Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

The Dates - The Events

The Dates - The Events

1500 - 1527


The Story of Estevanico

The exact birth date of Estevanico is not known. Parish implies that it was in 1501 and then goes on to relate details of his childhood and early life. His mother died a few months after he was born. The kindly master was a weaver and cloth merchant. Estevanico was cared for by the slave cook in the household. As a youngster he became the errand boy, running to the port, the market, houses of merchants, and the shipping wharfs.

At eleven. he began learning his father's trade of ironworker. His parents were from the Hausa tribe along the Niger River. These people were much taller than their neighbors and thus he grew tall, large and powerful.

Portuguese military forces invaded, sacked and retained control of Azamur.

Two years of drouth brought famine and disaster to the area. Estevanico was sold to a Spanish slave dealer and resold in Seville to the Duke of Bejar. Here he became the page and servant of Don Andres Dorantes.

In Seville the air was filled with stories of adventure and exploration. The people had seen Columbus. They had seen the gold and silver brought back from Mexico and Peru. Every ship from the Indies brought strange cargoes of slaves, birds, fruits, and plants. Signing of adventurers was an easy task. Many were eager to see the wonders of this New World and find a little gold of their own.

Dorantes and Estevanico were young men of an age where all this was high excitement. Dorantes determined to go at first chance and take Estevanico with him.

Panfilo de Narvaez had come to Spain from his estate in Cuba to ask Charles V for appointment as governor of Florida. He was a rich man after twenty years in the Indies in the military service of the King. When the petition was granted, "purchased" has been mentioned, he set about equipping the expedition.

Nowhere will you read anything in praise of Narvaez. Of all the adjectives used, none were complimentary. Terrell, in fact, calls him "arrogant, inept, stubborn, stupid, and possessed of inordinate greed." Lastly, he was pure skinflint. A minimum of supplies was obtained at the very cheapest prices. He was an expert only in slaughtering West Indies natives.

June 17, 1527
Five overloaded ships sailed from Spain for Santo Domingo on Espanola. (The island is now divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.) The Narvaez expedition would be a continuous disaster from start to final destruction. Only Estevanico, Dorantes, Cabeza de Vaca and Alonzo del Castillo would escape with their lives.

The voyage across the Atlantic was a horror story. With horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and goats crowded in with people there was no room to move about. Sanitation was non-existent and cleanliness was impossible. Food was scarce and of low quality. As soon as the ships touched shore one hundred and forty men deserted.

Since supplies were expensive at Santo Domingo, the expedition moved on to Santiago, Cuba.

The ships then started for Trinidad, Cuba when Narvaez heard of a bargain there. Bad weather forced the fleet to take refuge at Cabo Cruz but two ships were sent on to Trinidad.

There in October, the two ships, sixty men, and twenty horses were lost in a hurricane.** Cabeza de Vaca, in charge, had gone ashore with thirty men for the supplies.

The rest of the winter was spent in Cuba. In February 1528, with an added ship bought in Trinidad, they were on their way again. Because of poor navigation, they were hung up on coral shoals, endured more bad weather, missed the entrance to Tampa Bay, and on April 12, 1528, finally saw the southwest coast of Florida near present day John's Pass and Treasure Island.

**Historical note: Cabeza de Vaca's report to the King was the first description of a West Indies hurricane ever printed.

Trotwood, Ohio
E-mail: lwf@coax.net

Category: General History | Subcategory: The Story of Estevanico | Tags: Florida
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1500, 1501, 1502, 1513, 1521, 1522, 1526, 1527, 1528, DE, Duke, Florida, Hood, Laughter, Mexico, Mississippi, Ohio, Oran, Tampa, Tampa (Florida),