Thursday, July 1 – 7:30pm Live Stream
Walker Talks: On Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca
Walker Brents III delves into diverse subjects in a monthly sequence of talks. Tonight, he holds the 16th century adventurer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca to the light.
Ultimately, Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was one of just four survivors of the Narváez expedition, which set out from Spain in 1527 with five ships and 600 soldiers, sailors and colonists. That number was diminished by a third in the Caribbean before reaching the Florida Gulf Coast, and was halved again by the time Núñez, commanding one of two improvised boats each with 40 men, came ashore on the coast at what is now Galveston, Texas and set off into the dessicated expanses that some think of as the American Southwest, others as Northern Mexico and others as unceded indigenous land. Soon, only 15 men remained, and then four, and for four years they lived out the destiny of Narváez’s commission. Núñez finally repatriated to Spain in 1535 after years first enslaved with his compatriots, and then traveling as a healer and trader as he and his companions made their way among the indigenous communities they encountered.
This strange and harrowing odyssey offers us an enigmatic lesson. Notions of personal identity were set on their heads and turned inside out, long before they ever became fixed points of our collective cultural compass. As idealistic and even mystical as it is in its implications, it remains a grand and epic story of adventure and survival. Such a stupendous, yet intimately universal, a tale as has ever been told! Set in a harsh and beautiful landscape, as utterly mythic as it is utterly real.
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