Brutal Journey: The Epic Story of the First Crossing of North America

Paul Schneider, Author
Paul Schneider, Author . Holt $26 (366p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6835-1
Reviewed on: 03/06/2006
Release date: 05/01/2006
Paperback - 366 pages - 978-0-8050-8320-0
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-4668-4329-5
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Despite his failure to suppress the rebellious Cortés in Mexico, would-be conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez was given another chance by the king of Spain, who awarded him governorship over the entire Gulf Coast of the modern United States. But Narváez's luck was no better this time: the expedition, which arrived in 1528, was a complete disaster. Out of the 400 men who went ashore in Florida, only four made it to Mexico eight years later, long after Narváez himself was lost at sea in a makeshift boat. Schneider (The Adirondacks ) has only two firsthand documents to work with, but he ably combines the raw narrative with a wealth of secondary research to create a vivid tale filled with gripping scenes, as when natives lead the starving Spanish forces into a swamp ambush. Though primarily concerned with the Spaniards' experiences, Schneider also provides well-rounded portrayals of the indigenous cultures they came in contact with—among them tribes that came to regard the handful of survivors as magical healers who could raise the dead. The ethnographic balance takes a thrilling adventure and turns it into an engrossing case study of early European colonialism gone epically wrong. Illus., map. (May 5)

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