Texas Origin Story Now Completely Digitized at TSU

The original Texas origin story is now available one line, thanks to the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

The Witliff possesses one of only a handful surviving copies of La Relacion, the 1555 story written by Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, the first European to set foot on what is now Texas, and his six years living as a shipwreck, and sometimes as a slave, among the indigenous peoples of what was to become the American Southwest.

The extremely rare book, one of the most valuable books in the world, has now been re-digitized, and Wittliff literary curator Steve Davis says Americans can now read Cabeza de Vaca's amazing story, one of the great adventures in human history, in the original Catalan Spanish, or the English translation, for the first time.

"It is the first written work on what is now Texas and the Southwest," Davis told News Radio 1200 WOAI.  "In it, he identifies 23 separate native American groups."

In 1527, Cabeza de Vaca, who was a minor Spanish nobleman, led an exploration to track the unknown northwest reaches of the Spanish Main, the land which encompassed the dominions of the King of Spain.

But he was in trouble from the start, and in November of 1528, what was left of Cabeza de Vaca's devastated crew, landed in a small raft on what is now Galveston Island.

"He lived among the Indians of Texas for about six years, and then he and three comrades traveled a great distance to catch up with their Spanish bretheren in Mexico."

Along the way, Cabeza de Vaca was held as a slave for more than a year, met numerous Native American groups and experienced their culture, and, of course, told the Indians about Christianity.

"When he landed, he was a guy who was looking for wealth, gold and silver, and by the time he finished this experience with these people, he became a passionate defender of Native American human rights."

Cabeza de Vaca's adventure is frequently studied in middle school and high school Texas history courses, and Davis says this new digitized copy of La Relacion will help expand its reach.

Upon returning to Spain in 1544, Cabeza de Vaca began writing the story of his life among the Native Americans.  It became the 16th Century equivalent of a best seller, and the Whitliff copy is one of only a handful of the original 1555 Madrid-printed volumes to survive.

“We know that teachers have found this work to be invaluable in teaching students about the early inhabitants of Texas,” said The Wittliff Collections Director Dr. David Coleman. “Students find the adventurous aspects of the story to be interesting. This new website format is even more engaging and appealing.”

In addition to the revised and updated digitizing of the volume, the new presentation includes annotations and commentary from Distinguished Professor Emeritus Dr. Frank de la Teja, who is a world renowned expert on early Texas and the Pre-Columbian Southwest.  He has contributed a video as well as explanations which will provide scholars and students with an amazing insight into the world of Cabeza de Vaca and the origins of Texas.

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WITTLIFF COLLECTIONS, TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY

READ the document from the WITTLIFF COLLECTION: https://exhibits.library.txstate.edu/cabeza/

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