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This source was written by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. He was an explorer who had traveled with his crew of 300 men to the New World, currently known as Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca along with his crew members were stranded in the present-day Florida and they made their way across the Gulf of Mexico to the safety of their fellow countrymen and in search of help. On their arrival to Mexico they were enslaved by the native Indians people. The source was written during Alvar’s time with the native Indians in Mexico, 1528
My prior knowledge was of Hernan Cortez first contact with the Aztec. In 1519, The Spaniards landed on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, where they encountered the society of the Aztecs. The Aztec Empire’s capital was Tenochtitlan and the empire was so large it stretched along the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs had made a lot of money from trading and heavy payments of tribute from conquered peoples. By the time Hernando Cortes landed in Mexico with his 600 soldiers, the Aztecs were in control of most of present-day Mexico. The expansion of the Aztecs, however, ended with the Spanish Conquest. A major element of Aztec life was religion. They often practiced human sacrifice to praise and please their gods. The time of arrival of the Spaniards collided with a prophecy which stated that the god Quetzalcoatl, characterized by light skin, red hair, and light eyes, was supposed to return to earth. This appearance is similar to European appearance was probably why the Aztecs assumed the Hernan Cortez was their god who had descended and originally greeted the Spaniards with food, gold, and women. Cortez later took the Aztec leader, Montezuma, hostage. Which led to an Aztec uprising that culminated in La Noche Triste. The Aztecs drove the Spaniards out of Tenochtitlan in July of 1520. Nevertheless, Cortes survived, and led the final attacks on Tenochtitlan, aided by the gruesome advantage of disease, the Europeans brought along with them that the Aztecs had no immunity to. The Spaniards finally triumphed which led to the destruction and the end of the reign of the Aztec. It is estimated that three-quarters of the native population died of violence or diseases like small pox and measles in just the first century of the conquest.
Cabeza de Vaca kept an extensive journal of the lands they passed through and discusses his interactions with the native Indians whom they found in the way. He points out that the people were hunters who had vast amount of stamina and would chase their preys till they tired, sometimes bringing them back alive. He also talked about how Indians were gatherers of food especially tunas on their daily basis and discusses their material culture. In this journal, Cabeza de Vaca explains that despite being enslaved, the Indians treated them with dignity and respect. Furthermore, he talks about how the Indians as he put it “merry people”. That their best times was when they had many tunas to eat and even when they had nothing or were starving, they would still celebrate and dance. According to his journal sometimes during the eight months he and the remainder of his crew spent with the Indians, they became medicine men to the tribe. They did not treat anyone that did not afterwards claim to be better leading the Indians to believe that they wouldn’t die as long as they had Alvar and his crew around. They also had to breathe and make the sign of the cross over everything the Indians touched or drank, if they didn’t do, the Indians left the food/drink untouched. These people also seemed to almost worship Cabeza de Vaca and his men. I think the audience of this source were Alva”s countrymen because he was eager to tell his countrymen about his experience after he found them. This source is also reliable as it was written by Alvar during the period he stayed with the Indians. The main idea this source is trying to convey was how the native Indians lifestyle and culture, it also described the wildlife and geographic scenery of New Mexico. It is significant as it also seems to correlate the details given in “Hernan Cortez first contact with the Aztec” as Hernan Cortez were also treated as gods by the Aztec and it created the Spanish drive for gold leading to the Coronado’s conquest of New Mexico, it also explains why Alvar became an advocate for native people’s right later down the years as the journal indicts he saw them as naïve and poor, but grateful and giving

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