The Account: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación

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

CHAPTER SIXTEEN
How the Christians Left the Isle of Misfortune

After Dorantes and Castillo returned to the island they gathered together all the Christians who were scattered about and discovered that there was a total of fourteen. As I said, I was on the other side, on the mainland, where my Indians had taken me. There I had gotten so sick that nothing could have given me hope of surviving my illness. When the Christians learned of this, they gave an Indian the sable mantle that we had taken from the chief, 1 as we noted above, to take them to where I was so that they could see me. Twelve of them came, because two of them were so weak that they did not dare bring them along. The names of the twelve that came are Alonso del Castillo, Andrés Dorantes and Diego Dorantes, Valdivieso, 2 Estrada, Tostado, Chávez, Gutiérrez, Asturiano (a clergyman), Diego de Huelva, Estebanico the black man, and Benítez. Once they reached the mainland, they found another of our men named Francisco de León, and all thirteen went along the coast. Once they had been brought across, the Indians who held me told me about it, and how Jerónimo de Alániz3 and Lope de Oviedo remained on the island. My illness prevented me from seeing them or following them.

I had to stay with these same Indians 4 from the island for over a year. Because they worked me so hard and treated me so poorly, I decided to flee from them 5 and go to those that live in the forests and mainland, a people called the Charruco. I could not bear the kind of life I had with them. Among many other afflictions, in order to eat I had to pull the roots from the ground under the water among the canes where they grew. My fingers were so worn by this that a light brush with a piece of straw would cause them to bleed. And the canes cut me in many places because many of them were broken and I had to go among them with the clothing that I have said I was wearing. 6 For this reason I went over to the other Indians and fared a bit better with them. I became a trader and tried to ply my trade the best I could. Because of this they fed me and treated me well, asking me to go from one place to another for things they needed, since people do not travel or trade much in

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