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Does Cabeza De Vaca Change from the Beginning of the Narrative to the End?

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Does Cabeza de Vaca change from the beginning of the narrative to the end?

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's fight for attainment of survival, while being deprived of the basic necessities of life, proves there is a change in him from the beginning of the narrative to the end. This transformation, though, affected multiple aspects of de Vaca, including his motives, character, and perspective of civilization. Cabeza de Vaca's experience is crucial to the history of America, as well as Spain, because it was one of the first accounts that revealed a certain equilibrium between the mighty and superior Spaniard and the Indian, once the Spaniard was stripped of his noble stature. The idea of nakedness is consistent throughout the narrative and conveys the tribulations he experienced and a sort of balance between him and the Indians. The original intentions of conquering and populating the area between Florida and a northern part of Mexico quickly shifted Cabeza de Vaca's focus to the need to survive. His encounter with different Indian tribes and ability to get along with them (no matter what the means), and then prosper as a medicine man, shows that through his beliefs in Christian faith, and in himself, he turned the failure into an unexpected success.

The nature of the Narvaez expedition was intended to be like that of any other Spanish exploration to the New World. Panfilo de Narvaez, who was selected as governor of Florida and who financed the expedition, was also appointed the commander in chief by emperor Charles V. Cabeza de Vaca was appointed royal treasurer of the voyage for his brightness and noble character. The Spaniards were to conquer the land of Florida in the name of the Charles V and the nation of Spain. They expected to take on and overcome any natives who got in their way and to reap all of the wealth and materials of worth that they came across. When the ships arrived at the western coastline of Florida, they were greeted with a storm. This was just a sign of things to come for the fleet. The storm forced the ships to land at a different bay than what they planned on. From this point the governor wanted to move inland and explore the terrain. Meanwhile he also wanted the ships to sail along the coast until they reached the correct bay. This commenced the downfall of the conquest.

Cabeza de Vaca, as well as the commissary and other elites on the expedition, tried to persuade the governor that this was not the best decision available. Cabeza de Vaca seemed to think that loading the ships back up and sailing in search of another land more suitable for establishment, "since the country we had seen was the poorest and most desolate ever found in those parts," (de Vaca, 11) was the best idea. The others also disagreed with the governor, but had different opinions of what the next step should be. The governor's ignorance of their advice led the expedition to move inland from where they were, and further toward the dangers and misfortunes that laid ahead.

This decision of the governor was the turning point of the conquest, yet Cabeza de Vaca does not know it yet. Cabeza de Vaca's suggestion to aboard the ships and look for better land elsewhere probably would have been a valid proposition looking back on it. The Spaniards would have avoided the rough estate and swampy grounds that caused them experience physical weaknesses that they were not accustomed to. Cabeza de Vaca, although he guessed it before they went inland, quickly realized that after a few days of traveling across the uneasy country this was going to be a struggle. Guided by Indians, the Spaniards moved north in search of a settlement called Apachale, where they were told they find all of the gold and abundance of food they needed. After a difficult journey through a thick forest, they arrived at Apalache, "where we wished to be and where we had been assured so much food and gold would be had made us forget many of our hardships and our weariness" (de Vaca, 16).

At this point Cabeza de Vaca is starting to make a change. He seems to be more knowledgeable and rational than most of the other Spaniards as he foresees the troubles that this journey brings to them. He also has his first encounters with Indians and experiences adversities that he had never faced before. Cabeza de Vaca, however, has not yet given up. He is still in hope of good things to come for the Spaniards through his belief in God and the Indians that guided them. This proves that the idea of conquest was still his mind set. Cabeza de Vaca's alteration from being the conqueror to becoming the conquered has not quite taken place yet. Although there are interactions between the Spaniards and the Indians, there is no indication that Cabeza de Vaca finds them as a real threat to disrupting their expedition. Cabeza de Vaca and the Spaniards' motives were still driven by the search of gold and food, and they were sure that it was near.

Sure enough, the Spaniards failed to find any gold in the Apalache settlement. The frequent mistreatment of the Spaniards by the Indians there led the Spaniards to departure. With no particular destination, the Spaniards fled across the Floridian land constantly crossing treacherous rivers and avoiding confrontations with Indians. They came across Indians who tried and succeeded in hitting the Spaniards with arrows. Cabeza de Vaca observed many men who were struck by these arrows, including him. Sickness and hunger began to plague the adventurers and there was nothing they could do about it. Cabeza de Vaca started to realize the grave danger that they were in. They had little to no resources and men were so ill that they were of no use and could not go on. He even abruptly stops himself from interpreting their situation since "anyone can imagine what might be experienced in a land so foreign and evil and so utterly without resources of any kind to either stay or leave" (de Vaca, 22). This statement is the moment where Cabeza de Vaca knows that the conquest has officially failed, and the fight for survival begins.

With no other pragmatic options, the Spaniards decided to build their own ships in order to leave the land, even though none of them knew how to construct a ship and they did not have the tools nor the materials to do it. Once again, Cabeza de Vaca expresses his faith in God to guide each man to try and successfully build these ships. The character and motive of Cabeza de Vaca take a swift turn at this point. He claims their only hope was to keep faith in God for their fate rests in his hands. This isn't to say that he was giving up, but he realizes that they have quite a different expedition ahead of them, and the goal of this one is staying alive.

After the Spaniards were able to manufacture



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