The Account: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación

The Account: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación

The Account: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación

The Account: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca's Relación


The Account: Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's Relacion, is a new and improved translation of Spanish explorer Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's chronicle of his journey across a large portion of what is now the United States.


During Spain's process of exploration and conquest in the Western Hemisphere, the chronicle, a traditional genre in Spanish literature, continued to be written by the participants in this enterprise. Many of these men were neither learned scholars nor creators of beauty; yet their chronicles are filled with creative power as well as valuable information.

Among these men was Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the first Spaniard to traverse--on foot--a large portion of the recently discovered territory of North America. His journey (1528-1536) predates the expeditions of De Soto and of Coronado in what was later to be the United States. Cabeza de Vaca's odyssey of hardship and misfortune is one of the most remarkable in the history of the New World.

Cabeza de Vaca's journey resonated in history in several important ways. The mention of two advanced Indian cultures and possible riches to the North promoted two subsequent journeys. Soon after arriving in Mexico, Estevanico, a black man and one of the four survivors in Cabeza de Vaca's party, served as guide to Fray Marcos de Niza in a journey northward in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Cíbola. This led to the expedition of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado through what is now the Southwestern United States in 1540.

A product of Cabeza de Vaca odyssey was La Relación (The Account), first published in Zamora, Spain, in 1542, with a second edition published in Valladolid, Spain, in 1555. The Relación, one of the earliest accounts of Spanish penetration in North America, is a document of inestimable value for students of history and literature, ethnographers, anthropologists and the general reader. It contains many first descriptions of the lands and their inhabitants. Furthermore, it is one of first Spanish accounts that calls for a compassionate and tolerant policy toward the natives of the Western Hemisphere.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was born around 1490 in Jerez de la Frontera, the Andalusian town now famous for its sherry wine. He was the fourth son of Francisco de Vera, an alderman of Jerez, and Teresa Cabeza de Vaca. His paternal grandfather was Pedro de Vera Mendoza, conqueror of the Ca-

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