Cabezade Vaca, who was a Spanish explorer of the new world, lived among variousNative American tribes for eight years before he returned to Spanishcivilization. In his quest to survive, Cabeza de Vaca overcame prejudicesagainst Native Americans and formed close relationships with the different tribeshe encountered. “The Relation of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca” by Álvar NúñezCabeza de Vaca theme is that we all can commit good and evil acts. Cabeza deVaca demonstrates in his narrative that “good” people can be savage, andsomeone who is often considered “evil” like the Native Americans can becivilized. Cabezade Vaca’s use of first-person narration helps to share his personal experiencesand secrets with the reader.
In the closing of the narrative, Cabeza de Vaca divesinto the complicated relationship between the Native Americans and theChristians. As the Native Americans leave Cabeza de Vaca behind with promisefrom the Christians permitting them to rebuild their towns. Cabeza de Vacaoffers his opinion on how untrustworthy the Christians are when he writes, “Isolemnly swear that if they Natives have not done so rebuilt their towns itis the fault of the Christians” (De Vaca 35). This statement supports the themeby not only illustrating Cabeza de Vaca’s strong disapproval of the Christiansand their selfishness but how the Christians appear to be praying on thehelplessness of the Native Americans. Therefore, illustrating the Christianscan exhibit savage behavior.
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The last two paragraphs of the narrative, “The Relation ofAlvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca” explains how the naivety of the Native Americans inthe face of Christian hostility further supports the theme. Cabeza de Vacadeclares that “we often misjudge the motives of men,” and continues byclarifying that, “we thought we had effected the Indians liberty, when theChristians were but poising to pounce” (De Vaca 35). Here Cabeza de Vaca growsangry as he laments about how he fought for the freedom of the NativeAmericans, but it is soon revealed that his attempt has been useless becausethe Christians already have a plan to neutralize the Native Americans efforts. Cabezade Vaca infers that the Christians believe they are superior to the NativeAmericans but are in fact misguided and far worse than those they claim aresavages (De Vaca 35). Moreover, the use of the alliterations”motives of men” and “poising to pounce” in this line further emphasize thetheme of the entire narrative by characterizing the Christians as predators andthe Native Americans as prey (De Vaca 35). Cabezade Vaca’s diction or word choice can be characterized as having a specificconnotative meaning and assist in deciphering the overall theme. Cabeza deVaca’s consistent use of the phrase “The Christians” and “The Indians” or “TheNatives” has an important effect that emphasizes the distinction between Cabezade Vaca and “The Christians” as well as Cabeza de Vaca and “The Indians/Natives”(De Vaca 35).
This is important to the underlying theme of the narrativebecause it shows the enormous conflict within himself about his own identity andthese two opposing forces who turned out to have a more complex character. Furthermore, by referring to the Spanish as “TheChristians” he makes it clear that he is not a part of their group (DeVaca 35). Although they share the same faith thedistinction of “the Christians” from himself infers that he has come to respectthe Native Americans and subsequently sees a distinction in the way “theChristians” and “The Indians” carry themselves (De Vaca 35). Conversely, Cabeza de Vaca’s portrayal and unusualrespect for the Native Americans further demonstrates the compassion and bondthat developed between the Native Americans and Cabeza de Vaca over the courseof his isolation from his fellow countrymen. Cabezade Vaca’s use of first-person narration, alliterations, and specific wordchoice creates a well-rounded theme of the narrative that not all people areinnately good or evil.
In the last two paragraphs, Cabeza de Vaca’s explainsthe final encounter with both the Native Americans and the Christians. In hisquest to survive, Cabeza de Vaca’s account shows the complexity of characterand how prejudices can often be misleading.