Head of a cow



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Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca [Cabeza de Vaca means "head of a cow"]

( Around 1490-1557) was a Spanish explorer who sailed to North America

from Spain, leaving in 1527.

The expedition of 250 to 300 men was led by Panfilo de Narvaez. After surviving a hurricane near Cuba, the expedition landed on the west coast of Florida (near Tampa Bay) in April 1528, claiming the land for Spain.

A series of hurricanes and fights with Native Americans killed many of the crew, and the pilot of the ship sailed to Mexico without the 250 to 300 men. The stranded men hastily made 5 make-shift rafts on which they sailed west, hoping to reach a Spanish settlement in Mexico. Three rafts sank, but the two surviving rafts (carrying 80 men) landed at Galveston Island (off what is now Texas). Narvaez did not survive.



After a very cold winter with very little food, only 15 men survived. In spring, the men traveled west by land, walking along the Colorado River. By 1533, there were only four survivors, including Estevanico, Carranza, Cabeza de Vaca, and Alonso Castillo Maldonado. The men were enslaved for a while by some Indian tribes along the way, and were helped by other tribes. They were the first non-natives to travel in this area of the southwestern North America. Da vaca and his fellow travelers were the first Europeans to see the bison, or American buffalo.

The four men finally reached the Spanish settlement of Culiacan in early 1536 (8 years after being stranded in Florida). Later that year they reached Mexico City, where they were welcomed by the Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza.


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