ADVENTURES IN THE UNKNOWN INTERIOR OF AMERICA
NOTES TO THE CHAPTERS by Mark D. Lacy
Cabeza de Vaca's account was written in 1536 following his arrival in Mexico City. It is understandable that his stories are sometimes unclear as he recounted eight years, during which he may have traveled more than 6,000 miles.
Chapter 1: The Sailing of the Armada
June 17, 1527
Cabeza de Vaca with 600 men, including five Franciscan friars, in five ships left the port San Lucar de Barrameda, in the south of Spain, under the command of Governor Pamfilo de Narvaez. Their mission was to survey and claim the land from the Florida Peninsula to the River of Palms for Spain.
The River of Palms may have been the Rio Grande as the editor speculates. Some researchers speculate the River of Palms may have been to the south near Tampico, although the Rio Grande is the most prominent river mouth on this segment of the Gulf Coast, fitting the description "river of palms".
September 17, 1527
The editor speculates that this is the approximate arrival date at Santo Domingo in the Caribbean. The date may have been as much as a month earlier. De Vaca does not descibe any events of the Atlantic crossing made 35 years after Columbus made his first voyage across the Atlantic. The Columbus crossing required two months (August 3, Spain to August 24, Canary Islands and September 9, Canary Islands to October 12, Caribbean).
De Vaca indicates the Spanish expedition remained at Santo Domingo 45 days, during which 140 men deserted (approximately 460 remained). Governor Narvaez bought a ship at Santo Domingo (making six). According to the speculative date of September 17, 1527, the expedition would have remained at Santo Domingo until approximately the first week of November, late in the hurricane season.
The expedition sailed to Santiago, Cuba where they collected horses and weapons. Four ships remained at Cabo de Santa Cruz, Cuba. Two ships went to get provisions at the port of Trinidad, Cuba with De Vaca aboard one of them.
The uneventfulness of the crossing of the Atlantic was marred by at least one severe storm in the Caribbean. This would have been the mid to late hurricane season when storms can be most extreme. While De Vaca and the two ships (possibly with 90 men) cautiously entered the port a hurricane struck, leveling the town and sending the men into the woods to find cover. The storm raged for two days. As many as 60 men and both ships were lost to the storm.
November 5, 1527
De Vaca indicates that 30 of the men remained in Trinidad starving, until Governor Narvaez (presumably with four ships) reached them on November 5, 1527. The expedition had been reduced to 400 men, or less, and four ships at this time.
With winter looming the Governor was pursueded to remain on Cuba and the expedition took shelter in a bay, Castillo de Jugua, until February 20, 1528.
Chapter 2: The Governor's Arrival at Xugua (Jugua) with a Pilot
February 20, 1528
Governor Narvaez rejoined the group with an additional ship he bought at Trinidad and a pilot, Miruelo, who claimed to have sailed the Gulf Coast and said he was familiar with the River of Palms. The Governor had purchased another (sixth) ship at Havana, Cuba which he left there with 40 soldiers and 12 horsemen.
On February 22, 1528 the expedition sailed from its safe harbor on the south shore of Cuba to the west, to round the western-most capes, and then back to the east toward Havana. De Vaca indicates they struggled against the wind and were even grounded for fifteen days until another powerful storm caused the seas to swell, lifting them out of the shallow water. De Vaca indicates the expedition faced three storms during the navigation around western Cuba.
The expedition came within 12 leagues (approximately 36 miles) of Havana before the wind direction changed and sent them north toward Florida. (Did they unite with the sixth ship and 52 men?)
April 12, 1528
The expedition sighted land on the west coast of Florida Tuesday, April 12, 1528. They would have know the date at this point because April 15 was Good Friday and the mission was to bring Catholicism, along with Spanish rule, to the new lands.
The ships continued up the coast for two days before anchoring in the mouth of a bay on Thursday, April 14, where the Spanish could see houses of local Indians. The editor speculates the expedition had arrived at Sarasota Bay, Florida.
NOTE: We are currently waiting about one week to continue as several people are ordering books. Please be patient.
Read chapters 3 - 10 for the next section "Asore in Florida."
1) The Americas
2) Ashore in Florida
3) Back to the Seas
4) Stranded on Galveston
5) Into the Interior
Get more information and interesting viewpoints from: Donald E. Sheppard and PBS, Perspectives on the West (Go to "Events in the West" and click on "Show Contents" to get a timeline).