Narváez, Pánfilo de (unknown–1528)

By: John G. Johnson

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: August 3, 2020

Pánfilo de Narváez, conquistador, was born in either Valladolid or Tudela on the Duero River in Spain. He was married to María de Valenzuela and had several plantations in Cuba, where he was lieutenant governor. He was sent by the governor of Cuba to arrest Hernán Cortés but was defeated in a battle with Cortés in which he lost an eye. He was a favorite of the king of Spain but is described by a twentieth-century historian as a man of little ability, judgment, or foresight. In 1527 he was given the authority to conquer and govern Spanish provinces from the Río de las Palmas (the Rio Grande) to the Cape of Florida. The attempt was a series of disasters that cost the lives of about 400 men. Narváez reached the Texas coast at San Luis Island, but his ship was caught in a storm that drove them as far as Cavallo Pass, where he and others drowned in 1528. His expedition is best known for the survival of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, whose later report sparked Spanish interest in Texas.

Harbert Davenport, ed., "`The Expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez,' by Gonzalo Fernández Oviedo y Valdez," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 27–28 (October 1923-October 1924). Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdes, The Expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez, trans. and ann. by Gerald Theisen (Albuquerque: Imprint Society, 1974). Frank Goodwyn, "Pánfilo de Narváez, A Character Study of the First Spanish Leader to Land an Expedition in Texas," Hispanic American Historical Review 29 (February 1949). T. F. Harwood, "Review of the Works of the Texas State Historical Association," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 31 (July 1927). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Exploration
  • Explorers (Spanish)
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

John G. Johnson, “Narváez, Pánfilo de,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 09, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
August 3, 2020

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