The Journey of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (Librivox)

July 25, 2015

This was, in its own way, an astonishing book. It’s by a Spanish nobleman who took several years, in the 1520s and 30s to make his way from Florida to the West Coast of America.

You need to stop and think about what that actually means. The shape and size of the Americas, and the coastline was not known to Europeans. They did not know where they were heading or who or what they might come across. They did not know where there might be food, or water, or hostile tribes, or dangerous animals. They had no maps, for there were none. They set off, not knowing where they were going, or whether they would arrive…

I find it hard to get my mind around this; and yet these men went, and some of them lived to tell the tale. They were obviously casing the joint, as it were – the New World was divided up by the Pope into two parts, one for Spain and the other for Portugal, so they needed to know who and what was in their new territorial acquisitions, and of course, being good Catholics, they were keen to convert any natives they met to Christianity. So they go, through jungle, forest, swamp, baptising and proselytising as they go, spending a year or two here and there on their way, as and when the locals detain or entertain them or not. And, in the case of our author, they record every detail in an official report for the king of Spain.

One Response to “The Journey of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (Librivox)”

  1. LIT.GAZ. Says:

    […] summer, on my travels, one of the books I listened to in the car was The Journey of Cabeza de Vaca, an account written by a Spanish nobleman of eight years he spent lost, with three companions, […]


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