The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988

In Search of Cabeza de Vaca's Route across Texas:
An Historiographical Survey
DONALD E. CHIPMAN*
M ODERN TEXAS HISTORY BEGINS IN NOVEMBER, 1528, WHEN TWO
makeshift barges bearing several dozen Spaniards landed west of
Galveston Island. Nearly eight years later, four survivors, destined to
become famous as the Four Ragged Castaways, arrived at Culiacan, a
Spanish outpost near the Pacific coast of Mexico. If the overland route
the four men traveled in traversing Texas can be determined with a
high degree of certainty, the accounts written later by three of them will
provide the earliest information on landforms, flora, and fauna in what
was to become the Lone Star State. Historians, however, are in substan-
tial disagreement over the path followed by the Four Ragged Castaways
across Texas. The purpose of this paper is to survey previous writing
and to suggest the route interpretation that is most probably correct.
A brief outline of the circumstances that brought Spaniards to the
Texas coast at that early date is essential to understanding events that
transpired after the landing. The men were members of an expedition
that had left Spain the previous year under the command of P~nfilo de
Narvez. Narvaez, a minor participant in the conquest of Mexico, had
lost an eye and command of his army to Fernando Cortes, and in the
early 152os had returned to Spain seeking redress from the king. His
efforts were finally rewarded with a royal patent to establish a colony in
"Florida," a term applied to the Gulf coast stretching from the province
of Panuco in Mexico to the Florida peninsula. Don Panfilo set sail from
the mouth of the Guadalquivir River in Spain in June, 1527.'
*Donald E. Chipman is professor of history at North Texas State University. He is the author
of two books and a contributing editor to the Handbook of Latin Amercan Studies. Chipman is
currently at work on a history of Spanish Texas, 1519-1821. He wishes to thank Professor
William M. Holmes, chairman of the Department of Geography and Anthropology at NTSU,
for his assistance in preparing the figure 1 map.
'Henry R. Wagner, The Rie of Fernando CortA (Los Angeles: Cortes Society, 1944), 266-285;
Michael C. Meyer and William L. Sherman, The Course of Mexican H-story (2nd ed.; New York:
Oxford University Press, 1983), 117-120o. Pinuco was an ill-defined province lying inland

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 91, July 1987 - April, 1988. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101211/. Accessed September 16, 2014.