Texas Historical Association Quarterly.
ROUTE OF CABEZA DE VACA IN TEXAS.
O. W. WILLIAMS.
There is no story of the Sixteenth century more romantic than
that told in the "Naufragios" of Cabeza de Vaca. The hero starts
out, armed in all the panoply of Sixteenth century warfare, to the
discovery of an impossible El Dorado. He becomes a victim to
cruel enemies, both of the earth and of the heavens; he suffers the
horrors of shipwreck, cold, and starvation; he drags himself along
painfully on a desert coast, torn by thorns, blistered by heat, ready
to drop from starvation and exhaustion, and too plainly fore-
doomed to fall to the cruel caprices of savage masters. From this
tragic end he is saved by the sign of the cross, becomes a great
"medicine man" among the savages, and finally gets back to his
jealous countrymen, a naked king at the head of barbarian wor-
But, as customary in Nineteenth century romances as well as in
those of the Sixteenth century, it has not been possible to locate
this romance in its itinerary to any great degree of certainty.
From the time when the survivors of the Narvaez expedition left
a bay, supposed to be Tampa Bay, in their boats, whose "gunwales
were not over one span above the water," until the naked remnant
of three whites and a Barbary negro got to the State of Sonora, in
Old Mexico, there is no natural object such as river, mountain,
spring or plain mentioned in the account which we can positively
identify. It is certain only that they voyaged west from Tampa
Bay, necessarily hugging close to shore; that they were scattered
and finally all shipwrecked by a storm; that they were in slavery
among some coast tribes of Indians for about six years; that they
escaped finally from them and started westward and in a course
away from the sea; that they were passed from tribe to tribe as
"medicine men," with a crowd of followers amounting at times to
three or four thousand people; and that they finally got back to
their countrymen near the present town of Culiacan, in Sonora,
Texas State Historical Association. The Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association, Volume 3, July 1899 - April, 1900. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101015/. Accessed October 23, 2014.