Texas Historical Documents

The Journey of Alvar Nuņez Cabeza De Vaca

Translated by Fanny Bandelier (1905)

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Part Four

They all are warriors and so astute in guarding themselves from an enemy as if trained in continuous wars and in Italy. When in places where their enemies can offend them, they set their lodges on the edge of the roughest and densest timber and dig a trench close to it in which they sleep. The men at arms are hidden by brushwood and have their loopholes, and are so well covered and concealed that even at close range they cannot be seen.

To the densest part of the forest they open a very narrow trail and there arrange a sleeping place for their women and children. As night sets in they build fires in the lodges, so that if there should be spies about, these would think the people to sleep there. And before sunrise they light the same fires again. Now, ditches, without being seen or discovered.

In case there are no forests wherein they can hide thus and prepare their ambushes, they settle on the plain wherever it appears most appropriate, surrounding the place with trenches protected by brushwood. In these they open loopholes through which they can reach the enemy with arrows, and those parapets they build for the night. While I was with the Aguenes and these not on their guard, their enemies surprised them at midnight, killing three and wounding a number, so that they fled from their houses to the forest. As soon, however, as they noticed that the others had gone they went back, picked up all the arrows the others had spent and left and followed them as stealthily as possible. That same night they reached the others' dwellings unnoticed, and at sunrise attacked, killing five, besides wounding a great many. The rest made their escape, leaving homes and bows behind, with all their other belongings.

A short time after this the women of those calling themselves Guevenes came, held a parley and made them friends again, but sometimes women are also the cause of war. All those people when they have personal questions and are not of one family, kill each other in a treacherous way and deal most cruelly with one another.

Those Indians are the readiest people with their weapons of all I have seen in the world, for when they suspect the approach of an enemy they lie awake all night with their bows within reach and a dozen of arrows, and before one goes to sleep he tries his bow, and should the string not be to his liking he arranges it until it suits him. Often they crawl out of their dwellings so as not to be seen and look and spy in every direction after danger, and if they detect anything, in less than no time are they all out in the field with their bows and arrows. Thus they remain until daybreak, running hither and thither whenever they see danger or suspect their enemies might approach. When day comes they unstring their bows until they go hunting.

The strings of their bows are made of deer sinews. They fight in a crouching posture, and while shooting at each other talk and dart from one side to the other to dodge the arrows of the foe. In this way they receive little damage from our crossbows and muskets. On the contrary, the Indians laugh at those weapons, because they are not dangerous to them on the plains over which they roam. They are only good in narrows and in swamps.

Horses are what the Indians dread most, and by means of which they will be overcome.

Whoever has to fight Indians must take great care not to let them think he is disheartened or that he covets what they own in war they must be treated very harshly, for should they notice either fear or greed, they are the people who know how to abide their time for revenge and to take courage from the fears of their enemy. After spending all their arrows, they part, going each their own way, and without attempting pursuit, although one side might have more men than the other such is their custom.

Many times they are shot through and through with arrows, but do not die from the wounds as long as the bowels or heart are not touched on the contrary, they recover quickly. Their eyesight, hearing and senses in general are better, I believe, than those of any other men upon earth. They can stand, and have to stand, much hunger, thirst and cold, being more accustomed and used to it than others. This I wished to state here, since, besides that all men are curious to know the habits and devices of others, such as might come in contact with those people should be informed of their customs and deeds, which will be of no small profit to them.

I also do wish to tell of the nations and languages met with from the Island of Ill-Fate to the last ones, the Cuchendados. On the Island of Ill-Fate two languages are spoken, the ones they call Capoques, the others Han. On the mainland, facing the island, are others, called of Charruco, who take their name from the woods in which they live. Further on, along the seashore, are others, who call themselves Deguenes, and in front of them others named those of Mendica. Further on, on the coast, are the Quevenes, in front further inland the Mariames, and following the coast we come to the Guaycones, and in front of them inland the Yeguaces. After those come the Atayos, and behind them others, called Decubadaos, of whom there are a great many further on in this direction. On the coast live the Quitoles, and in front of them, inland, the Chauauares. These are joined by the Maliacones and the Cultalchulches and others called Susola and Comos, ahead on the coast are the Camolas, and further on those whom we call the people of the figs.

All those people have homes and villages and speak different languages. Among them is a language wherein they call men mira aca, arraca, and dogs.

In this whole country they make themselves drunk by a certain smoke for which they give all they have. They also drink something which they extract from leaves of trees, like unto water-oak, toasting them on the fire in a vessel like a low-necked bottle. When the leaves are toasted they fill the vessel with water and hold it over the fire so long until it has thrice boiled then they pour the liquid into a bowl made of a gourd cut in twain. As soon as there is much foam on it they drink it as hot as they can stand, and from the time they take it out of the first vessel until they drink they shout, "Who wants to drink ?" When the women hear this they stand still at once, and although they carry a very heavy load do not dare to move. Should one of them stir, she is dishonored and beaten. In a great rage they spill the liquid they have prepared and spit out what they drank, easily and without pain. The reason for this custom, they say, is that when they want to drink that water and the women stir from the spot where they first hear the shouts, an evil substance gets into the liquid that penetrates their bodies, causing them to die before long. All the time the water boils the vessel must be kept covered. Should it be uncovered while a woman comes along they pour it out and do not drink of it. It is yellow and they drink it for three days without partaking of any food, each consuming an arroba and a half every day.

When the women are ill they only seek food for themselves, because nobody else eats of what they bring.

During the time I was among them I saw something very repulsive, namely, a man married to another. Such are impotent and womanish beings, who dress like women and perform the office of women, but use the bow and carry big loads. Among these Indians we saw many of them they are more robust than the other men, taller, and can bear heavy burthens.

After parting from those we had left in tears, we went with the others to their homes and were very well received. They brought us their children to touch, and gave us much mesquite-meal. This mezquiquez is a fruit which, while on the tree, is very bitter and like the carob bean. It is eaten with earth and then becomes sweet and very palatable. The way they prepare it is to dig a hole in the ground, of the depth it suits them, and after the fruit is put in that hole, with a piece of wood, the thickness of a leg and one and a half fathoms long they pound it to a meal, and to the earth that mixes with it in the hole they add several handfuls and pound again for a while. After that they empty it into a vessel, like a small, round basket, and pour in enough water to cover it fully, so that there is water on top. Then the one who has done the pounding tastes it, and if it appears to him not sweet enough he calls for more earth to add, and this he does until it suits his taste. Then all squat around and every one reaches out with his hand and takes as much as he can. The seeds and peelings they set apart on hides, and the one who has done the pounding throws them back into the vessel, pouring water over them again. They squeeze out the juice and water, and the husks and seeds they again put on hides, repeating the operation three or four times at every pounding. Those who take part in that banquet, which is for them a great occasion, get very big bellies from the earth and water they swallow.

Now, of this, the Indians made a great feast in our behalf, and danced and celebrated all the time we were with them. And at night six Indians, to each one of us, kept watch at the entrance to the lodge we slept in, without allowing anybody to enter before sunrise.

When we were about to leave some women happened to come, that belonged to Indians living further on, and, informing ourselves where their abodes were, we left, although the Indians entreated us to remain a day longer, since the place we wanted to go to was very far away, and there was no trail to it. They showed us how the women who had just arrived were tired, but that if we would let them rest until the next day, they then would accompany and guide us. We left, nevertheless, and soon the women followed with others of the village.

There being no trails in that country, we soon lost our way. At the end of four leagues we reached a spring, and there met the women who had followed us, and who told us of all they had gone through until they fell in with us again. We went on, taking them along as guides.

In the afternoon we crossed a big river, the water being more than waist-deep. It may have been as wide as the one of Sevilla, and had a swift current. At sunset we reached a hundred Indian huts and, as we approached, the people came out to receive us, shouting frightfully, and slapping their thighs. They carried perforated gourds filled with pebbles, which are ceremonial objects of great importance. They only use them at dances, or as medicine, to cure, and nobody dares touch them but themselves. They claim that those gourds have healing virtues, and that they come from Heaven, not being found in that country nor do they know where they come from, except that the rivers carry them down when they rise and overflow the land.

So great was their excitement and eagerness to touch us that, every one wanting to be first, they nearly squeezed us to death, and, without suffering our feet to touch the ground, carried us to their abodes. So many crowded down upon us that we took refuge in the lodges they had prepared for our accommodation, and in no manner consented to be feasted by them on that night.

The whole night they spent in celebration and dancing, and the next morning they brought us every living soul of that village to be touched by us and to have the cross made over them, as with the others. Then they gave to the women of the other village who had come with their own a great many arrows. The next day we went on, and all the people of that village with us, and when we came to other Indians were as well received as anywhere in the past they also gave us of what they had and the deer they had killed during the day. Among these we saw a new custom. Those who were with us took away from those people who came to get cured their bows and arrows, their shoes and beads, if they wore any, and placed them before us to induce us to cure the sick. As soon as these had been treated they went away contented and saying they felt well.

So we left there also, going to others, by whom we were also very well received, and they brought us their sick, who, after we had made the sign of the cross over them, would say they were healed, and he who did not get well still believed we might cure him. And at what the others whom we had treated told they rejoiced and danced so much as not to let us sleep.

After we left those we went to many other lodges, but thence on there prevailed a new custom. While we were received very well everywhere, those who came with us would treat those who received us badly, taking away their belongings and plundering their homes, without leaving them anything. It grieved us very much to see how those who were so good to us were abused. Besides, we dreaded lest this behavior might cause trouble and strife. But as we could not venture to interfere or punish the transgressors, we had to wait until we might have more authority over them. Furthermore, the sufferers themselves, noticing how we felt, comforted us by saying we should not worry that they were so happy at seeing us as to gladly lose their own, considering it to be well employed, and besides, that further on they would repay themselves from other Indians who were very rich. On that whole journey we were much worried by the number of people following us. We could not escape them, although we tried, because they were so anxious to touch us, and so obtrusive that in three hours we could not get through with them.

The following day they brought us all the people of the village most of them had one eye clouded, while others were totally blind from the same cause, at which we were amazed. They are well built, of very good physique, and whiter than any we had met until then. There we began to see mountains, and it seemed as if they swept down from the direction of the North Sea, and so, from what the Indians told us, we believe they are fifteen leagues from the ocean.

From there we went with the Indians towards the mountains aforesaid, and they took us to some of their relatives. They did not want to lead us anywhere but to their own people, so as to prevent their enemies having any share in the great boon which, as they fancied, it was to see us. And as soon as we would arrive those that went with us would sack the houses of the others but as these knew of the custom before our coming, they hid some of their chattels, and, after receiving us with much rejoicing, they took out the things which they had concealed and presented them to us. These were beads and ochre, and several little bags of silver. We, following the custom, turned the gifts immediately over to the Indians who had come in our company, and after they had given these presents they began their dances and celebrations, and sent for others from another village near by to come and look at us. In the afternoon they all came, and brought us beads, bows, and other little things, which we also distributed.

The next day, as we were going to leave, they all wanted to take us to others of their friends, who dwelt on a spur of the mountains. They said there were a great many lodges, and people who would give us much, but, as it was out of our way, we did not want to go there, and continued on the plain, though near the mountains, thinking them to be not far from the coast. All the people there are very bad, and we preferred to cross the country, as further inland they were better inclined, and treated us better. We also felt sure to find the country more thickly settled and with more resources. Finally, we did it because, in crossing the country, we would see much more of its particulars, so that, in case God our Lord should be pleased to spare one of us and take him back to a land of Christians, he might give an account of it.

When the Indians saw we were determined not to go whither they wanted, they said that nobody lived where we intended to go, neither were there tunas nor any other food, and they entreated us to tarry one day longer with them, to which we consented. Two Indians were sent out to look for people on our proposed route.

The next day we departed, taking many of them along, the women carrying water, and so great had become our authority that none dared to drink without our permission. After going two leagues we met the men sent out in search of people, but who had not found any. At this the Indians seemed to show grief, and again begged us to take the way of the mountains, but we persisted, and, seeing this, they took mournful leave of us and turned back down the river to their homes, while we proceeded along the stream upwards.

Soon we met two women carrying loads. As they descried us they stood still, put down their loads, and brought us of what these contained, which was cornmeal, and told us that higher up on the river we would meet with dwellings, plenty of tunas, and of that same meat. We left them as they were going to those from whom we had just taken leave, and walked on until at sunset we reached a village of about twenty lodges, where they received us with tears and deep sorrow. They already knew that, wherever we arrived, the people would be robbed and plundered by those in our company. But, seeing us alone, they lost their fear, and gave us tunas, though nothing else. We stayed there over night.

At daybreak the same Indians we had left the day before surprised the lodges, and, as the people were unprepared, in fancied security, and had neither time nor place to hide anything, they were stripped of all their chattels, at which they wept bitterly. In consolation, the robbers told them that we were children of the sun, and had the power to cure or kill, and other lies, bigger even than those which they invent to suit their purposes. They also enjoined them to treat us with great reverence, and be careful not to arouse our wrath to give us all they had and guide us to where there were many people, and that wherever we should come to they should steal and rob everything the others had, such being the custom.

After giving these instructions, and teaching the people how to behave, they returned, and left us with these Indians, who, mindful of what the others had said, began to treat us with the same respect and awe, and we travelled in their company for three days. They took us to where there were many Indians, and went ahead to tell them of our coming, repeating what they had heard and adding much more to it, for all these Indians are great gossipers and liars, particularly when they think it to be to their benefit. As we neared the lodges all the inmates came out to receive us, with much rejoicing and display, and, among other things, two of their medicine-men gave us two gourds. Thence onward we carried gourds, which added greatly to our authority, since they hold these ceremonial objects very high. Our companions sacked the dwellings, but as there were many and they only few in number, they could not carry away all they took, so that more than half was left to waste. Thence we turned inland for more than fifty leagues, following the slopes of the mountains, and at the end of them met forty dwellings.

There, among other things which they gave us, Andres Dorantes got a big rattle of copper, large, on which was represented a face, and which they held in great esteem. They said it had been obtained from some of their neighbors. Upon asking these whence it had come, they claimed to have brought it from the north, where there was much of it and highly prized. We understood that, wherever it might have come from, there must be foundries, and that metal was cast in molds. Leaving on the next day, we crossed a mountain seven leagues long, the stones of which were iron slags. At night we came to many dwellings, situated on the banks of a very beautiful river.

The inmates of these abodes came to receive us halfways, with their children on their backs. They gave us a number of pouches with silver and powdered antimony (or lead), with which they paint their faces, and many beads and robes of cow-skins, and loaded those who came with us with all their chattels. These people ate tunas and pine-nuts there are in that country small trees of the sweet pine, the cones of which are like small eggs, but the nuts are better than those of Castilla, because the husks are thin. When still green they grind them and make balls that are eaten. When dried they grind the nuts with the husks, and eat them as meal. And those who received us, as soon as they had touched our bodies, returned to their houses on a run, then came again, and never stopped running back and forth. In this way they brought us a great many things for our journey.

Here they brought to me a man who, they told, a long time ago had been shot through the left side of the back with an arrow, the head of which stuck close to his heart. He said it gave him much pain, and that on this account he was sick. I touched the region of the body and felt the arrowhead, and that it had pierced the cartilage. So, with a knife, I cut open the breast as far as the place. The arrow point had gotten athwart, and was very difficult to remove. By cutting deeper, and inserting the point of the knife, with great difficulty I got it out it was very long. Then, with a deer-bone, according to my knowledge of surgery, I made two stitches. After I had extracted the arrow they begged me for it, and I gave it to them. The whole village came back to look at it, and they sent it further inland that the people there might see it also.

On account of this cure they made many dances and festivities, as is their custom. The next day I cut the stitches, and the Indian was well. The cut I had made only showed a scar like a line in the palm of the hand, and he said that he felt not the least pain.

Now, this cure gave us such fame among them all over the country as they were capable of conceiving and respecting. We showed them our rattle, and they told us that where it had come from there were a great many sheets of the same (metal) buried, that it was a thing they valued highly, and that there were fixed abodes at the place. We believe it to be near the South Sea, for we always heard that sea was richer (in metal) than the one of the north.

After leaving these people we travelled among so many different tribes and languages that nobody's memory can recall them all, and always they robbed each other but those who lost and those who gained were equally content. The number of our companions became so large that we could no longer control them.

Going through these valleys each Indian carried a club three palms in length. They all moved in a front, and whenever a hare (of which there are many) jumped up they closed in upon the game, and rained such blows upon it that it was amazing to see. Thus they drove the hare from one to the other, and, to my fancy, it was the most agreeable chase that could be thought of, for many a time they would come right to one's hands and when at night we camped they had given us so many that each one of us had eight or ten loads. Those of the Indians who carried bows would not take part, but went to the mountains after deer, and when at night they came back it was with five or six deer for each one of us, with birds, quails, and other game in short, all those people could kill they set before us, without ever daring to touch anything, even if dying of hunger, unless we blessed it first. Such was their custom from the time they joined us.

The women brought many mats, with which they built us houses, one for each of us and those attached to him. After this we would order them to broil all the game, and they did it quickly in ovens built by them for the purpose. We partook of everything a little, giving the rest to the principal man among those who had come with us for distribution among all. Every one then came with the share he had received for us to

breathe on it and bless it, without which they left it untouched. Often we had with us three to four thousand persons. And it was very tiresome to have to breathe on and make the sign of the cross over every morsel they ate or drank. For many other things which they

wanted to do they would come to ask our permission, so that it is easy to realize how greatly we were bothered. The women brought us tunas, spiders, worms, and whatever else they could find, for they would rather starve than partake of anything that had not first passed through our hands.

While travelling with those, we crossed a big river coming from the north and, traversing about thirty leagues of plains, met a number of people that came from afar to meet us on the trail, who treated us like the foregoing ones.

Thence on there was a change in the manner of reception, insofar as those who would meet us on the trail with gifts were no longer robbed by the Indians of our company, but after we had entered their homes they tendered us all they possessed, and the dwellings also. We turned over everything to the principals for distribution. Invariably those who had been deprived of their belongings would follow us, in order to repair their losses, so that our retinue became very large. They would tell them to be careful and not conceal anything of what they owned, as it could not be done without our knowledge, and then we would cause their death. So much did they frighten them that on the first few days after joining us they would be trembling all the time, and would not dare to speak or lift their eyes to Heaven.

Those guided us for more than fifty leagues through a desert of very rugged mountains, and so arid that there was no game. Consequently we suffered much from lack of food., and finally forded a very big river, with its water reaching to our chest. Thence on many of our people began to show the effects of the hunger and hardships they had undergone in those mountains, which were extremely barren and tiresome to travel.

The same Indians led us to a plain beyond the chain of mountains, where people came to meet us from a long distance. By those we were treated in the same manner as before, and they made so many presents to the Indians who came with us that, unable to carry all, they left half of it. We told the givers to take it back, so as not to have it lost, but they refused, saying it was not their custom to take back what they had once offered, and so it was left to waste. We told these people our route was towards sunset, and they replied that in that direction people lived very far away. So we ordered them to send there and inform the inhabitants that we were coming and how. From this they begged to be excused, because the others were their enemies, and they did not want us to go to them. Yet they did not venture to disobey in the end, and sent two women, one of their own and the other a captive. They selected women because these can trade everywhere, even if there be war.

We followed the women to a place where it had been agreed we should wait for them. After five days they had not yet returned, and the Indians explained that it might be because they had not found anybody. So we told them to take us north, and they repeated that there were no people, except very far away, and neither food nor water. Nevertheless we insisted, saying that we wanted to go there, and they still excused themselves as best they could, until at last we became angry.

One night I went away to sleep out in the field apart from them but they soon came to where I was, and remained awake all night in great alarm, talking to me, saying how frightened they were. They entreated us not to be angry any longer, because, even if it was their death, they would take us where we chose. We feigned to be angry still, so as to keep them in suspense, and then a singular thing happened.

On that same day many fell sick, and on the next day eight of them died! All over the country, where it was known, they became so afraid

that it seemed as if the mere sight of us would kill them. They besought us not to be angry nor to procure the death of any more of their number, for they were convinced that we killed them by merely thinking of it. In truth, we were very much concerned about it, for, seeing

the great mortality, we dreaded that all of them might die or forsake us in their terror, while those further on, upon learning of it, would get out of our way hereafter. We prayed to God our Lord to assist us, and the sick began to get well. Then we saw something that astonished us very much, and it was that, while the parents, brothers and wives of the dead had shown deep grief at their illness, from the moment they died the survivors made no demonstration whatsoever, and showed not the slightest feeling nor did they dare to go near the bodies until we ordered their burial.

In more than fifteen days that we remained with them we never saw them talk together, neither did we see a child that laughed or cried. One child, who had begun to cry, was carried off some distance, and with some very sharp mice-teeth they scratched it from the shoulders down to nearly the legs. Angered by this act of cruelty, I took them to task for it, and they said it was done to punish the child for having wept in my presence. Their apprehensions caused the others that came to see us to give us what they had, since they knew that we did not take anything for ourselves, but left it all to the Indians.

Those were the most docile people we met in the country, of the best complexion, and on the whole well built.

The sick being on the way of recovery, when we had been there already three days, the women whom we had sent out returned, saying that they had met very few people, nearly all having gone after the cows, as it was the season. So we ordered those who had been sick to remain, and those who were well to accompany us, and that, two days' travel from there, the same women should go with us and get people to come to meet us on the trail for our reception.

The next morning all those who were strong enough came along, and at the end of three journeys we halted. Alonso del Castillo and Estevanico, the negro, left with the women as guides, and the woman who was a captive took them to a river that flows between mountains, where there was a village, in which her father lived, and these were the first abodes we saw that were like unto real houses. Castillo and Estevanico went to these and, after holding parley with the Indians, at the end of three days Castillo returned to where he had left us, bringing with him five or six of the Indians. He told how he had found permanent houses, inhabited, the people of which ate beans and squashes, and that he had also seen maize.

Of all things upon earth this caused us the greatest pleasure, and we gave endless thanks to our Lord for this news. Castillo said that the negro was coming to meet us on the way, near by, with all the people of the houses. For that reason we started, and after going a league and a half met the negro and the people that came to receive us, who gave us beans and many squashes to eat, gourds to carry water in, robes of cowhide, and other things. As those people and the Indians of our company were enemies, and did not understand each other, we took leave of the latter, leaving them all that had been given to us, while we went on with the former and, six leagues beyond, when night was already approaching, reached their houses, where they received us with great ceremonies. Here we remained one day, and left on the next, taking them with us to other permanent houses, where they subsisted on the same food also, and thence on we found a new custom.

The people who heard of our approach did not, as before, come out to meet us on the way, but we found them at their homes, and they had other houses ready for us. They were all seated with their faces turned to the wall, the heads bowed and the hair pulled over the eyes. Their belongings had been gathered in a heap in the middle of the floor,

and thence on they began to give us many robes of skins. There was nothing they would not give us. They are the best formed people we have seen, the liveliest and most capable who best understood us and answered our questions. We called them "of the cows," because most of

the cows die near therein and because for more than fifty leagues up that stream they go to kill many of them. Those people go completely naked, after the manner of the first we met. The women are covered with deer-skins, also some men, especially the old ones, who are of no use any more in war.

The country is well settled. We asked them why they did not raise maize, and they replied that they were afraid of losing the crops, since for two successive years it had not rained, and the seasons were so dry that the moles had eaten the corn, so that they did not dare to plant any more until it should have rained very hard. And they also begged us to ask Heaven for rain, which we promised to do. We also wanted to know from where they brought their maize, and they said it came from where the sun sets, and that it was found all over that country, and the shortest way to it was in that direction. We asked them to tell us how to go, as they did not want to go themselves, to tell us about the way.

They said we should travel up the river towards the north, on which trail for seventeen days we would not find a thing to eat except a fruit called chacan, which they grind between stones but even then it cannot be eaten, being so coarse and dry and so it was, for they showed it to us and we could not eat it. But they also said that, going upstream, we would always travel among people who were their enemies, although speaking the same language, and who could give us no food, but would receive us very willingly, and give us many cotton blankets, hides and other things but that it seemed to them that we ought not to take that road.

In doubt as to what should be done, and which was the best and most advantageous road to take, we remained with them for two days. They gave us beans, squashes and calabashes. Their way of cooking them is so new and strange that I felt like describing it here, in order to show how different and queer are the devices and industries of human beings. They have no pots. In order to cook their food they fill a middle-sized gourd with water, and place into a fire such stones as easily become heated, and when they are hot to scorch they take them out with wooden tongs, thrusting them into the water of the gourd, until it boils. As soon as it boils they put into it what they want to cook, always taking out the stones as they cool off and throwing in hot ones to keep the water steadily boiling. This is their way of cooking.

After two days were past we determined to go in search of maize, and not to follow the road to the cows, since the latter carried us to the north, which meant a very great circuit, as we held it always certain that by going towards sunset we should reach the goal of our wishes.

So we went on our way and traversed the whole country to the South Sea, and our resolution was not shaken by the fear of great starvation, which the Indians said we should suffer (and indeed suffered) during the first seventeen days of travel. All along the river, and in the course of these seventeen days we received plenty of cowhides, and did not eat of their famous fruit (chacan) but our food consisted (for each day) of a handful of deer-tallow, which for that purpose we always sought to keep, and so endured these seventeen days, at the end of which we crossed the river and marched for seventeen days more. At sunset, on a plain between very high mountains, we met people who, for one-third of the year, eat but powdered straw, and as we went by just at that time, had to eat it also, until, at the end of that journey we found some permanent houses, with plenty of harvested maize, of which and of its meal they gave us great quantities, also squashes and beans, and blankets of cotton, with all of which we loaded those who had conducted us thither, so that they went home the most contented people upon earth. We gave God our Lord many thanks for having taken us where there was plenty to eat.

Among the houses there were several made of earth, and others of cane matting and from here we travelled more than a hundred leagues, always meeting permanent houses and a great stock of maize and beans, and they gave us many deer (-hides?) and blankets of cotton better than those of New Spain. They also gave us plenty of beads made out of the coral found in the South Sea many good turquoises, which they get from the north they finally gave us all they had and Dorantes they presented with five emeralds, shaped as arrow-points, which arrows they use in their feasts and dances. As they appeared to be of very good quality, I asked whence they got them from, and they said it was from some very high mountains toward the north, where they traded for them with feather-bushes and parrot-plumes, and they said also that there were villages with many people and very big houses.

End Part Four

The Journey of Alvar Nuņez Cabeza De Vaca
| Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five |

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