As I’ve already mentioned in my last essay, Adventures by Cabeza de Vaca was the account of a soldier in the 16th century who survived among the native American tribes in the South of the modern U.S.A. for ten years. He then was able to return to his home, Spain, and write down this account.
A contemporary of Vaca’s was Bartolome de Las Casas, a spanish friar who went to the New World to preach Christianity and convert the Natives. He wrote his account, A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies, in 1552. It is almost all about how cruel, in Las Casas’ eyes, the Spaniards were and how innocent the native tribes were.
Which of the two books was most enjoyable? I enjoyed reading Adventures by Cabeza de Vaca much more for a couple of reasons.
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Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish soldier who went to the New World in the early 16th century as part of an expedition. After spending eight years exploring and trying to survive in what is now the southern part of the United States, he returned to Spain and wrote down, from memory, his adventures, hence the title of his work-Adventures by Cabeza de Vaca.
In the account, he relates how after being separated from most of his party, he and some other men had to survive by living with various Native American tribes. In most tribes they were made slaves. In others Cabeza de Vaca was able to become a trader. In yet others he and his men were revered because of their special “powers”.
These “powers” were their ability to cure sick indians. They would go to the sick person, pray over them and the person would miraculously heal. The indians of course were in awe. Cabeza and his friends just prayed that God would allow them to continue doing this so that they could survive.
To me, the part of the account that struck me most was his faith and trust in God. He really had faith that whatever happened, God would protect him, and He did. Cabeza still needed to take care of himself, but incredibly, through many dangerous adventures, he never died. Cabeza de Vaca lived to tell the story and then became the governor of modern-day Argentina. He died in 1540 in Seville, Spain.