cover image A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca

A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca

Andres Resendez, . . Basic, $26.95 (314pp) ISBN 978-0-465-06840-1

In 1528, 300 conquistadores embarked on the ambitious mission of colonizing Florida. They all disappeared. Eight years later, a band of Spanish slave-traders were rounding up their fleeing human cargo in northwest Mexico when they espied a group of men who appeared to be natives approaching them. One was white. Just as astonishingly, a companion of his was African. Who were these strange figures? They, and two others, were the last survivors of the lost expedition. Their march across Florida, their voyage on spindly rafts across the Gulf of Mexico, their captivity in Texas and their trek across the southwest to the Pacific coast form the backbone of Reséndez's riveting account of the epic journey. The author, a history professor at the University of California–Davis, tells the tale from the Spanish, African and Indian points of view: Native Americans were just as amazed by the original visitors as the visitors were by them, and Reséndez focuses on how the interlopers remade themselves as medicine men and made sense of “social worlds other Europeans could not even begin to fathom.” Told from an intriguing and original perspective, Reséndez's narrative is a marvelous addition to the corpus of survival and adventure literature. 15 illus, 16 maps. (Nov.)