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Castaways begin amazing journey


On this day in 1528, some eighty survivors of the Narváez expedition washed up on an island off the Texas coast. The castaways included Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and three other men: the slave Estevanico, Alonso Castillo Maldonado, and Andrés Dorantes de Carranza. These "four ragged castaways" became the first non-Indians to tread on Texas soil and live to tell their remarkable story. Cabeza de Vaca, born about 1490 in Spain, recovered from an almost fatal illness shortly after landing on the coast and then traveled the Texas coast and interior as a trader with native groups, including the Karankawas. The Indians revered him as a medicine man. He eventually rendezvoused with the three other survivors, and their journey ended when they arrived at the Spanish outpost of Culiacán near the Pacific Coast of Mexico in 1536. Cabeza de Vaca’s account of his amazing odyssey in his Relación detailed valuable ethnographic, geographic, and biotic information on Texas. He died in Spain in the mid-1550s.

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