Cabeza de Vaca Runs Aground in Texas - Nov 6, 1528

Near land a great wave took us and cast the boat out of the water as far as a horseshoe can be tossed. The boat ran aground with such force that it revived the men on it who were almost dead. When they saw they were near land they pushed themselves overboard and crawled on their hands and knees. When they got to the beach, we lit a fire by some rocks and toasted some of the corn we had and found rain water. With the warmth of the fire, the men revived and began to regain some of their strength. We arrived at this place on the sixth of November.

Such was the account of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca of the shipwreck of November 6, 1528, possibly near modern day Galveston Island, Texas. Shipwreck is a bit generous, actually. The real "ships", aboard which the expedition left Cuba in March, were long since lost because expedition commander Pánfilo de Narváez foolishly decided to seperate his forces into a land and a sea party when they landed near modern Tampa Bay.

The wreck described in the quote above was actually a small fleet of canoes built by the land party as they tried to escape starvation and return to the colonies of the Caribbean. Instead, the land party went on an odyssey that led them through parts of modern Texas, New Mexico, and possibly Arizona before finally reuniting with fellow Spaniards in Mexico in 1536.

Cabeza de Vaca published an account of the journey, and the stories he and the other few survivors of the expedition told convinced the Spanish to continue their exploration north in the coming years in search of the mythical land of Cibola and the long sought Northwestern Passage.

Following are a couple cool resources I came upon about the Narváez / Cabeza de Vaca expedition:

La Relación, Cabeza de Vaca's account of the expedition. It includes scanned pages of an early published edition of the account. Also, be sure to explore the rest of the site using the navigation bar and the top. You'll find lesson plans, other essays, books, and commentaries on the expedition, and a bunch more.

Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca from PBS. This page is a short bio on Cabeza de Vaca. It also has a version of La Relación (although I prefer the indexed one at the Texas link above more). It also has lots of resources, information, and lesson plans concerning the PBS series The West.