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 FOURTEEN
How Four Christians Departed

A few days after these four Christians left, the weather turned so cold and stormy that the Indians could no longer pull up roots and could catch nothing in the cane weirs they used for fishing. And since their lodges offered so little shelter, people began to die. Five Christians who had taken shelter on the coast became so desperate that they ate one another one by one until there was only one left, who survived because the others were not there to eat him. 1 Their names were Sierra, Diego López, Corral, Palacios, Gonzalo Ruiz. The Indians were quite upset by this happening and were so shocked that they would have killed the men had they seen them begin to do this, and we would all have been in great difficulties. At last, in a very short time, only fifteen 2 survivors remained of the eighty 3 who had arrived there from both directions. After these sixty-five had died, the Indians of that country came down with a stomach ailment 4 that killed half of their people. They thought that we were the cause of their deaths, and were so sure of it that they plotted among themselves to kill those of us who had survived. When they were about to carry out their plan, an Indian who held me told them that they should not believe that we were causing them to die, because, if we had power over life and death, we would spare our own and not so many of us would have died helplessly. He told them that, since only a few of us remained and none of us was harming or hurting them, it would be best to leave us alone. It was our Lord's will for the others to heed this advice and opinion, and so their original plan was thwarted.

We named this island the Isle of Misfortune. The people we found there are tall and well built. 5 They have no weapons other than bows and arrows, which they use with great skill. The men have one nipple pierced from one side to the other, and some have both pierced. Through the opening they place a reed two and a half palms in length and two fingers thick. They also pierce their lower lip through which they insert a reed about half as thick as a finger. The women do the hard work. They live on this island from October through February. They live on the roots that I mentioned, pulled

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