Penn Library

CULTURAL READINGS: Colonization & Print in the Americas

Cabeza de Vaca
Jay I. Kislak Foundation
Alvaro Núñez Cabeza de Vaca,
La relacion y comentarios del governador Alvar Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca, de lo acaescido en las dos jornadas que hizo a las Indias.

Valladolid: Francesco Fernández de Córdova, 1555.

Cabeza de Vaca's account of his shipwreck and trek across Florida and northern Mexico in the early 16th century is sometimes considered the first "captivity" account. His narrative is crafted in ways reminiscent of medieval romance. Cabeza was one of four men out of three hundred to survive a shipwreck and subsequent hardships in Florida, c.1528. Cabeza's depictions of Indians are ambivalent, much like those in subsequent captivity narratives. Indians often appear treacherous and ignorant; yet many are generous, providing him food, shelter, and protection.

This edition of the Relacion is the second, the first having been issued in 1542, five years after Cabeza's return to Spain. In composing the memoir, Cabeza clearly hoped to win Charles V's support for a high position in the Spanish colonial hierarchy. But he was disappointed: the Emperor gave him jurisdiction only over the sparsely-inhabited territory stretching from Peru to the Tierro del Fuego.

Colonial Fictions, Colonial Histories

Exhibition Contents | Introduction | Essays | Bibliography & Links

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