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Why Cabeza de Vaca is the Toughest Man who Ever Lived


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Here is my argument as to why Cabeza de Vaca was the toughest man who ever lived:

1) In June 1527, at the age of 40, Cabeza de Vaca left Spain for the Caribbean as second-in-command of a group of five ships with six hundred sailors. His captain was a man named Narvaez.
2) They overwintered 1527-1528 in the Caribbean. While there, they suffered a devastating hurricane on Cuba and the desertion of 140 men on Hispaniola.
3) After refitting following the hurricane, in April, 1528 five ships and 400 men sailed from Cuba to the western coast of Florida, near what is now Tampa.
4) Narvaez then decided to send 300 men, himself and Cabeza de Vaca among them, inland to find gold and a site for settlement. The ships were to go ahead and meet them at another point on the coast. Big time screwup. The ships got hopelessly separated from the men inland.
5) The inland men reached Northwestern Florida in mid-June and camped for three months, facing food shortages and unfriendly Indians.
6) They returned to the Florida coast and now, driven by desperation, they built five boats of rough-sawn timber caulked with pine resin, made sails from their own clothes, and slaughtered their horses, whose hides covered the boats and hair made rigging for the sails.
7) Leaving Florida in September 1528, five boats and 250 men attempted to sail along the Gulf Coast west to Mexico. Things were okay for awhile but then storms separated the five boats (of course) and two of them were swept up onto a small island just west of Galveston Island (most likely, that is ... this is not known for sure). One of these two boats had Cabeza de Vaca on it.
😎 They were soon found by Karankawas who turned out to be friendly and who gave them food and water. By this time, all of the men were very nearly dead. But Cabeza de Vaca and his men got healthy and decided to launch the boat again. It capsized and three men drown. The survivors washed up on the beach as naked as the day they were born and presented such a pitiful sight that the Karankawas cried with them for half an hour.
9) The two groups of survivors found each other on the island and chose the four strongest men to walk westward along the coast to Mexico to send help. Of course, none ever came.
10) Cabeza de Vaca survived the winter of 1528-1529 but in the spring he went onto the Texas mainland and became so sick that, believing him to be very near death, all but two of his companions left him, deciding to travel south and west down the coast towards Mexico.
11) After they left, amazingly, Cabeza De Vaca recovered. He spent the next four years with his two remaining Spanish companions, using the island as his home base.
12) During these four years, Cabeza de Vaca was a merchant, a doctor, and a slave. The Karankawas demanded that he treat their sick. For almost a year he was forced to live with other Indians who treated him like a slave. Later, he escaped and lived the life of a trader, trading coastal products like shells and snails for hides, red ocher, flint etc...
13) In late 1532 one of his Spanish companions died. He convinced the other that they needed to walk to Mexico. Traveling westward, they met some Indians who told them of a group of three other men like them who were being held as slaves by another tribe. To show what was happening to the men, the Indians slapped and beat Cabeza de Vaca and his companion. This frightened his companion so badly that he returned to the Galveston area and disappeared forever.
14) So now Cabeza De Vaca was on his own. A few days later, he found the three other men: Maldonado, Carranza, and Estevancio. They escaped their captors and, together, these four men would continue their adventure for another four years.
15) They were then captured and made slaves by the Coahuiltecan Indians. They immediately planned an escape but were unable to do it for about two years.
16) Finally, in September 1534, they did escape and headed South. Nobody knows exactly where they went, but it appears that they walked about 2000 MILES or so. They probably walked through South Texas to Monterrey, Mexico, then to the Northwest back into Texas across the Rio Grande south of El Paso near Presidio, and finally West across the Rio Grande to the outpost of Culiacan near the Pacific Ocean.
17) They reached Culican early in 1536, 8.5 years after Cabeza De Vaca had left Spain and having walked two thousand miles in less than two years, killing whatever the could more or less with their bare hands, eating desert plants etc...
18) Cabeza de Vaca reached Mexico City in July, 1536 and sailed back to Spain.
19) In 1542, Cabeza de Vaca published a book about his adventures that describes the indians, the Trans-Pecos, bison (first European to see one) etc.... It's now an all-time classic book

20) Cabeza de Vaca described in detail to Spanish King

21) Cabeza de Vaca was made governor of Paraguay.
To reach his seat of government at Asunción, he led some 200 settlers on a 1,200 mile march from the coast of Brazil. To inspire his followers, he took off his shoes and walked every step of the way, even though horses were available as mounts. During his experiences in Texas, he had become a champion of Indian rights. In Paraguay, he attempted to implement policies to the benefit of the Guaraní Indians and was removed from office by disgruntled settlers bent on exploiting the natives.

22) Sent back to Spain in chains, Cabeza de Vaca ----- after all he'd been through ----- was convicted on trumped-up charges of mistreating Indians. Found guilty in Spain on thirty-two specific charges of transgressions at Asunción, Cabeza de Vaca was banished in perpetuity from Spanish possessions in the Americas and sentenced to five years’ service at the penal colony of Oran in North Africa. After a series of appeals, his harsh sentence was commuted in August 1552.

22) Cabeza de Vaca remained in Spain until his death about 1559.

Any questions as to whom the toughest man who ever lived was?

Later I pondered how cushy we have it for the most part and how we have to have all of this gear and specialized crap to get out into nature and that even then we are scared to really rough it and, basically, what a big bunch of weenies we've all become. Can you imagine how Cabeza De Vaca must have felt after his boat capsized and he washed up onto the beach at Galveston for the second time? He was thousands of miles from home, in a place he had no knowledge of, without clothing. It was early November and getting cold, he had no ship to get back on, and he had no knowledge, other than a very vague sense of which direction to walk, of where to go to get out of his predicament. He was 40 years old and had no actionable linguistic skills. He could either live or die and somehow almost nine years later he walks out into civilization again. 



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