Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's Humane Colonialism

Topics: Narváez expedition, Spain, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca Pages: 3 (1037 words) Published: October 28, 2012
Throughout Castaways, by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, and A Land So Strange, the Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca, by Andre Resendez, a transformation is seen through the thoughts and actions of the four Spanish survivors. Clearly motivated by curiosity, greed, and religion, at first, a dramatic transformation from explorers and conquistadors into assimilated Spanish Indians and revolutionary idealists occurs. Cabeza de Vaca believed that his peaceful ascendancy over the Indians of North America was achievable through a partnership, creating a more humane kind of colonial occupation (Resendez 207-208).

Panfilo de Narvaez and his fleet of five ships with six hundred men set out with the intention of conquering and governing the provinces given to him by King Charles V. The Spanish expedition, motivated by curiosity, greed, and religion quickly realized the magnitude of their situation after utter and complete disaster after the ventured inland. Soon, survival of the fittest and the basic necessities of life were at the forefront of their thoughts and actions. As the herd of Spanish expeditioners dwindled, they relied upon Indian kindness and generosity to save them from terrible and fateful deaths. The more they depend on the Indians, the more they began to recognize the importance of these intelligent and resourceful people. In identifying with the Indians in their precarious manner, they were integrated into a complex and hierarchical culture in which altered their lives forever.

Throughout Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative, Indians of many different tribes offered their assistance with food, clothes, and information. The single greatest opportunity for the Spaniards came about when the Indians on the Isle of Ill Fortune “tried to make us into medicine men”, and eventually “under such pressure we had to [perform a healing]” (de Vaca 49). Cabeza de Vaca says they performed all healings “by making the sign of the cross over them and blowing on [the person] and reciting...

Cited: Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Castaways: The Narrative of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, edited by Enrique Pupo-Walker, translated by Frances M. López-Morillas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993)
Reséndez, Andrés. A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca. New York: Basic Books, 2007.
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