The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998

Pifon Pines and the Route of Cabeza de Vaca
DONALD W. OLSON, MARILYNN S. OLSON, RUSSELL L. DOESCHER,
LANCE L. LAMBERT, DAVID E. LEMKE, ANGELA M. CARL, ROSS JOHNSON,
SANDRA D. SMITH, AND KENT H. TREDE*
T HE RELACI6N OF ALVAR NIlfEZ CABEZA DE VACA RECOUNTS THE
adventures of the Spanish explorer and his three companions in
Texas and northern Mexico between 1528 and 1536. This narrative
and a second document, commonly known as the Joint Report, are
considered the earliest written accounts of travel through that
region and together have been described as "the first contribution
to Texan history."' Although many clues can be found in these
works, the precise path taken by the Spaniards has been a subject of
controversy for more than a century. The purpose of this paper is to
focus on a region of pifion pines described in the narratives and to
show how new botanical evidence, derived in part from recent field
work, can be used to support one of the theories about Cabeza de
Vaca's route.
In a 1987 historiographical survey, Donald E. Chipman described the
route interpretations of more than two dozen modern historians and
gave a critical analysis of how these routes had been constructed using
the biologic, ethnographic, geologic, and physiographic data contained
* Donald W. Olson (Department of Physics) Marilynn S. Olson (Department of English),
Russell L. Doescher (Department of Physics), Lance L. Lambert (Department of Physics), and
David E. Lemke (curator of the herbarium, Department of Biology) teach at Southwest Texas
State University, where Angela M. Carl, Ross Johnson, Sandra D. Smith, and Kent H. Trede are
undergraduates in the Honors Program. The authors are grateful for research assistance from
Dave Stuart of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Tom Wendt of the Plant Resources
Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Richard Holland and Margaret Vaverek of the Alkek
Library at Southwest Texas State University, Ronald C. Brown of the Honors Program at
Southwest Texas State University, and Brooks Anderson and Ezequiel Aguero of Saltillo,
Coahuila.
' Cadwell Walton Raines, Bibliography of Texas (Austin: Gammel Book Co., 1896), xiv (quota-
tion). Cabeza de Vaca's narrative was published in two editions, first as La relacion que dio Aluar
nufiez cabea de vaca ... (Zamora, Spain: Augustin de paz y Juan Picardo, 1542), and then, with
slight changes in the text, as La relacion y comentarios del gouernador Aluar nuiez cabega de vaca ...
(Valladohd, Spain: Francisco fernandez de Cordoua, 1555). The Joint Report, based on informa-
tion from the participants and compiled by Gonzalo Fernandez Oviedo y Valds, is available in a
modern edition by Basil C. Hedrick and Carroll L. Riley, The Journey of the Vaca Party
(Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University, 1974).

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/. Accessed September 30, 2014.