Monday, January 30, 2012

Brutal Journey: Cabeza de Vaca and the Epic First Crossing of America by Paul Schneider

It's peculiar that Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca is not better known. That old saw, "truth is stranger than fiction" applies in his case, or at least his version of events, which one might as well believe because the fantastic fact is, Cabeza de Vaca did reappear in northern Mexico in late April of 1536, one of only four survivors of the 400 who participated in the Narváez expedition to Florida in March of 1528. He left a memoir, translated as Castaways, and based on this, as well as other documents and archaelogical research about the peoples he encountered, Paul Schnieder has written a jaw-stopping story that reads like a novel. It's only January, but without a doubt, Brutal Journey will go on my top 10 books read list for 2012. A few links for surfers:

Paul Schneider's website

The Journey of Cabeza de Vaca 1542, translated by Fanny Bandelier, 1905

Nicholás Echeverría's movie, Cabeza de Vaca, on Netflix

A bit about Guillermo Sheridan's screenplay for that same movie

Angell Expeditions, owned by Charlie Angell, expert wilderness guide, who is very knowledgable about the areas Cabeza de Vaca visited in the Big Bend region (La Junta de los Ríos and northwest).

UPDATE : Listen to my interview with Charles Angell.