I spend many of my days researching, and I often come across strange and fascinating tales that don’t quite fit in my books. Thus, Friday story time is born. Because really, does a great story need a reason? Here’s this week’s tidbit:
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca was treasurer of a Spanish expedition in 1527. Heavily infected with gold-fever, the crew landed in Florida and declared the area a part of Spain. Then half the group — including Cabeza de Vaca — decided they couldn’t possibly wait to settle and plan. They took off into the rainforest in search of treasure.
The men faced hurricanes, bugs, and disease. Their efforts at diplomacy included capturing the local native leader, so neighbourly relations were somewhat fatal. Finally, after weeks spent lost in the swamp, a couple hundred men arrived back at the coast. Slaughtering and eating their remaining horses to regain their strength, they then patched together a few rafts and attempted to sail to Cuba.
By the time another storm swept them onto the beaches of what is now Texas, there were only 80 left alive. All were enslaved by local natives.
But the story grows stranger…
Cabeza de Vaca eventually escaped captivity, became a trader and faith healer, and travelled with native groups across the southern portion of the continent. After a chance meeting with other Spanish explorers, he returned to Spain in 1537. He served as a (likely corrupt) governor in Mexico and a judge in Seville, Spain.
He was one of only four men to survive the expedition.