- from Explorers
Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca was born in Spain around 1490. He grew up during the age of great voyages to the New World. Columbus, Cortés, Vespucci—all of these were names he knew.
In 1527 he sailed on Pánfilo de Narváez’s expedition to conquer what is now Florida. On June 15, 5 ships and 600 men sailed from Sanlúcar. Their mission was to bring Christianity to the “heathens,” by force if necessary. Plus, they planned to return rich with gold!
Cabeza de Vaca did get to Florida. But his accomplishments were not the ones the Spanish had wanted. He was among the first to report on the inner areas of Florida and on the opossum and the armadillo. He was the first to explore what is now Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. He was also the first to describe the buffalo, the Gila monster, and many tribes of Native Americans. His explorations proved that the North American continent was much, much larger than anyone had dreamed.