Traveling mostly in this small group, Cabeza de Vaca explored what is now the U.S. state of Texas, and possibly smaller portions of New Mexico and Arizona. He traveled on foot along the Texas coast and up the Rio Grande and then down the Gulf Coast to Sinaloa, Mexico, over a period of roughly eight years, during which time he lived in conditions of abject poverty and, occasionally, in slavery. During his wanderings, passing from tribe to tribe, he developed sympathies for the indigenous population. He eventually became a trader, which allowed him freedom to travel among the tribes. Cabeza de Vaca claims to have learned to heal the sick, and to have gained such notoriety as a healer that he and his companions gathered a large following of natives who regarded them as "children of the sun" endowed with the power to both heal and destroy, and who accompanied them in their journey across what is now the American Southwest and Northern Mexico. Eventually, after returning to the colonized reaches of New Spain and encountering a group of fellow Spaniards in the vicinity of modern-day Culiacán, he went on to Mexico City and returned to Europe in 1537. Cabeza de Vaca wrote about his experiences in a report for Charles V. It was later published in 1542, under the title La Relación (The Report), and is considered a classic of colonial literature. Cabeza de Vaca desired to succeed Pánfilo de Narváez (whose supposed ineptitude is commonly credited with causing the deaths of most of the party) as governor of Florida and return there, but Charles V had already appointed Hernando De Soto to lead the next expedition. Cabeza de Vaca declined to travel with the expedition as second in command. His apparent reluctance to provide his countrymen with sufficient information about the uncharted territory may have been due to his jealousy over De Soto's appointment.
En route, he disembarked from his fleet at Santa Catarina Island and followed Alejo Garcia's route overland to the district's capital at Asunción. On this course, he is thought to have been the first European to behold the Iguazu Falls, among the most spectacular in the world.
The second foundation of Buenos Aires was also unsuccessful and had to be abandoned by February 1543.
His unusually sensitive and benevolent attitude towards the Indians led to resentment among the encomenderos, and this, along with the misfortune of Buenos Aires, allowed the former governor Domingo Martínez de Irala to arrest him for maladministration in 1544 and return him to Spain for trial in 1545.
He was eventually exonerated, but never returned to the colony. He wrote an extensive report on South America, highly unfavorable to de Irala, which bound with his earlier La Relación and published under the title Comentarios (Commentary).
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca: His Account, His Life, and the Expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez.(Review) (book review)
Sep 22, 2000; Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca. His Account, His Life, and the Expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez. By ROLENA ADORNO AND PATRICK PAUTZ....
Go-between: The roles of Native American women and Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca in southern Texas in the 16th century
Jul 01, 1999; Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's Naufragios y Comentarios con Dos Cartas y Relacion de Hernando de Ribera is unique because it is the...
"De muchas y muy barbaras naciones con odien converse y vivi": Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's Naufragios as a war tactics manual.(Critical essay)
Jan 01, 2007; In the Prohemio to Naufragios, Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca offers the Crown a personal account of the failed expedition to Florida...