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lvar Nez Cabeza de Vaca c1490-c1557 THE MAN Alvar Nez Cabeza de Vaca was born into the Spanish aristocracy around 1490 He took the honorific title Cabeza de Vaca meaning head of a cow from his mothers side of the family One of her ancestors-a shepherd named Martn Alhaja-had helped the Spanish Christians win a decisive battle against their Moorish oppressors in the year 1212 by marking an unguarded mountain pass with a cow skull The Christians sneak attacked scoring a major victory and Alhaja and his descendants were ennobled with the title Cabeza de Vaca Cabeza de Vacas grandfather was Pedro de Vera the sadistic conqueror of the Canary Islands Cabeza de Vaca became a soldier in his teens serving the Spanish army in Italy and at home until as a respected veteran he was appointed treasurer and second-in-command of the 1527 Pnfilo de Narvez expedition to the New World Before it was over he would also serve as a trader doctor and slave It is fitting that on this expedition one of the most disastrous in an era of the grand Spanish successes and failures Cabeza de Vaca would also become one of the greatest explorers of all time THE JOURNEY Theres something about a journey about travelling to and through new places that changes a person The traveller sees hears lives a new life every moment As the outside world changes the inside world of the traveller keeps its own pace this journey is less easy to trackthere are no maps or road signs for the human spirit A traveller often ends up nowhere near the intended destination Sometimes the journey itself is more important than the destination The transformations that accompany a journey can be as small and depressing as the bad mood that sometimes comes with bad road food or as promising as the resolutions made watching the sun rise after a long night of driving
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