CHAPTER 51: The First Confrontation

WHEN WE SAW for certain that we were drawing near the Christians, we gave thanks to God our Lord for choosing to bring us out of such a melancholy and wretched captivity. The joy we felt can only be conjectured in terms of the time, the suffering, and the peril we had endured in that land.

The evening of the day we reached the recent campsite, I tried hard to get Castillo or Dorantes to hurry on three days, unencumbered, after the Christians who were now circling back into the area we had assured protection. They both reacted negatively, excusing themselves for weariness, though younger and more athletic than I; but they being unwilling, I took the Negro and eleven Indians next morning to track the Christians. We went ten leagues, past three villages where they had slept.

The day after that, I overtook four of them [twenty, according to the Joint Report] on their horses. They were dumbfounded at the sight of me, strangely undressed and in company with Indians. They just stood staring for a long time, not thinking to hail me or come closer to ask questions.

"Take me to your captain," I at last requested; and we went together half a league to a place [near Ocoroni on the Sinaloa] where we found their captain, Diego de Alcaraz [whom we know from events of the next few days and from the later Coronado expedition as a weak and vicious man].

When we had talked awhile, he confessed to me that he was completely undone, having been unable to catch any Indians in a long time; he did not know which way to turn; his men were getting too hungry and exhausted. I told him of Castillo and Dorantes ten leagues away with an escorting multitude. He immediately despatched three of his horsemen to them, along with fifty of his lndian allies. The Negro went, too, as a guide; I stayed behind.

I asked the Christians to furnish me a certificate of the year, month, and day I arrived here, and the manner of my coming; which they did [but Cabeza de Vaca withholds from us what the date was that they certified; the month would have been March and the year 1536.] From this river [the Sinaloa] to the Christian town, Sant Miguel [the same as Culiacán] within the government of the recently created province of New Galicia, is a distance of thirty leagues.

[Culiacán was then the northernmost Spanish settlement in Mexico. Sauer traces Cabeza de Vaca's route from Onovas to there via the later-founded towns of Nuri, Concorit, Alamos, El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Comanito, and Pericos. Cabeza de Vaca calls Cullacán both by this original Indian name of the village - which in time officially prevailed - and by its Spanish name. In the 1542 edition he also makes a confusing reference to Auhacán which is omitted in the 1555 edition. This reference contains an out-of-place notation of leaving for Culiacán which is restored to its proper place below.]