ALVARO NUREZ CABEZA DE VACA (c. 1490 - c. 1564), Spanish explorer, was the lieutenant of Pamfilo de Narvaez in the expedition which sailed from Spain in 1527; when Narvaez was lost in the Gulf of Mexico, Cabeza de Vaca succeeded in reaching the mainland somewhere to the west of the mouths of the Mississippi, and, striking inland with three companions, succeeded, after long wandering and incredible hardship, in reaching the city of Mexico in 1536. Returning to Spain in 1537, he was appointed "adelantado" or administrator of the province of Rio de la Plata in 1540. Sailing from Cadiz in the end of that year, after touching at Cananea (Brazil), he landed at the island of St Catharine in the end of March 1541. Leaving his ships to proceed to Buenos Aires, he set out in November with about 150 men to find his way overland to Ascension (Asuncion) for the relief of his countrymen there. The little band reached their destination in the following year. After various successes in war and diplomacy in his dealings with the Indians, Nunez was sent home under arrest in 1544, and in 1551 was banished to Africa by the council of the Indies for eight years. He was recalled in about a year and appointed to a judgeship in Seville, where he died not later than 1564.
The Naufragios (" Shipwrecks") of Cabeza de Vaca, which relate to the Florida expedition and his journey to the city of Mexico, appeared at Zamora in 1542; the work has frequently been reprinted, and an annotated English translation was published by T. Buckingham Smith in 1851. His Comentarios (1555) chronicle the events of the South American expedition., See Fanny Bandelier, Journey of A. Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (ed. A. F. Bandelier, New York, 1905).
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