14 Prologue


Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca

Sacred Caesarian Catholic Majesty : ' 

Among the many who have held sway, I think no prince can be 
found whose service has been attended with the ardor and emulation 
shown for that of your Highness at this time. The inducement is 
evident and powerful : men do not pursue together the same career 
without motive, and strangers are observed to strive with those who 
are equally impelled by religion and loyalty. 

Although ambition and love of action are common to all, as to the 
advantages that each may gain, there are great inequalities of fortune, 
the result not of conduct, but only accident, nor caused by the fault 
of any one, but coming in the providence of God and solely by His 
will. Hence to one arises deeds more signal than he thought to 
achieve ; to another the opposite in every way occurs, so that he can 
show no higher proof of purpose than his effort, and at times even 
this is so concealed that it cannot of itself appear. 

As for me, I can say in undertaking the march I made on the main 
by the royal authority, I firmly trusted that my conduct and services 
would be as evident and distinguished as were those of my ancestors, 
and that I should not have to speak in order to be reckoned among 
those who for diligence and fidelity in affairs your Majesty honors. 
Yet, as neither my counsel nor my constancy availed to gain aught 
for which we set out, agreeably to your interests, for our sins, no 
one of the many armaments that have gone into those parts has been 
permitted to find itself in straits great like ours, or come to an end 
alike forlorn and fatal. To me, one only duty remains, to present a 
relation of what was seen and heard in the ten years I wandered lost
and in privation through many and remote lands.' Not merely a 
statement of positions and distances, animals and vegetation, but of 
the diverse customs of the many and very barbarous people with 
whom I talked and dwelt, as well as all other matters I could hear 
of and discern, that in some way I may avail your Highness. My 
hope of going out from among those nations was always small, still 
my care and diligence were none the less to keep in particular re- 
membrance everything, that if at any time God our Lord should will 
to bring me where I now am, it might testify to my exertion in the 
royal behalf. 

As the narrative is in my opinion of no trivial value to those who 
in your name go to subdue those countries and bring them to a know- 
ledge of the true faith and true Lord, and under the imperial 
dominion, I have written this with much exactness ; and although 
in it may be read things very novel and for some persons difficult 
to believe, nevertheless they may without hesitation credit me as 
strictly faithful. Better than to exaggerate, I have lessened in all 
things, and it is sufficient to say the relation is offered to your Majesty 
for truth. I beg it may be received in the name of homage, since it 
is the most that one could bring who returned thence naked.


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