In 1528, a Spanish expedition departed
Cuba to explore Florida, yet disastrously shipwrecked along the coast of Texas.
Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca was second in command on this journey along with
being the narrator of the account, which he was to report back to the king. In
the excerpt, titled La Relacion by Cabeza de Vaca, the initial narration of
the Karankawas, which is the name of the Indian tribe that helped Cabeza de
Vaca and his men, is portrayed as intimidating. “They … saw that
three Indians, with bows and arrows, were following and calling to him … Half
an hour after a hundred Indian archers joined them, and our fright was such
that, whether tall or little, it made them appear giants to us.” (Cabeza de
Vaca 1). Instantaneously after, one can gather the absence of spoken language
and in its place symbolic gestures and signing. Although, disclosed otherwise
in history, this very excerpt only reveals the cordial viewpoint of the
de Vaca illustrates the Indians being cordial and helpful by stating the
following, “In the evening they returned and brought us more fish and some of
the same roots… and thereafter visited us daily with the same things as before”
(Cabeza de Vaca 2). Having just met each other one can only interpret this type
of gesture as caring and generous, after all the Indians were willingly and
steadily feeding the Spaniards with very little to nothing in exchange other
than pure empathy. Such empathy and compassion is then confirmed in the
following statement, “the Indians sat down with us and all began to weep out of
compassion for our misfortune, and for more than half an hour they wept so loud
and so sincerely that it could be heard far away” (Cabeza de Vaca 3).
Furthermore, such compassion is again rendered when explained how the Indians
carried and cared for the Spaniards as they escorted them to their distant dwellings.
Consequently, considering the lack of verbal communication, the cultural
organization and subsistence of the Indians is without a doubt evident. Take
the case of having food, shelter, and culture customs such as the way the tribe
mourned for lost loved ones at funeral celebrations; one can then conclude how the
Indians are still able to keep themselves and their tribe alive, fed, and
humane. Such historical narrative provides primary details to compose a clear
profile of how the Indian life was like at that time along the coast of Texas.
the whole, perceiving the Indians through the stand point of Cabeza de Vaca,
one can notice uncertainty, which reflects as biased towards the Indians. For
example, as mentioned in the introduction, the initial description of the
Indians is automatically viewed through a negative perspective such as fear.
Along with the presumption of the Indians being ignorant or less intelligent on
account of the absent recognition for the apparent viable tribe of Indians. Cabeza
de Vaca implies to be a reliable observer and narrator aside from not having
ended his excerpt exactly, however, the use of omniscient third person point of
view where Cabeza de Vaca interprets the thoughts of the Indians leads one to
conclude the validity of the historical content.