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 THIRTY-TWO
How They Gave Us the Deer Hearts

In the village where they gave us the emeralds, they gave Dorantes more than six hundred opened deer hearts which they store in abundance for food. For this reason we called the place the Village of Hearts. 1 Through it one enters many provinces that are on the South Sea. Anyone who does not set out for the sea through this place will perish because there is no corn along the coast. There the people eat ground rushes, straw and fish caught in the sea in rafts, for they have no canoes. The women cover their private parts with grass and straw. These people are very shy and sad. We believe that near the coast on the way that we took to those villages there are more than a thousand leagues of inhabited land, with a great deal of food because they plant beans and corn three times a year. There are three kinds of deer there; one kind is as large as the yearling steers of Castile. They have permanent dwellings 2 called buhios and poison from a tree 3 the size of an apple tree. All that is necessary is to pick the fruit and rub it on an arrow. If there is no fruit, they break a branch and do the same with the milky sap. There are many of these trees, which are so poisonous that if the leaves are crushed and washed in water, any deer or other animals that drink the water later burst. We stayed in this village three days. A day's journey from there 4 was another village. 5 There it rained so much that we could not cross a river 6 that had risen very much; so we had to wait two weeks. 7

At this time Castillo saw a buckle from a sword belt around an Indian's neck, with a horseshoe nail sewn to it. Castillo took it away from him and we asked the Indian what it was. They replied that it had come from heaven. We questioned them further, asking them who had brought it from there. They told us that some bearded men like us, with horses, lances and swords, had come there from heaven and gone to that river and had speared two Indians. Trying very hard to act disinterested, we asked them what had happened to those men. They replied that the men went down to the sea, put their lances underwater and then went under the water themselves. Then they saw them go over the water towards the sunset. We gave great thanks to God our

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