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Presented Here is Part 4 of 5 of that Document - New Mexico, Arizona & Mexico
Index: Florida Alabama Mississippi Louisiana Texas ARIZONA MEXICO Postscript
Maps of All States Trails

The Journey of
Alvar Nuñez Cabeza De Vaca
Published in 1542

Translated by Fanny Bandelier in 1905, Part 4 of 5

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 Westward thru NEW MEXICO and ARIZONA then southward into MEXICO

    DEVACA'S AMERICAN TRAIL ON GOOGLE EARTH
Painted Image of Cabeza de Vaca

Cabeza de Vaca's Trail in New Mexico

(Along his way west in January, 1536, Cabeza de Vaca says:) We followed the women (leaving Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, beside El Paso, Texas) to a place where it had been agreed we should wait for them (Hunts Hole nearing Cox Peak, New Mexico, 35 miles west of Ciudad Juarez, to escape the crowds). After five days they had not yet returned, and the Indians explained that it might be because they had not found anybody. So we told them to take us north (out of the desert they were in), and they repeated that there were no people, except very far away (probably at Albuquerque - 200 miles north), and neither food nor water (along that sparcely populated way). Nevertheless we insisted, saying that we wanted to go there, and they still excused themselves as best they could, until at last we became angry (but stayed there anyway).

One night I went away to sleep out in the field apart from them; but they soon came to where I was, and remained awake all night in great alarm, talking to me, saying how frightened they were. They entreated us not to be angry any longer, because, even if it was their death, they would take us where we chose. We feigned to be angry still, so as to keep them in suspense, and then a singular thing happened.

On that same day many fell sick, and on the next day eight of them died! All over the country, where it was known, they became so afraid that it seemed as if the mere sight of us would kill them. They besought us not to be angry nor to procure the death of any more of their number, for they were convinced that we killed them by merely thinking of it. In truth, we were very much concerned about it, for, seeing the great mortality, we dreaded that all of them might die or forsake us in their terror, while those further on, upon learning of it, would get out of our way hereafter. We prayed to God our Lord to assist us, and the sick began to get well. Then we saw something that astonished us very much, and it was that, while the parents, brothers and wives of the dead had shown deep grief at their illness, from the moment they died the survivors made no demonstration whatsoever, and showed not the slightest feeling; nor did they dare to go near the bodies until we ordered their burial.

In more than fifteen days that we remained with them we never saw them talk together, neither did we see a child that laughed or cried. One child, who had begun to cry, was carried off some distance, and with some very sharp mice-teeth they scratched it from the shoulders down to nearly the legs. Angered by this act of cruelty, I took them to task for it, and they said it was done to punish the child for having wept in my presence. Their apprehensions caused the others that came to see us to give us what they had, since they knew that we did not take anything for ourselves, but left it all to the Indians.

Those were the most docile people we met in the country, of the best complexion, and on the whole well built.

The sick being on the way of recovery, when we had been there already three days, the women whom we had sent out returned, saying that they had met very few people, nearly all having gone after the cows, as it was the season. So we ordered those who had been sick to remain, and those who were well to accompany us, and that, two days' travel from there, the same women should go with us and get people to come to meet us on the trail for our reception.

The next morning all those who were strong enough came along, and at the end of three journeys we halted. Alonso del Castillo and Estevanico, the negro, left with the women as guides, and the woman who was a captive took them to a river (South Canyon) that flows between mountains (Florida Peak at 7460 feet msl and the Little Florida Mountains at 5660 feet msl), where there was a village (today's Prospect), in which her father lived, and these were the first abodes we saw that were like unto real houses. Castillo and Estevanico went to these and, after holding parley with the Indians, at the end of three days Castillo returned to where he had left us, bringing with him five or six of the Indians. He told how he had found permanent houses (nearing today's Deming), inhabited, the people of which ate beans and squashes, and that he had also seen maize.

Of all things upon earth this caused us the greatest pleasure, and we gave endless thanks to our Lord for this news. Castillo said that the negro was coming to meet us on the way, near by, with all the people of the houses. For that reason we started, and after going a league and a half met the negro and the people that came to receive us, who gave us beans and many squashes to eat, gourds to carry water in, robes of cowhide, and other things. As those people and the Indians of our company were enemies, and did not understand each other, we took leave of the latter, leaving them all that had been given to us, while we went on with the former and, six leagues beyond, when night was already approaching, reached their houses (at Deming), where they received us with great ceremonies. Here we remained one day, and left on the next, taking them with us to other permanent houses, where they subsisted on the same food also, and thence on we found a new custom.

The people who heard of our approach did not, as before, come out to meet us on the way, but we found them at their homes, and they had other houses ready for us. They were all seated with their faces turned to the wall, the heads bowed and the hair pulled over the eyes. Their belongings had been gathered in a heap in the middle of the floor, and thence on they began to give us many robes of skins. There was nothing they would not give us. They are the best formed people we have seen, the liveliest and most capable; who best understood us and answered our questions. We called them "of the cows," because most of the cows die near therein and because for more than fifty leagues up that stream (the Rio Grande) they go to kill many of them. Those people go completely naked, after the manner of the first we met. The women are covered with deer-skins, also some men, especially the old ones, who are of no use any more in war.

The country is well settled. We asked them why they did not raise maize, and they replied that they were afraid of losing the crops, since for two successive years it had not rained, and the seasons were so dry that the moles had eaten the corn, so that they did not dare to plant any more until it should have rained very hard. And they also begged us to ask Heaven for rain, which we promised to do. We also wanted to know from where they brought their maize, and they said it came from where the sun sets (west), and that it was found all over that country, and the shortest way to it was in that direction. We asked them to tell us how to go, as they did not want to go themselves, to tell us about the way.

They said we should travel up the river towards the north (up the Rio Grande), on which trail for seventeen days (to Albuquerque, 200 miles from there) we would not find a thing to eat except a fruit called chacan, which they grind between stones; but even then it cannot be eaten, being so coarse and dry; and so it was, for they showed it to us and we could not eat it. But they also said that, going upstream (west-northwestward), we would always travel among people who were their enemies, although speaking the same language, and who could give us no food, but would receive us very willingly, and give us many cotton blankets, hides and other things; but that it seemed to them that we ought not to take that road.

In doubt as to what should be done, and which was the best and most advantageous road to take, we remained with them for two days. They gave us beans, squashes and calabashes. Their way of cooking them is so new and strange that I felt like describing it here, in order to show how different and queer are the devices and industries of human beings. They have no pots. In order to cook their food they fill a middle-sized gourd with water, and place into a fire such stones as easily become heated, and when they are hot to scorch they take them out with wooden tongs, thrusting them into the water of the gourd, until it boils. As soon as it boils they put into it what they want to cook, always taking out the stones as they cool off and throwing in hot ones to keep the water steadily boiling. This is their way of cooking.

After two days were past we determined to go (west from Deming) in search of maize, and not to follow the road to the cows, since the latter carried us to the north, which meant a very great circuit, as we held it always certain that by going towards sunset we should reach the goal of our wishes.

So we went on our way and traversed the whole country to the South Sea, and our resolution was not shaken by the fear of great starvation, which the Indians said we should suffer (and indeed suffered) during the first seventeen days of travel (NOT north to Albuquerque and back in seventeen days).

Cabeza de Vaca's Trail across the Continental Divide
 America's Continental Divide at 6,000 feet m.s.l. west-northwest of Deming.

To and Into Arizona           Painted Image of Cabeza de Vaca

DEVACA'S NORTH AMERICAN TRAIL ON GOOGLE EARTH

All along the (Mimbres) river (WEST-NORTHWEST FROM DEMING, NEW MEXICO, and up the fords to and across the Continental Divide, and down Gold Gulch and Nichols Canyon to the Gila River - 70 miles from Deming, mapped above - then down that river into Arizona with a 2,000 ft. elevation drop in 150 miles) and in the course of these seventeen days we received plenty of cowhides, and did not eat of their famous fruit (chacan) but our food consisted (for each day) of a handful of deer-tallow, and in the course of these seventeen days we received plenty of cowhides, which for that purpose we always sought to keep, and so endured these seventeen days, at the end of which we crossed the river (the Gila River at its junction with the San Pedro River) Cabeza de Vaca's Trail in Arizona and Northern Mexico(55 miles north of Tucson, mapped at right - 220 miles traveled in seventeen days) and marched for seventeen days more (down the Gila River thru Cochran to Coolidge between Phoenix and Tucson, where Cabeza de Vaca learned that if he continued downstream - 160 miles to the "South Sea" at today's Gulf of California [the Spaniards Sea of Cortez] - he would pass by Mexico City. So he turned SOUTH, across the Santa Cruz Flats to Eloy, then up the Santa Cruz River thru Marana, Tucson and Green Valley to Rio Rico, then beyond Nogales, elevation 4,000 feet msl, on Mexico's border, 175 miles from his Gila River crossing place at San Pedro River north of Tucson).

Into Mexico                 Painted Image of Cabeza de Vaca

Vaca followed Highway 15 to Mexico City

DEVACA'S MEXICAN TRAIL ON GOOGLE EARTH

Cabeza de Vaca's Trail along today's Highway 15 in Mexico
DeVaca's Mexican Federal Highway 15 route to its end at Mexico City

At sunset, on a plain between very high mountains (astride today's Highway 15 along Arroyo La Mesa River, 25 miles beyond Nogales, at Agua Caliente in February, 1536), we met people who, for one-third of the year, eat but powdered straw, and as we went by just at that time, had to eat it also, until, AT THE END OF THAT JOURNEY we found some permanent houses (at Magdalena, Mexico, 25 miles south of the plain, 50 miles into Mexico, along today's Highway 15, having traveled 225 miles in the second seventeen days of that journey), with plenty of harvested maize, of which and of its meal they gave us great quantities, also squashes and beans, and blankets of cotton, with all of which we loaded those who had conducted us thither, so that they went home the most contented people upon earth. We gave God our Lord many thanks for having taken us where there was plenty to eat.

Among the houses there were several made of earth, and others of cane matting; and from here we travelled more than a hundred leagues (over 260 miles - first south, to and down the Rio San Miguel between mountains thru Hormosilla to the Gulf of California, then southeast thru Ciudad Obregon to Navojoa, near which evidence of Spanish activity would first be encountered, as described in the next six paragraphs), always meeting permanent houses and a great stock of maize and beans, and they gave us many deer (hides) and blankets of cotton better than those of New Spain. They (at Hormosilla) also gave us plenty of beads made out of the coral found in the South Sea; many good turquoises, which they get from the north; they finally gave us all they had; and Dorantes they presented with five emeralds, shaped as arrow-points, which arrows they use in their feasts and dances. As they appeared to be of very good quality, I asked whence they got them from, and they said it was from some very high mountains toward the north, where they traded for them with feather-bushes and parrot-plumes, and they said also that there were villages with many people and very big houses.

Among those people we found the women better treated than in any other part of the Indies as far as we have seen. They wear skirts of cotton that reach as far as the knee, and over them half-sleeves of scraped deerskin, with strips that hang down to the ground, and which they clean with certain roots, that clean very well and thus keep them tidy. The shirts are open in front and tied with strings; they wear shoes.

All those people came to us that we might touch and cross them; and they were so obtrusive as to make it difficult to endure since all, sick and healthy, wanted to be crossed. It happened frequently that women of our company would give birth to children and forthwith bring them to have the sign of the cross made over them and the babes be touched by us. They always accompanied us until we were again in the care of others, and all those people believed that we came from Heaven. What they do not understand or is new to them they are wont to say it comes from above.

While travelling with these we used to go the whole day without food, until night, and then we would eat so little that the Indians were amazed. They never saw us tired, because we were, in reality, so inured to hardships as not to feel them any more. We exercised great authority over them, and carried ourselves with much gravity, and, in order to maintain it, spoke very little to them. It was the negro who talked to them all the time; he inquired about the road we should follow, the villages - in short, about everything we wished to know. We came across a great variety and number of languages, and God our Lord favored us with a knowledge of all, because they always could understand us and we understood them, so that when we asked they would answer by signs, as if they spoke our tongue and we theirs; for, although we spoke six languages, not everywhere could we use them, since we found more than a thousand different ones. In that part of the country those who were at war would at once make peace and become friendly to each other, in order to meet us and bring us all they possessed; and thus we left the whole country at peace.

We told them, by signs which they understood, that in Heaven there was a man called God, by us, who had created Heaven and earth, and whom we worshipped as our Lord; that we did as he ordered us to do, all good things coming from his hand, and that if they were to do the same they would become very happy; and so well were they inclined that, had there been a language in which we could have made ourselves perfectly understood, we would have left them all Christians. All this we gave them to understand as clearly as possible, and since then, when the sun rose, with great shouting they would lift their clasped hands to Heaven and then pass them all over their body. The same they did at sunset. They are well conditioned people, apt to follow any line which is well traced for them.

In the village where they had given us the emeralds (at Hormosilla, above), they also gave Dorantes over six hundred hearts of deer, opened, of which they kept always a great store for eating. For this reason we gave to their settlement the name of "village of the hearts." Through it leads the pass into many provinces (on massive open planes beyond) near the South Sea, and any one who should attempt to get there by another (overland) route must surely be lost, as there is no maize on the coast, and they eat powdered fox-tail grass, straw, and fish, which they catch in the sea in rafts, for they have no canoes. The women cover their loins with straw and grass. They are a very shy and surly people.

We believe that, near the coast, in a line with the villages which we followed, there are more than a thousand leagues (2600 miles, the distance from there to Panama) of inhabited land, where they have plenty of victuals, since they raise three crops of beans and maize in the year. There are three kinds of deer, one kind as large as calves are in Castilla. The houses in which they live are huts. They have a poison, from certain trees of the size of our apple trees. They need but pick the fruit and rub their arrows with it; and if there is no fruit they take a branch and with its milky sap do the same. Many of those trees are so poisonous that if the leaves are pounded and washed in water near by, the deer, or any other animal that drinks of it burst at once. In this village (Navojoa, to which they had traveled more than a hundred leagues - over 260 miles - from Magdalena) we stayed three days, and at a day's journey from it was another one (Masiaca, just inland of Bahia de Yavaros [on the Gulf of California] near the Balsas River, shown on Google Earth images below), where such a rain overtook us that, as the river rose high, we could not cross it, and remained there fifteen days (described over the the next five paragraphs).
1st Traces of Christians
found below Navojoa

During this time (between Navojoa and Masiaca) Castillo saw, on the neck of an Indian, a little buckle from a swordbelt, and in it was sewed a horseshoe nail. He took it from the Indian, and we asked what it was; they said it had come from Heaven. We further asked who had brought it, and they answered that some men, with beards like ours, had come from Heaven (wearing shiny armour, which they had never seen before) to that river (the Balsas River); that they had horses, lances and swords, and had lanced two of them.

As cautiously as possible, we then inquired what had become of those men; and they replied they had gone to sea, putting their lances into the water and going into it themselves, and that afterwards they saw them on top of the waves moving towards sunset (out of Bahia de Yavaros, see Google Earth image at right).

We gave God our Lord many thanks for what we had heard, for we were despairing to ever hear of Christians again. On the other hand, we were in great sorrow and much dejected, lest those people had come by sea for the sake of discovery only. Finally, having such positive notice of them, we hastened onward, always finding more traces of the Christians, and we told the Indians that we were now sure to find the Christians, and would tell them not to kill Indians or make them slaves, nor take them out of their country, or do any other harm, and of that they were very glad.

We travelled over a great part of the country, and found it all deserted, as the people had fled to the mountains, leaving houses and fields out of fear of the Christians. This filled our hearts with sorrow, seeing the land so fertile and beautiful, so full of water and streams, but abandoned and the places burned down, and the people, so thin and wan, fleeing and hiding; and as they did not raise any crops their destitution had become so great that they ate tree-bark and roots. Of this distress we had our share all the way along, because they could provide little for us in their indigence, and it looked as if they were going to die. They brought us blankets, which they had been concealing from the Christians, and gave them to us, and told us how the Christians had penetrated into the country before, and had destroyed and burnt the villages, taking with them half of the men and all the women and children, and how those who could escaped by flight. Seeing them in this plight, afraid to stay anywhere, and that they neither would nor could cultivate the soil, preferring to die rather than suffer such cruelties, while they showed the greatest pleasure at being with us, we began to apprehend that the Indians who were in arms against the Christians might ill-treat us in retaliation for what the Christians did to them. But when it pleased God our Lord to take us to those Indians, they respected us and held us precious, as the former had done, and even a little more, at which we were not a little astonished, while it clearly shows how, in order to bring those people to Christianity and obedience unto Your Imperial Majesty, they should be well treated, and not otherwise.

They took us to a village on the crest of a mountain (at Masiaca, a native lookout for Spanish ships, rising 600 feet over Bahia de Yavaros located 11 miles west of Masiaca, in image above), which can be reached only by a very steep trail, where we found a great many people, who had gathered there out of dread of the Christians. These received us very well, giving us all they had: over two thousand loads of maize, which we distributed among the poor, famished people (back at camp) who had led us to the place.

The next day we dispatched (as we were wont to do) four runners, to call together as many as could be reached, to a village three journeys away (Los Mochis, 65 miles down Highway 15 from there); and on the next day we followed with all the people that were at the place, always meeting with signs and vestiges where the Christians had slept.

At noon we met our messengers, who told us they had not found anybody, because all were hidden in the woods, lest the Christians might kill or enslave them; also that, on the night before, they had seen the Christians and watched their movements, under cover of some trees, behind which they concealed themselves, and saw the Christians take many Indians along in chains. At this the people who were with us became frightened, and some turned back to give the alarm through the land that Christians were coming, and many more would have done the same had we not told them to stay and have no fear, at which they quieted down and were comforted. We had Indians with us at the time who came from a distance of a hundred leagues (of East Coast Mexico, along the Gulf of California), and whom we could not induce to go back to their homes. So, in order to reassure them, we slept there that night and the next day went further, and slept on the road; and the day after those we had sent to explore guided us to where they had seen the Christians. Reaching the place in the evening (passing east of the hills then across today's Fuerte River, then into nearby Los Mochis), we clearly saw they had told the truth, and also, from the stakes to which the horses had been tied, that there were horsemen among them.

From here, which is called the river of Petutan (the Fuerte River), to the river which Diego de Guzman reached (not specified herein, but probably the Rio San Miguel above Hermosilla), there may be, from the place where we first heard of the Christians, eighty leagues (200 miles, from just below Navojoa where they first heard of Christians); then to the village where the rain overtook us, twelve leagues (it's closer to 28 miles, mapped well above); and from there (Los Mochis) to the South Sea twelve leagues (it's closer to 22 miles). Throughout all that country, wherever it is mountainous, we saw many signs of gold, antimony, iron, copper and other metals. Where the permanent houses are it is so hot that even in January (which Cabeza De Vaca would hear about in Mexico City) the air is very warm. From there to the southward the land, which is uninhabited as far as the Sea of the North (it's very mountainous from there to the Gulf of Mexico on the Sea of the North), is very barren and poor. There we suffered great and almost incredible starvation; and those who roam through that country and dwell in it are very cruel people, of evil inclinations and habits. The Indians who live in permanent houses and those in the rear of them pay not attention to gold nor silver, nor have they any use for either of these metals.

Having seen positive traces of Christians (at Los Mochis) and become satisfied they were very near, we gave many thanks to our Lord for redeeming us from our sad and gloomy condition. Any one can imagine our delight when he reflects how long we had been in that land, and how many dangers and hardships we had suffered. That night I entreated one of my companions to go after the Christians, who were moving through the part of the country pacified and quieted by us, and who were three days ahead of where we were. They did not like my suggestion, and excused themselves from going, on the ground of being tired and worn out, although any of them might have done it far better than I, being younger and stronger.

DEVACA'S MEXICAN TRAIL ON GOOGLE EARTH

Seeing their reluctance, in the morning I took with me the negro and eleven Indians and, following the trail (today's Highway 15), went in search of the Christians. On that day we made ten leagues, passing three places where they had slept. The next morning I came upon four Christians on horseback (nearing Guasave), who, seeing me in such a strange attire, and in company with Indians, were greatly startled. They stared at me for quite a while, speechless; so great was their surprise that they could not find words to ask me anything. I spoke first, and told them to lead me to their captain, and we went together to Diego de Alcaraza, their commander.

After I had addressed him he said that he was himself in a plight, as for many days he had been unable to capture Indians, and did not know where to go, also that starvation was beginning to place them in great distress. I stated to him that, in the rear of me, at a distance of ten leagues, were Dorantes and Castillo, with many people who had guided us through the country. He at once dispatched three horsemen, with fifty of his Indians, and the negro went with them as guide, while I remained and asked them to give me a certified statement of the date - year, month and day - when I had met them, also the condition in which I had come, with which request they complied.

From this river (Rio Sinaloa at Guasave, Mexico, which he later called Petlatlan) to the village called San Miguel (at today's San Miguel de Culiacan), which pertains to the government called New Galicia, there are thirty leagues.

Five days later Andres Dorantes and Alonso del Castillo came with those who had gone in quest of them. They brought along more than six hundred Indians, from the village, the people of which the Christians had caused to flee to the woods, and who were in hiding about the country (i.e. on the crest of a mountain). Those who had come with us as far as that place had taken them out of their places of concealment, turning them over to the Christians. They had also dispatched the others who had come that far.

When they arrived at where I was Alcaraz begged me to send for the people of the villages along the banks of the river (up the Petutan, today's Fuerte River, emptying 200 miles of mountains), who were hiding in the timber, and he also requested me to order them to fetch supplies. There was not occasion for the latter as the Indians always took good care to bring us whatever they could; nevertheless, we sent our messengers at once to call them, and six hundred persons came with all the maize they had, in pots closed with clay, which they had buried for concealment. They also brought nearly everything else they possessed, but we only took of the food, giving the rest to the Christians for distribution among themselves.

Thereupon we had many and bitter quarrels with the Christians, for they wanted to make slaves of our Indians, and we grew so angry at it that at our departure we forgot to take along many bows, pouches and arrows, also the five emeralds, and so they were left and lost to us. We gave the Christians a great many cow-skin robes, and other objects, and had much trouble in persuading the Indians to return home and plant their crops in peace. They insisted upon accompanying us until, according to their custom, we should be in the custody of other Indians, because otherwise they were afraid to die; besides, as long as we were with them, they had no fear of the Christians and of their lances. At all this the Christians were greatly vexed, and told their own interpreter to say to the Indians how we were of their own race, but had gone astray for a long while, and were people of no luck and little heart, whereas they were the lords of the land, whom they should obey and serve.

The Indians gave all that talk of theirs little attention. They parleyed among themselves, saying that the Christians lied, for we had come from sunrise, while the others came from where the sun sets; that we cured the sick, while the others killed those who were healthy; that we went naked and shoeless, whereas the others wore clothes and went on horseback and with lances. Also, that we asked for nothing, but gave away all we were presented with, meanwhile the others seemed to have no other aim than to steal what they could, and never gave anything to anybody. In short, they recalled all our deeds, and praised them highly, contrasting them with the conduct of the others.

This they told the interpreter of the Christians, and made understood to the others by means of a language they have among them, and by which we understood each other. We call those who use that language properly Primahaitu, which means the same as saying Bizcayans. For more than four hundred leagues (1040 miles) of those we travelled we found this language (Uto-Azteques) in use, and the only one among them over that extent of country (since he first reported them in Texas when approaching the Rio Grande, to Guasave, Mexico, where he was, actually measures 1040 miles along his trail!). Finally, we never could convince the Indians that we belonged to the other Christians, and only with much trouble and insistency could we prevail upon them to go home.

We recommended to them to rest easy and settle again in their villages, tilling and planting their fields as usual, which, from lying waste, were overgrown with shrubbery, while it is beyond all doubt the best land in these Indies, the most fertile and productive of food, where they raise three crops every year. It has an abundance of fruit, very handsome rivers, and other waters of good virtues. There are many evidences and traces of gold and silver; the inhabitants are well conditioned, and willingly attend to the Christians, that is, those of the natives that are friendly. They are much better inclined than the natives of Mexico (City); in short, it is a country that lacks nothing to make it very good. When the Indians took leave of us they said they would do as we had told them, and settle in their villages, provided the Christians would not interfere, and so I say and affirm that, if they should not do it, it will be the fault of the Christians.

After we had dispatched the Indians in peace, and with thanks for what they had gone through with and for us, the Christians (out of mistrust) sent us to a certain (Chief) Alcalde Cebreros, who had with him two other (native) men. He took us through forests and uninhabited country in order to prevent our communicating with the Indians, in reality, also, to prevent us from seeing or hearing what the Christians were carrying on.

This clearly shows how the designs of men sometimes miscarry. We went on with the idea of insuring the liberty of the Indians, and, when we believed it to be assured, the opposite took place. The Spaniards had planned to fall upon those Indians we had sent back in fancied security and in peace, and that plan they carried out.

They took us through the timber for two days (inland toward today's Guamuchil), with no trail, bewildered and without water, so we all expected to die from thirst. Seven of our men perished, and many friends whom the Christians had taken along could not reach before noon the following day the place, where we found water (at Rio Evora approaching Guamuchil) that same night. We travelled with them twenty-five leagues, more or less, and at last came to a settlement of peaceable Indians (at El Limon, 8 miles north of the Rio Culiacan river). There the Alcalde left us and went ahead, three leagues further (across the Rio Culiacan), to a place called Culiacan (it still goes by that name; Vaca had earlier called it San Miguel - today's San Miguel de Culiacan) stating that it was thirty leagues from where he met the first Cristians at Guasave.

As soon as the chief Alcalde became informed of our arrival, on the same night he came to where we were. He was deeply moved, and praised God for having delivered us in His great pity. He spoke to us and treated us very well, tendering us, in his name, and in behalf of the Governor, Nuno de Guzman, all he had and whatever he might be able to do. He appeared much grieved at the bad reception and evil treatment we had met at the hands of Alcaraz and the others, and we verily believe that, had he been there at the time, the things done to us and the Indians would not have occurred.

Passing the night there, we were about to leave in the morning of the next day, but the chief Alcalde entreated us to stay. He said that by remaining we would render a great service to God and Your Majesty, as the country was depopulated, lying waste, and well nigh destroyed. That the Indians were hiding in the woods, refusing to come out and settle again in their villages. He suggested that we should have them sent for, and urge them, in the name of God and of Your Majesty, to return to the plain and cultivate the soil again.

This struck us as difficult of execution. We had none of our Indians with us, nor any of those who usually accompanied us and understood such matters. At last we ventured to select two Indians from among those held there as captives, and who were from that part of the country. These had been with the Christians whom we first met, and had seen the people that came in our company, and knew, through the latter, of the great power and authority we exercised all through the land, the miracles we had worked, the cures we had performed, and many other particulars. With these Indians we sent others from the village, to jointly call those who had taken refuge in the mountains, as well as those from the river of Petlatlan (the Rio Sinaloa at Guasave), where we had met the Christians first, and tell them to come, as we wished to talk to them. In order to insure their coming, we gave the messengers one of the large gourds we had carried in our hands (which were our chief insignia and tokens of great power.)

Thus provided and instructed, they left and were absent seven days. They came back, and with them three chiefs of those who had been in the mountains, and with these were fifteen men. They presented us with beads, turquoises, and feathers, and the messengers said the people from the river whence we had started could not be found, as the Christians had again driven them into the wilderness.

Melchior Diaz told the interpreter to speak to the Indians in our name and say that he came in the name of God, Who is in heaven, and that we had travelled the world over for many years, telling all the people we met to believe in God and serve Him, for He was the Lord of everything upon earth, Who rewarded the good, whereas to the bad ones He meted out eternal punishment of fire. That when the good ones died He took them up to heaven, where all lived forever and there was neither hunger nor thirst, nor any other wants - only the greatest imaginable glory. But that those who would not believe in Him nor obey His commandments he thrust into a huge fire beneath the earth and into the company of demons, where the fire never went out, but tormented them forever. Moreover, he said that if they became Christians and served God in the manner we directed, the Christians would look upon them as brethren and treat them very well, while we would command that no harm should be done to them; neither should they be taken out of their country, and the Christians would become their great friends. If they refused to do so, then the Christians would ill treat them and carry them away into slavery.

To this they replied through the interpreter that they would be very good Christians and serve God.

Upon being asked whom they worshipped and to whom they offered sacrifices, to whom they prayed for health and water for the fields, they said, to a man in Heaven. We asked what was his name, and they said Aguar, and that they believed he had created the world and everything in it.

We again asked how they came to know this, and they said their fathers and grandfathers had told them, and they had known it for a very long time; that water and all good things came from him. We explained that this being of whom they spoke was the same we called God, and that thereafter they should give Him that name and worship and serve Him as we commanded, when they would fare very well.

They replied that they understood us thoroughly and would do as we had told.

So we bade them come out of the mountains and be at ease, peaceable, and settle the land again, rebuilding their houses. Among these houses they should rear one to God, placing at its entrance a cross like the one we had, and when Christians came, they should go out to receive them with crosses in their hands, in place of bows and other weapons, and take the Christians to their homes, giving them to eat of what they had. If they did so, the Christians would do them no harm, but be their friends.

They promised to do as we ordered, and the captain gave them blankets, treating them handsomely, and they went away, taking along the two captives that had acted as our messengers.

This took place in presence of a scribe (notary) and of a great many witnesses.

As soon as the Indians had left for their homes and the people of that province got news of what had taken place with us, they, being friends of the Christians, came to see us, bringing beads and feathers. We ordered them to build churches and put crosses in them, which until then they had not done. We also sent for the children of the chiefs to be baptized, and then the captain pledged himself before God not to make any raid, or allow any to be made, or slaves captured from the people and in the country we had set at peace again. This vow he promised to keep and fulfill so long until His Majesty and the Governor, Nuno de Guzman, or the Viceroy, in his name, would ordain something else better adapted to the service of God and of His Majesty.

After baptizing the children we left for the village of San Miguel (just across the Rio Culiacan from Culiacan, today's San Miguel de Culiacan), where, on our arrival, Indians came and told how many people were coming down from the mountains, settling on the plain, building churches and erecting crosses; in short, complying with what we had sent them word to do. Day after day we were getting news of how all was being done and completed.

Fifteen days after our arrival Alcaraz came in with the Christians who had been raiding, and they told the captain how the Indians had descended from the mountains and settled on the plains; also that villages formerly deserted were not well populated, and how the Indians had come out to receive them with crosses in their hands, had taken them to their houses, giving them of what they had, and how they slept the night there. Amazed at these changes and at the sayings of the Indians who said they felt secure, he ordered that no harm be done to them, and with this they departed. May God in his infinite mercy grant that in the days of Your Majesty and under your power and sway, these people become willingly and sincerely subjects of the true Lord Who created and redeemed them. We believe they will be, and that your Majesty is destined to bring it about, as it will not be at all difficult.

For two thousand leagues did we travel, on land, and by sea in barges, besides ten months more after our rescue from captivity (from the Avavares among Caddoan Indians in Texas in early July, 1535, until present, April, 1536); untiringly did we walk across the land, but nowhere did we meet either sacrifices or idolatry. During all that time we crossed from one ocean to the other, and from what we very carefully ascertained there may be, from one coast to the other and across the greatest width, two hundred leagues. We heard that on the shores of the South (Sea, today's Pacific Ocean) there are pearls and great wealth, and that the richest and best is near there.

At the village of San Miguel we remained until after the fifteenth of May, because from there to the town of Compostela, where the Governor, Nuno de Guzman, resided (20 miles below today's Highway 15 at Tepic), there are one hundred leagues of deserted country threatened by hostiles, and we had to take an escort along. There went with us twenty horsemen, accompanying us as many as forty leagues; afterwards we had with us six Christians, who escorted five hundred Indian captives. When we reached Compostela (it's still called that today), the Governor received us very well, giving us of what he had, for us to dress in; but for many days I could bear no clothing, nor could we sleep, except on the bare floor. Ten or twelve days later we left for Mexico (City - 400 miles from Compostela - traveling east back to, then southeast along, today's Highway 15). On the whole trip we were well treated by the Christians; many came to see us on the road, praising God for having freed us from so many dangers.

Mexico City

We reached Mexico (City) on Sunday (July 24th, 1536), the day before the vespers of Saint James (which the Catholic Church observes on July 25 every year), and were very well received by the Viceroy and the Marquis of the Valley, who presented us with clothing, offering all they had. On the day of Saint James there was a festival, with bull-fight and tournament.

After taking two months' rest at Mexico (City) I desired to come over to this realm, but when ready to sail in October, a storm wrecked the vessel and it was lost. So I determined to wait until winter would be over, as in these parts navigation is then very dangerous on account of storms.

When winter was past, Andres Dorantes and I left Mexico (City), during Lent, for Vera Cruz, to take a ship there, but had again to wait for favorable winds until Palm Sunday. We embarked and were on board more than fifteen days, unable to leave on account of a calm, and the vessel began to fill with water. I took passage on one of the ships which were in condition to leave, while Dorantes remained on the first one, and on the tenth day of the month three craft left port.

We navigated together for one hundred and fifty leagues; afterwards two of the ships dropped behind, and in the course of a night we lost track of them. It seems that, as we found out later, their pilots and skippers did not venture any further, and returned to port without giving us any warning; neither did we hear any more from them. So we kept on, and on the fourth of May reached the port of Habana, on the second of June, still hoping for the other two vessels to arrive. Then we left.

We were afraid of falling in with French craft that only a few days before had captured three of ours.

At the altitude of the Island of Bermuda a storm overtook us, as is quite usual in those parts, according to the people who are wont to travel in them, and for a whole night we considered ourselves lost. But it pleased God that, when morning came, the storm abated and we could proceed on our way. Twenty-nine days after sailing from Habana we had made eleven hundred leagues, said to be the distance from it to the settlement of the Azores, and the next day we passed the island called of the raven, and met with a French vessel at noon. She began to follow us, having with her a caravel taken from the Portuguese, and gave us chase. That same evening we saw nine more sail, but at such a distance that we could not distinguish whether they were of the same nation as our pursuer, or Portuguese. At nightfall the Frenchman was but a cannon-shot from our ship, and as soon as it was dark we changed our course so as to get away from him. As he was close upon us he saw our maneuver and did the same, and this happened three or four times.

The Frenchman could have taken us then, but he preferred to wait until daylight. It pleased God that, when morning came, we found ourselves, as well as the French ship, surrounded by the nine craft we had seen the evening before, and which turned out to belong to the Portuguese navy. I thank Our Lord for having allowed me to escape from peril on land and sea.

When the French saw it was the fleet of Portugal they released the caravel, which was filled with negroes. They had taken it along in order to make us believe they were Portuguese and to induce us to expect them. On separating from the caravel the Frenchman told the skipper and pilot we were French also, belonging to their own navy; then they put into their vessel sixty oarsmen, and thus, by oar and sail, went away with incredible swiftness.

The caravel then approached the galley warning its captain that both our vessel and the other were French, so that when we came up to the galley and the squadron saw it, believing us to be French, they cleared for action and came to attack us. But when we were near enough to them we saluted, and they saw we were friends. They had been deceived, suffering the privateer to escape by means of his strategy in telling that we were also French. Four caravels went in pursuit of him. Having come up with the galley and presented our respects, the captain, Diego de Silveira, asked where we came from and what we had on board. We told him from New Spain, and that we carried silver and gold. He inquired how much it might be, and the skipper informed him that we had about three hundred thousand Castellanos. Thereupon the captain exclaimed: "Faith, you come back very rich, although you have a bad craft and miserable artillery. That dog of a French renegade has lost a fat morsel, the bastard! Now, go ahead, since you escaped; follow me closely, and, God helping, I shall lead you back to Spain."

The caravels that had gone in pursuit of the French soon returned because the latter sailed too fast for them and they did not want to leave their squadron, which was escorting three ships loaded with spices.

We reached the Island of Tercera, where we rested fifteen days and took in supplies, also waiting for another ship from India, with the same kind of cargo as the three our fleet was escorting. At the end of the fifteen days we sailed, all together, for the port of Lisbon (in Portugal), where we arrived on the ninth of August, vespers of Saint Laurentius day, of the year 1537.

And, in testimony of, that what I have stated in the foregoing narrative is true, I hereunto sign my name:

Cabeza de Vaca

Part 5 of 5: Postscript

Cabeza de Vaca's Trails