Dealing with Strangers in Strange Lands
The book, A Land so Strange, tells of an expedition of 300 men, women, and enslaved Africans who set sail from Spain in 1528 under the leadership of Pánfilo de Narváez with the dream of settling Florida. Yet, a hurricane, lost ships, navigational errors, leadership follies, and challenges from Indians well capable of holding off would-be European conquest added up to a colossal disaster. Expedition members ended up wandering along the Gulf Coast before taking to the water on handmade rafts which finally washed up on the Texas coast, in course of which their numbers rapidly diminished as they fell victim to drowning, dehydration, starvation, and cannibalism (by their fellow castaways). A mere four survivors-Cabeza de Vaca, Alonso del Castillo, Andrés Dorantes, and an enslaved Moor known only as Estebanico remained. Throughout this reading, it will become quite clear that working with the Indians instead of against would have provided a more viable solution to the Spaniards survival predicament. Furthermore, the success of the Spanish in North American depended greatly on their relations with the natives. This will be seen through the embarrassing death of Narvaez and the success that Cabeza de Vaca experiences. Eventually, Cabeza and his crew begin to see the Indians as human beings and as a possible alliance in the harsh environment they are trying to conquer.
The Spanish ideals of non-christians were very strong. Even the converts were criticized, “Such converts were euphemistically referred to as new christians, and were often the target of discrimination in an empire that had become unified on the basis of militant religiousity.” Such an age of ego drove the kings to explore territory not only for riches and fame, but for the possibility of “spreading the good word”. During Cabeza de Vaca's amazing journey, he went from the hunter to the hunted, from the giver to the begger, and from the fat to the...
Cited: Resendez, Andres. A Land so Strange. New York City: Basic Books, 2007.
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