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Despite his failure to suppress the rebellious Cortés in Mexico, would-be conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez was given another chance by the king of Spain, who awarded him governorship over the entire Gulf Coast of the modern United States. But Narváez's luck was no better this time: the expedition, which arrived in 1528, was a complete disaster. Out of the 400 men who went ashore in Florida, only four made it to Mexico eight years later, long after Narváez himself was lost at sea in a makeshift boat. Schneider (The Adirondacks) has only two firsthand documents to work with, but he ably combines the raw narrative with a wealth of secondary research to create a vivid tale filled with gripping scenes, as when natives lead the starving Spanish forces into a swamp ambush. Though primarily concerned with the Spaniards' experiences, Schneider also provides well-rounded portrayals of the indigenous cultures they came in contact with—among them tribes that came to regard the handful of survivors as magical healers who could raise the dead. The ethnographic balance takes a thrilling adventure and turns it into an engrossing case study of early European colonialism gone epically wrong. Illus., map.(May 5)
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ISBN-10:  080506835X
ISBN-13:  978-0805068351
Author:  Paul Schneider
Publisher:  Henry Holt and Co.
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review by . June 10, 2008
Schneider's account of this indeed-brutal journey describes the misadventures of a group of erstwhile Spanish conquerors who were licensed by the King to explore and colonize the land North of Cortes's Mexico. The effort ended in failure when the four survivors of the original 300-plus who landed on the west coast of Florida in 1528 staggered out of the wilderness on the Pacific coast of Northwestern Mexico nine years later!    The story is inevitably episodic, as it relies on …
review by . February 23, 2007
This book shows to the modern reader what can happen when an expedition of exploration and exploitation is lead by a person who has very little sense, and who just goes and follows his own ideas. The Spanish folks involved in this journey were initially going to colonize the west coast of Florida, but a series of stupid decisions by their leader ended up costing all but 4 of the approximately 400 men (and their leader) their lives. We are shown how near starvation and deprivation leads to unusual …
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