Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's account of the doomed Narvaez expedition to the vast unexplored lands beyond the northern frontier of New Spain has long been heralded as the quintessential tale of the European confronting the wilderness of North America and its native inhabitants for the first time. After living captive among native peoples of the present-day Texas coast for almost six years, Cabeza de Vaca traveled overland through present-day western Texas and northern Mexico until being reunited with his countrymen near the Pacific coast. His account offers an isolated glimpse of areas of Gulf coastal Texas and northeastern Mexico that would not be visited again by Europeans for over 150 years and is the earliest authentic eyewitness description of the North American bison. Volume 1 presents the first modern edition of Cabeza de Vaca's original 1542 relacion and a new, annotated, facing-page English translation. It concludes with a newly researched study of Cabeza de Vaca's life. Volume 2 analyzes the narrative in discrete segments, putting into context Cabeza de Vaca's descriptions of the landscape, ecology, and peoples he encountered. It also includes new research into the preparations of Narvaez's expedition in Spain and a fresh study of the lives and fates of Cabeza de Vaca's three surviving companions. Volume 3 considers the literary and historical contexts of Cabeza de Vaca's relacion. The literary inquiry examines the work's creation, publication history, and literary and cultural legacy from the sixteenth century to the present. The historical analysis presents new studies of Spanish exploration in the Gulf of Mexico (1508-28), Spanish speculation on and exploration of the South Sea (1502-39), and Nuno de Guzman's conquest of Nueva Galicia (1530-31).
Rolena Adorno is a professor of Latin American literature at Yale University. She is the author of Guaman Poma: Writing and Resistance in Colonial Peru. Patrick Charles Pautz is a doctoral candidate in Spanish at Princeton University.