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The Narrative of Cabeza De Vaca

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Focused on the author’s travels and exploration, The Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca depicts the great adventure of the four survivors. Cabeza’s identity transformed throughout the journey. He first arrived on the continent as a tattered Spanish conqueror and soon became a captive of the natives. But after he became a healer and trader in the Native American tribes, he got to know the natives: traveling with them, ate the same food, wore the same clothes and spoke the same language, he felt sympathetic to them and struggled whether to stand on the native’s side or the Spaniards. Finally, in order to survive, the identity of Cabeza de Vaca became Spanish again. Cabeza de Vaca’s perspective of the Native people changed during his journey. It is not only because of the treatment of Indians but also his own perception towards himself.

But soon things changed dramatically for the Spanish. They, unfortunately, underwent a heavy strike by nature. He was shipwrecked and struggled to survive in a hostile environment. His journey became a disaster from the very start. The crews suffered from hunger, exhaustion, diseases and constant attack by the Indians. Their primary goal of the Spanish became to escape from the awful country since they were getting sick and dying. Eventually, the original group of hundreds of people was reduced to just four. Confronted with such a desperately severe reality, Cabeza was no longer a decent explorer, but a struggled survivor.

Cabeza de Vaca then faced another transformation of his identity in the following part of the narration. Devastated in both body and spirit, Cabeza de Vaca and his companions were captured by a couple of Indian tribes and lived in virtual slavery for almost two years. Cabeza de Vaca realized that, in order to survive in the Indians’ tribes, he had to become useful. He began to make himself indispensable in two ways. The first one is he obeyed the Indians’s ask to cure the sick. The second is to become a trader among the tribes. By doing so, he was needed to learn the native languages and their own customs. His two new identities helped him gain a reputation among the native tribes and became able to survive.

After they escaped from slavery, they met several friendly tribes and cured their sicks. Soon their fame of the healers spreads throughout the land. Whereas before he was motivated to learn about the Indians for his own survival, he now would like to get to know about them. When Cabeza de Vaca passed through the tribes, he developed sympathy for the natives. Through the years Cabeza de Vaca spent with the indigenous people, he and his companions adapted to the lives of them. First, he portrayed the Indians as barbarous brutes without reason, but after that, he stimulated curiosity towards the Indians. Cabeza de Vaca traveled with the Indians and got to know them. He learned about their lives and custom: marriage, festivals,



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