with a cow’s skull that enabled the Christians to surprise the Muslims in a crucial battle. His paternal grandfather, Pedro de Vera, was the conqueror of the Gran Canary, and Cabeza de Vaca grew up with native Guanche slaves from the Canary Islands and his grandfather’s stories of conquest and adventure. Born around 1490, Cabeza de Vaca reached manhood during Spain’s imperial...
(The entire section is 1549 words.)
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