>Teil 1< | >Teil 3< | >Teil 4<
The Journey of
Nuņez Cabeza De Vaca
his determination, I took to my own oar and the other oarsmen in my
craft did the same, and thus we rowed until nearly sunset. But as the
Governor had with him the healthiest and strongest men, in no way
could we follow or keep up with him. Seeing this, I asked him to give
me a rope from his barge to be able to follow, but he answered that it
was no small effort on their part alone to reach the shore on that
night. I told him that since it was barely possible for us to follow
and do what he had ordained, he should tell me what he commanded me to
do. He answered that this was no time for orders; that each one should
do the best he could to save himself; that he intended to do it that
way, and with this he went on with his craft.
I could not follow him, I went after the other barge, which was out at
sea and waited for me, and reaching it I found it was the one of the
Captains Penalosa and Tellez. We travelled together for four days, our
daily ration being half a handful of raw maize. At the end of these
four days a storm overtook us, in which the other barge was lost.
God's great mercy preserved us from being drowned in that weather.
being winter and the cold very great, and as we had been suffering so
many days from hunger and from the injuries we received from the
waves, that the next day people began to break down, so that when the
sun set all those aboard of my barge had fallen in a heap and were so
near dying that few remained conscious, and not five men kept on their
night came the skipper and I were the only ones able to manage the
barge. Two hours after nightfall the skipper told me to steer the
craft alone, since he felt that he would die that same night.
Thereupon I stood at the helm, and after midnight went to see if the
skipper was dead, but he said that, on the contrary, he felt better
and would steer till daybreak. On that occasion I would have hailed
death with delight rather than to see so many people around me in such
a condition. After the skipper had taken the barge under his control I
went to rest, very much without resting, for I thought of anything
else but sleep.
daybreak I fancied to hear the sound of breakers, for as the coast was
low, their noise was greater. Surprised at it, I called to the
skipper, who said he thought we were near the shore. Sounding, we
found seven fathoms, and he was of the opinion that we should keep off
shore till dawn. So I took the oar and rowed along the coast, from
which we were one league away, and turned the stern to seaward.
to shore a wave took us and hurled the barge a horse's length out of
water. With the violent shock nearly all the people who lay in the
boat like dead came to themselves, and, seeing we were close to land,
began to crawl out on all fours. As they took to some rocks, we built
a fire and toasted some of our maize. We found rain water, and with
the warmth of the fire people revived and began to cheer up. The day
we arrived there was the sixth of the month of November.
the people had eaten I sent Lope de Oviedo, who was the strongest and
heartiest of all, to go to some trees nearby and climb to the top of
one, examine the surroundings and the country in which we were. He did
so and found we were on an island, and that the ground was hollowed
out, as if cattle had gone over it, from which it seemed to him that
the land belonged to Christians, and so he told us. I sent him again
to look and examine more closely if there were any worn trails, and
not to go too far so as not to run into danger. He went, found a
footpath, followed it for about one-half league, and saw several
Indian huts which stood empty because the Indians had gone out into
took away a cooking pot, a little dag and a few ruffs and turned back,
but as he seemed to delay I sent two other Christians to look for him
and find out what had happened.
met him nearby and saw that three Indians, with bows and arrows, were
following and calling to him, while he did the same to them by signs.
So he came to where we were, the Indians remaining behind, seated on
the beach. Half an hour after a hundred Indian archers joined them,
and our fright was such that, whether tall or little, it made them
appear giants to us. They stood still close to the first ones, near
where we were.
could not defend ourselves, as there were scarcely three of us who
could stand on their feet. The inspector and I stepped forward and
called them. They came, and we tried to quiet them the best we could
and save ourselves, giving them beads and bells. Each one of them gave
me an arrow in token of friendship, and by signs they gave us to
understand that on the following morning they would come back with
food, as then they had none.
next day, at sunrise, which was the hour the Indians had given us to
understand, they came as promised and brought us plenty of fish and
some roots which they eat that taste like nuts, some bigger, some
smaller, most of which are taken out of the water with much trouble.
the evening they returned and brought us more fish and some of the
same roots, and they brought their women and children to look at us.
They thought themselves very rich with the little bells and beads we
gave them, and thereafter visited us daily with the same things as
before. As we saw ourselves provided with fish, roots, water and the
other things we had asked for, we concluded to embark again and
continue our voyage.
lifted the barge out of the sand into which it had sunk ( for which
purpose we all had to take off our clothes) and had great work to set
her afloat, as our condition was such that much lighter things would
have given us trouble.
we embarked. Two crossbow shots from shore a wave swept over us, we
all got wet, and being naked and the cold very great, the oars dropped
out of our hands. The next wave overturned the barge. The inspector
and two others clung to her to save themselves, but the contrary
happened; they got underneath the barge and were drowned.
shore being very rough, the sea took the others and thrust them, half
dead, on the beach of the same island again, less the three that had
perished underneath the barge.
rest of us, as naked as we had been born, had lost everything, and
while it was not worth much, to us it meant a great deal. It was in
November, bitterly cold, and we in such a state that every bone could
easily be counted, and we looked like death itself. Of myself I can
say that since the month of May I had not tasted anything but toasted
maize, and even sometimes had been obliged to eat it raw.
the horses were killed during the time the barges were built, I never
could eat of them, and not ten times did I taste fish. This I say in
order to explain and that any one might guess how we were off. On top
of all this, a north wind arose, so that we were nearer death than
life. It pleased Our Lord that, searching for the remnants of our
former fire, we found wood with which we built big fires and then with
many tears begged Our Lord for mercy and forgiveness of our sins.
Every one of us pitied not only himself, but all the others whom he
saw in the same condition.
sunset the Indians, thinking we had not left, came to bring us food,
but when they saw us in such a different attire from before and so
strange-looking, they were so frightened as to turn back. I went to
call them, and in great fear they came. I then gave them to understand
by signs how we had lost a barge and three of our men had been
drowned, while before them there lay two of our men dead, with the
others about to go the same way.
seeing the disaster we had suffered, our misery and distress, the
Indians sat down with us and all began to weep out of compassion for
our misfortune, and for more than half an hour they wept so loud and
so sincerely that it could be heard far away.
to see beings so devoid of reason, untutored, so like unto brutes, yet
so deeply moved by pity for us, it increased my feelings and those of
others in my company for our own misfortune. When the lament was over,
I spoke to the Christians and asked them if they would like me to beg
the Indians to take us to their homes. Some of the men, who had been
to New Spain, answered that it would be unwise, as, once at their
abode, they might sacrifice us to their idols.
seeing there was no remedy and that in any other way death was surer
and nearer, I did not mind what they said, but begged the Indians to
take us to their dwellings, at which they showed great pleasure,
telling us to tarry yet a little, but that they would do what we
wished. Soon thirty of them loaded themselves with firewood and went
to their lodges, which were far away, while we stayed with the others
until it was almost dark. Then they took hold of us and carried us
along hurriedly to where they lived.
the cold, and lest on the way some one of us might faint or die, they
had provided four or five big fires on the road, at each one of which
they warmed us. As soon as they saw we had regained a little warmth
and strength they would carry us to the next fire with such haste that
our feet barely touched the ground.
we got to their dwellings, where we saw they had built a hut for us
with many fires in it. About one hour after our arrival began to dance
and to make a great celebration (which lasted the whole night),
although there was neither pleasure, feast nor sleep in it for us,
since we expected to be sacrificed. In the morning they again gave us
fish and roots, and treated us so well that we became reassured,
losing somewhat our apprehension of being butchered.
same day I saw on one of the Indians a trinket he had not gotten from
us, and asking from where they had obtained it they answered, by
signs, that other men like ourselves and who were still in our rear,
had given it to them. Hearing this, I sent two Christians with two
Indians to guide them to those people. Very near by they met them, and
they also were looking for us, as the Indians had told them of our
presence in the neighborhood. These were the Captains Andres Dorantes
and Alonso del Castillo, with all of their crew. When they came near
us they were much frightened at our appearance and grieved at being
unable to give us anything, since they had nothing but their clothes.
And they stayed with us there, telling how, on the fifth of that same
month, their barge stranded a league and a half from there, and they
escaped without anything being lost.
together, we agreed upon repairing their barge, and that those who had
strength and inclination should proceed in it, while the others should
remain until completely restored and then go as best they could along
the coast, following it till God would be pleased to get us all
together to a land of Christians.
we set to work, but ere the barge was afloat Tavera, a gentleman in
our company, died, while the barge proved not to be seaworthy and soon
sank. Now, being in the condition which I have stated &emdash;
that is, most of us naked and the weather so unfavorable for walking
and for swimming across rivers and coves, and we had neither food nor
any way to carry it, we determined upon submitting to necessity and
upon wintering there, and we also agreed that four men, who were the
most able-bodied, should go to Panuco, which we believed to be nearby,
and that, if it was God, Our Lord's will to take them there, they
should tell of our remaining on the island and of our distress. One of
them was a Portuguese, called Alvaro Fernandez, a carpenter and
sailor; the second was Mendez; the third, Figueroa, a native of
Toledo; the fourth, Astudillo, from Zafra. They were all good swimmers
and took with them an Indian from the island.
few days after these four Christians had left, the weather became so
cold and tempestuous that the Indians could no longer pull roots, and
the canebrake in which they used to fish yielded nothing more. As the
lodges afforded so little shelter, people began to die, and five
Christians, quartered on the coast, were driven to such an extremity
that they ate each other up until but one remained, who being left
alone, there was nobody to eat him. Their names are: Sierra, Diego,
Lopez, Corral, Palacios and Gonzalo Ruiz. At this the Indians were so
startled, and there was such an uproar among them, that I verily
believe if they had seen this at the beginning they would have killed
them, and we all would have been in great danger. After a very short
time, out of eighty men who had come there in our two parties only
fifteen remained alive.
the natives fell sick from the stomach, so that one-half of them died
also, and they, believing we had killed them, and holding it to be
certain, they agreed among themselves to kill those of us who
when they came to execute it an Indian who kept me told them not to
believe we were the cause of their dying, for if we had so much power
we would not have suffered so many of our own people to perish without
being able to remedy it ourselves. He also told them there remained
but very few of us, and none of them did any harm or injury, so that
the best was to let us alone. It pleased Our Lord they should listen
to his advice and counsel and give up their idea.
this island we gave the name of the Island of Ill-Fate. The people on
it are tall and well formed; they have no other weapons than bows and
arrows with which they are most dexterous. The men have one of their
nipples perforated from side to side and sometimes both; through this
hole is thrust a reed as long as two and a half hands and as thick as
two fingers; they also have the under lip perforated and a piece of
cane in it as thin as the half of a finger. The women do the hard
work. People stay on this island from October till the end of
February, feeding on the roots I have mentioned, taken from under the
water in November and December. They have channels made of reeds and
get fish only during that time; afterwards they subsist on roots. At
the end of February they remove to other parts in search of food,
because the roots begin to sprout and are not good any more.
all the people in the world, they are those who most love their
children and treat them best, and should the child of one of them
happen to die, parents and relatives bewail it, and the whole
settlement, the lament lasting a full year, day after day. Before
sunrise the parents begin to weep, after them the tribe, and the same
they do at noon and at dawn. At the end of the year of mourning they
celebrate the anniversary and wash and cleanse themselves of all their
paint. They mourn all their dead in this manner, old people excepted,
to whom they do not pay any attention, saying that these have had
their time and are no longer of any use, but only take space, and food
from the children.
custom as to bury the dead, except those who are medicine men among
them, whom they burn, and while the fire is burning, all dance and
make a big festival, grinding the bones to powder. At the end of the
year, when they celebrate the anniversary, they scarify themselves and
give to the relatives the pulverized bones to drink in water. Every
man has a recognized wife, but the medicine men enjoy greater
privileges, since they may have two or three, and among these wives
there is great friendship and harmony.
one takes a woman for his wife, from the day he marries her, whatever
he may hunt or fish, she has to fetch it to the home of her father,
without daring to touch or eat of it, and from the home of the
father-in-law they bring the food to the husband. All the while
neither the wife's father nor her mother enter his abode, nor is he
allowed to go to theirs, or to the homes of his brothers-in-law, and
should they happen to meet they go out of each other's way a
crossbow's shot or so, with bowed heads and eyes cast to the ground,
holding it to be an evil thing to look at each other or speak. The
women are free to communicate with their parents-in-law or relatives
and speak to them. This custom prevails from that island as far as
about fifty leagues inland.
is another custom, that when a son or brother dies no food is gathered
by those of his household for three months, preferring rather to
starve, but the relatives and neighbors provide them with victuals.
Now, as during the time we were there so many of them died, there was
great starvation in most of the lodges, due to their customs and
ceremonials, as well as to the weather, which was so rough that such
as could go out after food brought in but very little, withal working
hard for it. Therefore the Indians by whom I was kept forsook the
island and in several canoes went over to the mainland to some bays
where there were a great many oysters and during three months of the
year they do not eat anything else and drink very bad water. There is
lack of firewood, but great abundance of mosquitoes. Their lodges are
made of matting and built on oyster shells, upon which they sleep in
hides, which they only get by chance. There we remained to the end of
April, when we went to the seashore, where we ate blackberries for a
whole month, during which time they danced and celebrated incessantly.
the island I have spoken of they wanted to make medicine men of us
without any examination or asking for our diplomas, because they cure
diseases by breathing on the sick, and with that breath and their
hands they drive the ailment away. So they summoned us to do the same
in order to be at least of some use. We laughed, taking it for a jest,
and said that we did not understand how to cure.
they withheld our food to compel us to do what they wanted. Seeing our
obstinacy, an Indian told me that I did not know what I said by
claiming that what he knew was useless, because stones and things
growing out in the field have their virtues, and he, with a heated
stone, placing it on the stomach, could cure and take away pain, so
that we, who were wiser men, surely had greater power and virtue.
last we found ourselves in such stress as to have to do it, without
risking any punishment. Their manner of curing is as follows: When one
is ill they call in a medicine man, and after they are well again not
only do they give him all they have, but even things they strive to
obtain from their relatives. All the medicine man does is to make a
few cuts where the pain is located and then suck the skin around the
incisions. They cauterize with fire, thinking it very effective, and I
found it to be so by my own experience. Then they breathe on the spot
where the pain is and believe that with this the disease goes away.
way we treated the sick was to make over them the sign of the cross
while breathing on them, recite a Pater noster and Ave Maria, and pray
to God, Our Lord, as best we could to give them good health and
inspire them to do us some favors. Thanks to His will and the mercy He
had upon us, all those for whom we prayed, as soon as we crossed them,
told the others that they were cured and felt well again. For this
they gave us good cheer, and would rather be without food themselves
so as to give it to us, and they gave us hides and other small things.
So great was the lack of food then that I often remained without
eating anything whatsoever for three days, and they were in the same
plight, so that it seemed to me impossible for life to last, although
I afterwards suffered still greater privations and much more distress,
as I shall tell further on.
Indians that kept Alonso del Castillo, Andres Dorantes and the others,
who were still alive, being of another language and stock, had gone to
feed on oysters at another point of the mainland, where they remained
until the first day of the month of April. Then they came back to the
island, which was from there nearly two leagues off, where the channel
is broadest. The island is half a league wide and five long.
the people of this country go naked; only the women cover part of
their bodies with a kind of wool that grows on trees. The girls go
about in deer skins. They are very liberal towards each other with
what they have. There is no ruler among them. All who are of the same
descendancy cluster together. There are two distinct languages spoken
on the island; those of one language are called Capoques, those of the
other Han. They have the custom, when they know each other and meet
from time to time, before they speak, to weep for half an hour. After
they have wept the one who receives the visit rises and gives to the
other all he has. The other takes it, and in a little while goes away
with everything. Even sometimes, after having given and obtained all,
they part without having uttered a word. There are other very queer
customs, but having told the principal ones and the most striking, I
must now proceed to relate what further happened to us.
Dorantes and Castillo had come back to the island, they gathered
together all the Christians, who were somewhat scattered, and there
were in all fourteen. I, as told, was in another place, on the
mainland, whither my Indians had taken me and where I suffered from
such a severe illness that, although I might otherwise have
entertained some hope for life, this was enough to take it away from
me completely. When the Christians learned of it they gave an Indian
the robe of marten we had taken from the cacique, as stated, in order
that he should guide them to where I was, to see me, and so twelve of
them came, two having become so feeble that they did not dare to take
names of those who came are: Alonso del Castillo, Andres Dorantes and
Diego Dorantes, Valdivieso, Estrada, Tostado, Chaves, Gutierrez, an
Asturian priest; Diego de Huelva, Estevanico, the negro Benitez, and
as they reached the mainland they found still another of our men named
Francisco de Leon, and the thirteen went along the coast. After they
had gone by, the Indians with whom I was told me of it, and how
Hieronimo de Alaniz and Lope de Oviedo had been left on the island.
sickness prevented me from following or seeing them. I had to remain
with those same Indians of the island for more than one year, and as
they made me work so much and treated me so badly I determined to flee
and go to those who live in the woods on the mainland, and who are
called those from (of) Charruco.
could no longer stand the life I was compelled to lead. Among many
other troubles I had to pull the eatable roots out of the water and
from among the canes where they were buried in the ground, and from
this my fingers had become so tender that the mere touch of a straw
caused them to bleed. The reeds would cut me in many places, because
many were broken and I had to go in among them with the clothing I had
on, of which I have told. This is why I went to work and joined the
other Indians. Among these I improved my condition a little by
becoming a trader, doing the best in it I could, and they gave me food
and treated me well.
entreated me to go about from one part to another to get the things
they needed, as on account of constant warfare there is neither travel
nor barter in the land.
trading along with my wares I penetrated inland as far as I cared to
go and along the coast as much as forty or fifty leagues. My stock
consisted mainly of pieces of seashells and cockles, and shells with
which they cut a fruit which is like a bean, used by them for healing
and in their dances and feasts. This is of greatest value among them,
besides shell-beads and other objects. These things I carried inland,
and in exchange brought back hides and red ochre with which they rub
and dye their faces and hair; flint for arrow points, glue and hard
canes where-with to make them, and tassels made of the hair of deer,
which they dye red. This trade suited me well because it gave me
liberty to go wherever I pleased; I was not bound to do anything and
no longer a slave. Wherever I went they treated me well, and gave me
to eat for the sake of my wares. My principal object in doing it,
however, was to find out in what manner I might get further away. I
became well known among them; they rejoiced greatly when seeing me and
I would bring them what they needed, and those who did not know me
would desire and endeavor to meet me for the sake of my fame.
sufferings, while trading thus, it would take long to tell; danger,
hunger, storms and frost overtaking me often in the open field and
alone, and from which through the mercy of God, Our Lord, I escaped.
For this reason I did not go out trading in winter, it being the time
when the Indians themselves remain in their huts and abodes, unable to
go out or assist each other.
six years I spent thus in the country, alone among them and naked, as
they all were themselves.
reason for remaining so long was that I wished to take with me a
Christian called Lope de Oviedo, who still lingered on the island. The
other companion, Alaniz, who remained with him after Alonso del
Castillo and Andres Dorantes and all the others had gone, soon died,
and in order to get him (Oviedo) out of there, I went over to the
island every year, entreating him to leave with me and go, as well as
we could, in search of Christians. But year after year he put it off
to the year that was to follow.
the end I got him to come, took him away, and carried him across the
inlets and through four rivers on the coast, since he could not swim.
Thence we proceeded, together with several Indians, to an inlet one
league wide, very deep everywhere and which seemed to us, from what we
saw, to be the one called of the Holy Ghost.
the opposite shore we saw Indians who had come to meet those in our
company. They informed us that further on there were three men like
ourselves and told us their names. Upon being asked about the rest of
the party, they answered that all had died from cold and hunger and
that the Indians beyond had killed Diego Dorantes, Valdivieso and
Diego de Huelva willfully, only because these had gone from one house
to another, and their neighbors with whom was now the Captain Dorantes, had, in consequence of some dream dreamt by these Indians,
killed Esquivel and Mendez also. We asked them about those who
remained alive, and they said they were in a very sorry condition, as
the boys and other Indians, idlers and roughs, kicked them, slapped
their faces and beat them with sticks, and such was the life they had
inquired about the country further on and the sustenance that might be
found in it. They said it was very thinly settled, with nothing to
eat, and the people dying from cold, as they had neither hides nor
anything else to protect their bodies. They also told us that, if we
wished to meet the three Christians about two days hence, the Indians
would come to a place about a league from there on the shore of that
river to feed on nuts. And to show us that what they said of the
ill-treatment of our people was true the Indians with whom we were
kicked and beat my companion. Neither did I remain without my share of
it. They threw mud at us, and put arrows to our chests every day,
saying they would kill us in the same way as our companions. And
fearing this, Lope de Oviedo, my companion, said he preferred to go
back, with some women of the Indians in whose company we had forded
the cove and who had remained behind. I insisted he should not go and
did all I could to prevail upon him to remain, but it was in vain. He
went back and I remained alone among these Indians, who are named
Guevenes, whereas those with whom he went away were called Deaguanes.
days after Lope de Oviedo had gone the Indians who kept Alonso del
Castillo and Andres Dorantes came to the very spot we had been told of
to eat the nuts upon which they subsist for two months in the year,
grinding certain small grains with them, without eating anything else.
Even of that they do not always have, since one year there may be some
and the next year not. They (the nuts) are of the size of those of
Galicia, and the trees are very big and numerous.
Indian told me that the Christians had come and that if I wished to
see them I should run away to hide on the edge of a grove to which he
pointed, as he and some of his relatives were to visit these Indians
and would take me along to the Christians. I confided in them and
determined to do it because they spoke a different language from that
of my Indians. So the next day they took me along. When I got near the
site where they had their lodges, Andres Dorantes came out to look who
it was, because the Indians had informed him also that a Christian was
coming, and when he saw me he was much frightened, as for many days
they believed me to be dead, the Indians having told them so. We gave
many thanks to God for being together again, and that day was one of
the happiest we enjoyed in our time, and going to where was Castillo
they asked me whither I went. I told him my purpose was to go to a
country of Christians and that I followed this direction and trail.
Andres Dorantes said that for many days he had been urging Castillo
and Estevanico to go further on, but they did not risk it, being
unable to swim and afraid of the rivers and inlets that had to be
crossed so often in that country.
as it pleased God, Our Lord, to spare me after all my sufferings and
sickness and finally let me rejoin them, they at last determined upon
fleeing, as I would take them safely across the rivers and bays we
might meet. But they advised me to keep it secret from the Indians (as
well as my own departure) lest they would kill me forthwith, and that
to avoid this it was necessary to remain with them for six months
longer, after which time they would remove to another section in order
to eat prickly pears. These are a fruit of the size of eggs, red and
black, and taste very good. For three months they subsist upon them
exclusively, eating nothing else.
at the time they pluck this fruit, other Indians from beyond come to
them with bows for barter and exchange, and when those turn back we
thought of joining them and escaping in this way. With this
understanding I remained, and they gave me as a slave to an Indian
with whom Dorantes stayed. This Indian, his wife, their son and
another Indian who was with them were all cross-eyed. These are called
Mariames, and Castillo was with others, who were their neighbors,
so, being here with them, they told me that after leaving the Island
of Ill-Fate they met on the coast the boat in which the purser and the
monks were going adrift, and that crossing the rivers, of which there
were four, all very large and very swift, the barges in which they
crossed were swept out into the sea, where four of their number were
drowned. Thus they went ahead until they had crossed the inlet, which
they did by dint of great efforts. Fifteen leagues from there they met
another of our parties, and when they reached there, already two of
their companions had died in sixty leagues of travel. The survivors
also were very near death. On the whole trip they ate nothing but
crawfish and yerba pedrera.
this, the last cove, they said they saw Indians eating blackberries,
who, upon perceiving the Christians, went away to another promontory.
While seeking a way to cross the cove an Indian and a Christian came
towards them, and they recognized Figueroa, one of the four we had
sent ahead from the Island of Ill-Fate, who there told them how he and
his companions had gotten to that place, where two of their number and
one Indian had died from cold and hunger, because they had come and
remained in the worst weather known. He also said the Indians took him
with them Mendez fled, going in the direction of Panuco as best he
might, but the Indians pursued and killed him. So, as he (Figueroa)
was with these same Indians he learned (from them) that with the
Mariames there was a Christian who had come over from the other side
and had met him with those called Guevenes, and that this Christian
was Hernando de Esquivel, from Badajoz, a companion of the commissary.
From Esquivel he learned how the Governor, the purser and the others
purser, with the friars, had stranded with their barge among the
rivers, and, while they were proceeding along the coast, the barge of
the Governor and his men came to land also. He (the Governor) then
went with his barge as far as the big cove, whence he returned and
took his men across to the other side, then came back for the purser,
the monks and the rest. He further told him that after disembarking,
the Governor revoked the powers he had given to the purser as his
lieutenant, giving the office to a captain that was with him called
Governor did not land that night, but remained on his barge with a
pilot and a page who was sick. They had neither water nor anything to
eat aboard, and at midnight a northerner set in with such violence
that it carried the barge out into the sea, without anybody noticing
it. They had for an anchor only a stone, and never more did they hear
of him. Thereupon the people who had remained on land proceeded along
the coast, and, being much impeded by water, built rafts with great
trouble, in which they passed to the other side.
ahead, they reached a point of timber on the beach, where they found
Indians, who, upon seeing them approach, placed their lodges on the
canoes and crossed over to the other side of the coast, and the
Christians, in view of the season and weather, since it was in the
month of November, remained in this timber, because they found water
and firewood, some crawfish and other sea-food, but from cold and
hunger they began to die.
Pantoja, who remained as lieutenant, ill-treated them. On this
Sotomayor, brother of Vasco Porcallo (the one from the Island of Cuba,
who had come in the fleet as Maestro de Campo), unable to stand it
longer, quarreled with Pantoja and struck him a blow with a stick, of
which he died. Thus they perished one after another, the survivors
slicing the dead for meat. The last one to die was Sotomayor, and
Esquivel cut him up and fed on his body until the first of March, when
an Indian, of those who had taken to flight previously, came to look
if they were dead and took Esquivel along with him.
in the hands of this Indian, Figueroa spoke to Esquivel, learning from
him what we have told here, and he entreated him to go in his company
towards Panuco. But Esquivel refused, saying he had heard from the
monks that Panuco was in their rear, and so he remained, while
Figueroa went back to the coast where he formerly had been.
this account Figueroa gave after Esquivel's narrative, and thus, from
one to the other, it came to me. Through it the fate of the whole
fleet will be learned and known, and what happened to every one in
particular. And he said furthermore that if the Christians would go
about there for some time they might possibly meet Esquivel, because
he knew that he had run away from the Indian with whom he was and gone
to others called Mariames,who were their neighbors. And, as I have
just said, he and the Asturian wished to go to other Indians further
on, but when those with whom they were found it out, they beat them
severely, undressed the Asturian and pierced one of his arms with an
last the Christians escaped through flight, and remained with the
other Indians, whose slaves they agreed to become. But, although
serving them, they were so ill-treated, that no slaves, nor men in any
condition of life, were ever so abused. Not content with cuffing and
beating them and pulling out their beards for mere pastime, they
killed three out of the six only because they went from one lodge to
another. These were Diego Dorantes, Valdivieso and Diego de Huelva.
The three remaining ones expected to meet the same fate in the end.
escape from that life Andres Dorantes fled to the Mariames, and they
were the ones with whom Esquivel had been. They told him how Esquivel
stayed with them and how he fled because a woman dreamt he would kill
her son, and the Indians pursued and killed him. They also showed
Andres Dorantes his sword, his rosary, his prayer book and other
things of his.
is a custom of theirs to kill even their own children for the sake of
dreams, and the girls when newly born they throw away to be eaten by
dogs. The reason why they do it is (as they say) that all the others
of that country are their enemies with whom they are always at war,
and should they marry their daughters they might multiply so much as
to be able to overcome them and reduce them to slavery. Hence they
prefer to kill the girls rather than see them give birth to children
who would become their foes.
asked them why they did not wed the girls among themselves. They
replied it was bad to marry them to their own kin, and much better to
do away with their daughters than to leave them to relatives or to
enemies. This custom they have in common with their neighbors, the
Iguaces, and no other tribe of that country has it. When they want to
get married they buy their wives from their enemies. The price paid
for a woman is a bow, the best to be had, with two arrows, and if he
has no bow he gives a net as much as a fathom in width and one in
length. They kill their own children and buy those of strangers.
Marriage only lasts as long as they please. For a mere nothing they
break up wedlock.
remained only a few days with those Indians and then escaped. Castillo
and Estevanico went inland to the Iguaces. All those people are
archers and well built, although not as tall as those we had left
behind us, and they have the nipple and lip perforated. Their
principal food are two or three kinds of roots, which they hunt for
all over the land; they are very unhealthy, inflating, and it takes
two days to roast them. Many are very bitter, and with all that they
are gathered with difficulty. But those people are so much exposed to
starvation that these roots are to them indispensable and they walk
two and three leagues to obtain them. Now and then they kill deer and
at times get a fish, but this is so little and their hunger so great
that they eat spiders and ant eggs, worms, lizards and salamanders and
serpents, also vipers the bite of which is deadly. They swallow earth
and wood, and all they can get, the dung of deer and more things I do
not mention; and I verily believe, from what I saw, that if there were
any stones in the country they would eat them also. They preserve the
bones of the fish they eat, of snakes and other animals, to pulverize
them and eat the powder.
men do not carry burdens or loads, the women and old men have to do
it, for those are the people they least esteem. They have not as much
love for their children as those spoken of before. Some among them are
given to unnatural vices. The women are compelled to do very hard work
and in a great many ways, for out of twenty-four hours of day and
night they get only six hours' rest. They spend most of the night in
stirring the fire to dry those roots which they eat, and at daybreak
they begin to dig and carry firewood and water to their houses and
attend to other necessary matters. Most of these Indians are great
thieves, for, although very liberal towards each other, as soon as one
turns his heads his own son or the father grabs what he can. They are
great liars and drunkards and take something in order to become
intoxicated. They are so accustomed to running that, without resting
or getting tired, they run from morning till night in pursuit of a
deer, and kill a great many, because they follow until the game is
worn out, sometimes catching it alive. Their huts are of matting
placed over four arches. They carry them on their back and move every
two or three days in quest of food; they plant nothing that would be
of any use.
are a very merry people, and even when famished do not cease to dance
and celebrate their feasts and ceremonials. Their best times are when
"tunas" (prickly pears) are ripe, because then they have
plenty to eat and spend the time in dancing and eating day and night.
As long as these tunas last they squeeze and open them and set them to
dry. When dried they are put in baskets like figs and kept to be eaten
on the way. The peelings they grind and pulverize.
with them it happened many times that we were three or four days
without food. Then, in order to cheer us, they would tell us not to
despair, since we would have tunas very soon and eat much and drink
their juice and get big stomachs and be merry, contented and without
hunger. But from the day they said it to the season of the tunas there
would still elapse five or six months, and we had to wait that long.
the time came, and we went to eat tunas, there were a great many
mosquitoes of three kinds, all very bad and troublesome, which during
most of the summer persecuted us. In order to protect ourselves we
built, all around our camps, big fires of damp and rotten wood, that
gave no flame but much smoke, and this was the cause of further
trouble to us, for the whole night we did not do anything but weep
from the smoke that went to our eyes, and the heat from the fires was
so insufferable that we would go to the shore for rest. And when,
sometimes, we were able to sleep, the Indians roused us again with
blows to go and kindle the fires.
from further inland have another remedy, just as bad and even worse,
which is to go about with a firebrand, setting fire to the plains and
timber so as to drive off the mosquitoes, and also to get lizards and
similar things which they eat, to come out of the soil. In the same
manner they kill deer, encircling them with fires, and they do it also
to deprive the animals of pasture, compelling them to go for food
where the Indians want. For never they build their abodes except where
there are wood and water, and sometimes load themselves with the
requisites and go in quest of deer, which are found mostly where there
is neither water nor wood.
the very day they arrive they kill deer and whatever else can be had
and use all the water and wood to cook their food with and build fires
against the mosquitoes. They wait for another day to get something to
take along on the road, and when they leave they are so badly bitten
by mosquitoes as to appear like lepers. In this manner they satisfy
their hunger twice or thrice a year and at such great sacrifice as I
have told. Having been with them I can say that no toil or suffering
in this world comes near it.
over this country there are a great many deer, fowl and other animals
which I have before enumerated. Here also they come up with cows; I
have seen them thrice and have eaten their meat. They appear to me of
the size of those in Spain. Their horns are small, like those of the
Moorish cattle; the hair is very long, like fine wool and like a
peajacket; some are brownish and others black, and to my taste they
have better and more meat than those from here. Of the small hides the
Indians make blankets to cover themselves with, and of the taller ones
they make shoes and targets. These cows come from the north, across
the country further on, to the coast of Florida, and are found all
over the land for over four hundred leagues. On this whole stretch,
through the valleys by which they come, people who live there descend
to subsist upon their flesh. And a great quantity of hides are met
I had been with the Christians for six months, waiting to execute our
plans, the Indians went for "tunas," at a distance of thirty
leagues from there, and as we were about to flee the Indians began
fighting among themselves over a woman and cuffed and struck and hurt
each other, and in great rage each one took his lodge and went his own
way. So we Christians had to part, and in no manner could we get
together again until the year following. During that time I fared very
badly, as well from lack of food as from the abuse the Indians gave
me. So badly was I treated that I had to flee three times from my
masters, and they all went in my pursuit ready to kill me. But God,
Our Lord, in His infinite goodness, protected and saved my life.
the time for the tunas came we found each other again on the same
spot. We had already agreed to escape and appointed a day for it, when
on that very day the Indians separated us, sending each one to a
different place, and I told my companions that I would wait for them
at the tunas until full moon. It was the first of September and the
first day of the new moon, and I told them that if at the time set
they did not appear I would go on alone without them. We parted, each
one going off with his Indians.
remained with mine until the thirteenth of the moon, determined to
escape to other Indians as soon as the moon would be full, and on that
day there came to where I was Andres Dorantes and Estevanico. They
told me they had left Castillo with other people nearby, called
Anagados, and how they had suffered many hardships and been lost. On
the following day our Indians moved towards where Castillo was and
were going to join those who kept him, making friends with them, as
until then they had been at war. So we got Castillo also.
all the time we ate tunas we felt thirsty. To allay our thirst we
drank the juice of the fruit, pouring it first into a pit which we dug
in the soil, and when that was full we drank to satisfaction. The
Indians do it in that way, out of lack of vessels. The juice is sweet
and has the color of must. There are many kinds of tunas, and some
very good ones, although to me all tasted well alike, hunger never
leaving me time to select, or stop to think which ones were better.
Most of the people drink rainwater that collects here and there, for,
as they never have a fixed abode, they know no springs nor established
watering places, although there are rivers.
over the land are vast and handsome pastures, with good grass for
cattle, and it strikes me the soil would be very fertile were the
country inhabited and improved by reasonable people. We saw no
mountains as long as we were in this country. These Indians told us
that further on there were others called Cajoles, who live nearer the
coast, and that they were those who killed all the people that came in
the barge of Penalosa and Tellez. They had been so emaciated and
feeble that when being killed they offered no resistance. So the
Indians finished with all of them, and showed us some of their clothes
and weapons and said the barge was still there stranded. This is the
fifth of the missing ones. That of the Governor we already said had
been swept out into the sea, the one of the purser and the monks was
seen stranded on the beach and Esquivel told us of their end. Of the
two in which Castillo, I and Dorantes were I have told how they sank
close to the Isle of Ill-Fate.
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