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



By Marshall C. Harrold

Both books on Estevanico from which this story has been built show maps of a sort. These in no way do justice to his incredible journey. The following is not a scientific study. It is simply an attempt to show in graphic form, from readily accessible material, how utterly amazing this man's travels really were.


Marco Polo may have gone farther but had two distinct advantages. He followed established trade routes and didn't have to walk. Estevanico traversed completely unknown territory and as a slave was never given any such relief. Don't forget that this was in the early fifteen hundreds.

One of the references cited by Terrell was "A Study of The Route of Cabeza de Vaca" by J. N. Baskett published in the Texas State Historical Association Quarterlies of 1907.

Copies were obtained and have given added information useful in preparing the maps that are included here.

Terrell lists the captains of the five boats sailing from St. Mark's Bay, Florida as Narvaez, Alonzo Enriquez, Cabeza de Vaca, Castillo/Dorantes, and Tellez/Penalosa.

Baskett more properly regards the boats as barges. He makes this statement: "Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Andres Dorantes, Alonzo del Castillo Maldenado and Estevanico, a Moor and servant of Dorantes, were all that finally survived from the army of Panfilo Narvaez. --- Five barges of this expedition were wrecked on the Gulf Coast of Texas in November of that year. Two of them containing the Cabeza party were stranded on an island from which they began their remarkable journey on land, and the other barges were lost further westward. --- that of the governor having landed its men before being swept out to sea."

And again: "Esquival, the only survivor from the barge of the governor, said the people had landed from the barge; the governor, remaining in the barge, that night was swept out to sea, as nothing more was known of him."

Baskett also includes a map that shows the landings fairly accurately. See Plate IV. That the area covered at least 180 miles along the coast is not surprising. Four days of constantly working to keep the overloaded rafts afloat would have made secondary any thought of direction or position.

Did the Cabeza de Vaca barge and that of Castillo/Dorantes land together on Galveston Island because they had been lashed together? This offer was reportedly made to Narvaez but rejected. At least, these were the ones who survived.

Any attempt to chart the four years of slavery and wandering is almost impossible. These were coastal Indian tribes without any fixed locations. After our quartet finally escaped and wintered with the Avavares tribe their course can again be guessed at.


Basket makes no attempts to identify the points at which the group received the two gourd medicine rattles or the cast copper bell. As he logically states, "When the writer began this study, he was hopeful of finding some geological, ethnological or nature history features which might fix definitely certain points on the route. --- But, except in a few instances, the results was disappointing." At that time, nothing had been named, whether river, rock, or mountain. While the path may not be precise, there is no question its extent, as a look at the maps will show.



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Category: | Subcategory: | Tags: Florida , Texas
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1907, DE, Florida, Galveston (Texas), Ohio, Oran, Pena, Territory, Texas,