This sixteenth-century odyssey of Cabeza de Vaca's is one of the great true epics of history. It is the semi-official report to the king of Spain by the ranking surviving officer of a royal expedition to conquer Florida which fantastically miscarried.
ane order among them. He had found that he could cure their sicknesses, communicate Christian teachings, and compose their tribal hostilities, leaving the lands he passed through in peace. The immediate result of his return--still 900 miles before he reached Mexico City--was to stop the slave raids in Sonora and Sinaloa and induce the terrified refugee population to return and rebuild their villages and cultivate the soil once more. In his strongest language, he urged an unrapacious, peaceful winning of the Indians to king and Christ. He went so far as to say that this was the only sure way to "conquer" them. The great irony of his impressive demonstration is the scale of the brutality with which the lesson was violated.
His devotion to the dual and somewhat contradictory codes of the knight and the Christian gentleman made Cabeza de Vaca appear at times quixotic to his contemporaries (nearly a century before the dear old Don); yet it was the crass, "practical" men who failed and who contributed to the
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