Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer who traveled in North and South America and was the first European to set foot on the soil of the future state of Texas. He was born in 1490 in Andalusia, Spain to Francisco de Vera and Teresa de Vaca.
De Vaca was well educated in languages, physics and cartography. He was the treasurer to the Spanish expedition under de Narvaez that reached what is now Tampa Bay, Florida in 1528. The survivors of the party lived among the natives of the region for four years. Cabeza de Vaca took on roles as a healer and trader in the community.
De Vaca and three other survivors of the original party set out for Mexico in 1532, where they hoped to connect with other representatives of the Spanish empire. They travelled through Texas and arrived in Northern Mexico in 1536, where they met up with their fellow Spaniards who were in the territory to capture slaves. De Vaca, however, deplored the Spaniards’ treatment of the Indians. When he went back to Spain in 1537, he advocated for changes in Spain’s policy. He briefly became a governor in Mexico and later became a judge in Seville, Spain for the rest of his life, dying in 1557.