American Literature Week 1 Cabeza De Vaca’s Memoir

Prompt: “The most memorable story or description in the memoir — and why.”

Cabeza de Vaca was a Spanish explorer during the early 1500’s. His memoir Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America was one of the first pieces of literature describing the previously unexplored Americas. Vaca was very perceptive, and often noticed details about the landscape that the rest of us would give no mind to. For example, as he traveled through Florida he noted that there were three different species of mosquitoes. But the more interesting parts of his memoir have to do with his interactions with the natives during his travels. He acted as a traveling doctor, of sorts. Honestly he had little training in the area, his cures mostly had to do with calming psychological ailments by reciting the lords prayer over the afflicted.

But according to Vaca he was a miracle worker. He tells of an experience with natives in which he was asked to remove an arrowhead from one of the warriors. The arrowhead had been lodged in the man for years, and before Vaca no one had been able to remove it. Vaca cut out the arrowhead, then stitched the man up with a sliver of deer bone. According to Vaca the wound miraculously healed over night, and the next morning there was no trace of it. As we can see by this statement Vaca’s work dabbled into the realm of fiction, which made it all the more interesting for the people of Europe to read.

Vaca’s work was memorable mainly for the details and visual language which Vaca used throughout. He had a real knack for making scenes interesting, using distinct vocabulary and literacy skills meant to paint a picture for the reader. He was also memorable for the people of his time because he was describing a previously unknown land. People of Europe were captured by his daring adventures in the new world, and they were curious about what the new world had to share. Since he was one of the first to travel through and document his experiences, and since he knew how to be vibrant and exciting with his vocabulary, his memoir became very much beloved throughout early Europe.

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