CHAPTER 26: The Coming of the Indians with Dorantes, Castillo, and Estevainico

TWO DAYS after Lope de Oviedo departed, the Indians who had Alonso del Castillo and Andrés Dorantes reached the place we had been told of, to eat pecans. These are ground with a kind of small grain and fumish the sole subsistence of the people for two months of the year - and not every year, because the trees only bear every other year. The nut is the same size as that of Galicia; the trees are massive and numberless. [According to the Joint Report, these groves where the Indians began nutcracking were ten or twelve leagues above the Bay, i.e., on the lower Colorado, and tribes converged there from a distance of twenty and thirty leagues. In the course of the gathering season they worked a great distance up-river.]

An Indian [not one of those who had been manhandling Cabeza de Vaca but a recent arrival] told me secretly that the Christians had arrived at the appointed place and, if I wished to see them, to steal away to a segment of the woods which he pointed out and that there he and his relatives would pick me up as they passed by. I decided to trust him, since he spoke a dialect distinct from the others. Next day, they found me hiding in the designated place and took me along.

As we approached their abode, Andrés Dorantes came out to see who it could be; the Indians had told him a Christian was coming. When he saw me, he was terrified; for I had been considered long dead and the natives had confirmed my demise, he said [without mentioning that he was guilty of deserting a superior officer whom he had passed by without seeing in his presumed final illness]. But we gave many thanks to be alive together. This was a day of as great joy as we ever knew.

When we got to the place Castillo was, they asked me where I might be bound. To the land of Christians, I replied, and was seeking it right now. Andrés Dorantes said that he had long entreated Castillo and Estevánico to go forward, but that they overly dreaded the many bays and rivers they would have to cross, not knowing how to swim. Thus God our Lord had preserved me through all adversities, leading me in the end to the fellowship of those who had abandoned me, that I might lead them over the bays and rivers which obstructed our progress.

They warned me that if the Indians suspected my intention of going on they would murder me; to succeed, we would have to lie quiet until the end of six months, when these Indians would migrate to another part of the country for their season of picking prickly pears. People from parts farther on would be bringing bows to barter and, after making our escape, we could accompany them on their return. Consenting to this counsel, I stayed.

The prickly pear [or tuna, the fruit of the Opuntia cactus,] is the size of a hen's egg, bright red and black in color, and good-tasting. The natives live solely on it three months of the year.

I was consigned as a slave to the Indian who had Dorantes. This Indian was squint-eyed; so were his wife and sons and another member of his household; so they were all, in a manner of speaking, semi-squinted [The preceding sentence does not appear in the 1542 edition.] They were Mariames; the neighboring people who kept Castillo were Yguaces.