The contract gave him one year to gather an army, leave Spain, found at least two towns of one hundred people each, and garrison two additional forts anywhere along the coast. He also called in many debts owed to him, and used this money to pay for major expenses of the expedition. He was to ensure the Crown received one fifth of any wealth acquired during the expedition. The total force included about troops, officers, and slaves. About others were sailors, wives married men could not travel without their wives to the Indies , and servants.
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The Chronicle is the first published book by a European about what was to became the United States. Cabeza de Vaca included information about gold and copper, as well as other metals and minerals in the area, objects of desire for many an explorer who followed him.
Even before arriving there, the voyagers dealt with many problems, including a hurricane that sank two of its ships. Only Cabeza de Vaca and three others of the original crew who took the inland journey made it back to Spain alive. Cabeza de Vaca spent many years moving through territory not previously seen or explored by Europeans, suffering from soul-crushing hunger, thirst, and physical pain.
He was among the first white men to see bison, and he writes about the many Indian tribes he encountered and lived with, their social customs, and the local land, flora, and fauna. Eventually, Cabeza de Vaca and the three other men remaining from the original expedition found other Spaniards and reached Mexico City in , and they were able to return to Europe in The Chronicle was originally written for the king of Spain as a private report in Cabeza de Vaca was trying to convince his king to name him governor of La Florida, but the position went to Hernando de Soto.
The author later received his own governorship in South America in In , the Chronicle was published in Spain to a limited circulation. The version of the Chronicle became more widely read. While in many senses the expedition at the heart of the Chronicle was a failure, the book describes a triumph of perseverance. Though all of their possessions were lost and he and his companions often lacked food and water, they were able to adapt to the environment as well as many aspects of the Indian way of life.
Cabeza de Vaca repeatedly emphasizes that he lived as naked as many of the Indians for much of his journey; they did what they had to do to survive. As the natural riches and native cultures Cabeza de Vaca encountered sparked the European imagination and drive to claim and conquer, the Chronicle is a critical link in the chain of events that shaped the modern North American political, social, and economic landscape.
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Introduction & Overview of Chronicle of the Narvaez Expedition
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