The Account: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación

By Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca; Martin A. Favata et al. | Go to book overview
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Proem 1

Holy, Imperial, Catholic Majesty: 2

Among all the princes we know to have existed in the world, I think that none could be found whom men have endeavored to serve with such great diligence and desire as we see that they serve Your Majesty today. Very clearly one can recognize that this is not without great cause and reason, for men are not so blind that all would follow this path without a purpose. For we see that not only native countrymen obligated by faith and loyalty do so, but even foreigners make an effort to serve you because it is to their advantage. But although the desire and will to serve makes them all alike, there is a great difference, caused not by their own fault, but rather by fortune, or more correctly, through no one's fault, but only by the will and wisdom of God. Thus it happens that one does more distinguished deeds than he expected, and things are so reversed for another that the only thing he can show of his purpose is diligence. And even this diligence is sometimes so hidden that it cannot be noticed.

For myself 3 I can say that, regarding the journey I made to the Spanish Main 4 by order of Your Majesty, in truth I thought that my deeds and service would be as distinguished and manifest as those of my ancestors, and that I would have no need to speak in order to be reckoned among those who administer and deal with Your Majesty's charges with complete faith and great care and are therefore honored. But, since my counsel and my diligence were of litle avail in accomplishing the task for which we went in the service of Your Majesty, and since God permitted, because of our sins, that of all the expeditions that ever went to those lands, no other encountered such great dangers or had such a miserable and disastrous outcome, 5 I can render only this service: to bring to Your Majesty an account of what I learned and saw in the ten years 6 that I wandered lost and naked through many and very strange lands, noting the location of lands and provinces and the distances between them as well as the sustenance and animals produced in each, and the diverse customs of the many and very barbarous peoples with whom I came into contact and lived, and all the other particulars which I could observe and know, so that Your Majesty should be served in some way by this. For although I always had very little hope of escaping from them, I always took great care and diligence to remember the particulars of everything, so that if at some time God our Lord wished to bring me to the place where I now am, I could give witness to my will and desire to serve Your Majesty.

Since my account of this is, in my opinion, prudent and not frivolous, for the sake of those who go to conquer those lands and also to bring the inhabitants to a knowledge of the true faith and true Lord and to the service of

-28-

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