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S3 E3. LAND PART III – The Narváez Expedition

 
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İçerik Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis tarafından sağlanmıştır. Bölümler, grafikler ve podcast açıklamaları dahil tüm podcast içeriği doğrudan Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis veya podcast platform ortağı tarafından yüklenir ve sağlanır. Birinin telif hakkıyla korunan çalışmanızı izniniz olmadan kullandığını düşünüyorsanız burada https://tr.player.fm/legal özetlenen süreci takip edebilirsiniz.

It’s 1527 and a Spanish expedition to Florida are on the hunt for safe harbour, immense riches, and somewhere to put all their horses. This is the story of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and the Narváez Expedition.

CREDITS

Written, hosted and produced by Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis.

Theme music by Daniel Wackett. Find him on Twitter @ds_wack and Soundcloud as Daniel Wackett.

Logo by Riley. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @tallestfriend.

Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network. Network sting by Mikaela Moody. Find her on Bandcamp as mikaelamoody1.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

TRANSCRIPT

Alix: Have you ever been really, really hungry?

Carmella: You’re listening to Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast.

A: I’m Alix.

C: I’m Carmella.

A: And now let’s tuck into the gruesome history of this ultimate taboo…

[Intro Music – Daniel Wackett]

C: Welcome to Episode Three, the story of the Narváez Expedition.

[Intro music continues]

C: Alix, would you like to hear about the Narváez Expedition?

A: I would love to hear about the Narváez Expedition. I have never heard of this. I assume there’s cannibalism. I’m on board.

C: We’re in the early 1500s.

A: [Intrigued] Ooooh.

C: Columbus has already made his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The territory of Florida has been ‘discovered’ in 1513 by Juan Ponce de León. Exploration is in vogue.

A: Oh, it is the key fashion. Go ‘discover’ a new land and, er, eat people there.

C: We’ve seen it done many times on this podcast: we’ve got Jamestown, we’ve got Charlesfort. That’s two times.

A: That makes it a plural.

C: Now, let’s go over to a Spanish fella named Pánfilo de Narváez.

A: ¡Hola!

C: He was born sometime around 1480.

A: ¡Cumpleaños feliz!

C: In the early 16th century, he’s living in Cuba and Hispañola, aka Haiti and the Dominican Republic today. In 1509, he took part in the conquest of Jamaica, and in the early 1520s was imprisoned in Veracruz by Hernán Cortés on suspicion of political intrigue in Mexico. Following his release, he returned to Spain and was awarded governorship of Florida – so I guess the political intrigue worked? According to a contemporary, Narvaez was: “a man of authoritative personality, tall of body, somewhat blonde, inclined to redness.”

[Alix laughs]

C: He was also reported to have a booming and arrogant voice, but in fact had good and courteous manners. There are actually many sources that say that he was tall, so clearly, you know, you would look at him and be like, ‘I remember that this guy’s tall.’

A: Ah, the basketball player.

C: Tall for the 16th century though, so, you know.

A: 5’2’’?

C: [Laughing] Yeah.

A: I know the height thing isn’t real, it’s still funny.

C: [Laughs] In his military conquests, he was known as a strong and courageous fighter, if a tad impulsive…

A: [Snorts] ‘A tad.’

C: And he also was a favourite of the King. So all of this adds up to a man who is very, very excited to lead a mission to conquer the ‘New World’ on the King’s behalf, and who lavishes his own personal finances upon equipping it. The Spanish government gave him permission to colonise and rule the land along the Gulf Coast from Northern Mexico to the Florida peninsula,and as far inland as he was then able to get. I guess they didn’t know how far inland it went at that time.

A: ‘It just goes on forever!’

C: On 27 June 1527 – that’s on the Julian calendar; I couldn’t be bothered to sit down and convert the dates to the Gregorian calendar. It’s probably fairly easy to do, so if you care then do it yourself).

[Both laugh]

A: We’re a research-based podcast here at Casting Lots.

C: Does it matter? You know… With five ships containing a crew of 600 men, the Narváez Expedition set out from Spain to Florida.

A: Adiós.

C: Among them was a fella–

A: A fella?

C: A fella called Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

A: CdV.

C: I am calling him CdV for the most part. He’s a Spanish explorer – obviously.

A: You say ‘obviously’; the number of people we have on expeditions like this who are just, like, lawyers or painters or just accidentally wandered onto the ship – it’s impressive that they’ve got any explorers at all.

C: Not only is he an explorer, he comes from a line of explorers. His grandfather was Pedro de Vera, who was known for conquering the largest Canary Island, Gran Canaria.

A: Ah, I see where that name comes from. Big Canary.

C: CdV had a military career that included the 1512 attack on Bologna, the Battle of Ravenna, and an effort in 1520 to put down a popular uprising. He married his wife–

A: That’s nice.

C: Maria Marmolejo, around the same time.

A: [Wanting Carmella to suffer] Sorry, can I have her name again, please?

C: Maria Marmolejo. I apologise if my Spanish pronunciations aren’t quite as up-to-scratch as, for example, my French ones.

[Both snicker]

C: And now, 1527 to 1536, he’s joining Narváez for a little Florida trip, serving as treasurer and chief legal officer.

A: Spring break.

C: A long spring break.

A: A very long spring break.

C: What follows in this episode is based pretty much exclusively on his account of the adventure, because it’s the only one that we really have.

A: Not to ask for too many spoilers, but is he the only one that survives, or the only one that writes anything down?

C: He’s not the only one that survives, and he’s not the only one that writes anything down – but all of the accounts of the expedition are either written by him or co-authored by him, so he has his hand in all of them.

A: He has his hand in a lot of pies.

C: His account was published in a few different versions, so this a mixture of one published in 1542, known as La relacion, and another expanded version from 1555, published as the Naufragios and Comentarios. These accounts are… interesting. They’re less self-aggrandising than, for example, Columbus’ accounts of his adventures, and CdV leaves room to admit when he was, for example, “lost and naked.” I assume metaphorically, but at times actually that’s literally as well.

A: It still sounding like spring break…

C: He’s maybe a little prone to flights of fancy; there’s perhaps a bit of fictionalisation and some omissions, but, you know, it’s the only one we have, so let’s go with it. Along with CdV, other officers are Alonso Enriques and Alonso de Solis, plus the Franciscan friar Juan Xuarez as commissary, along with four other monks.

A: We’ve not had any monks in a survival cannibalism case before.

C: No, we’ve had some priests, but I don’t think we’ve had any monks hitherto. That’s fun!

A: Just a statement of fact, really.

C: Yeah. The ships stop at Santa Domingo (aka Hispañola), and re-supply there for 45 days, taking on “horses in particular.” That’s a quote.

A: [Delighted] Are they big horses or little horses?

C: I don’t know the size of the horses–

A: Aw, that’s sad.

C: But they are particularly horses.

A: They’re particularly horses.

C: 140 men remain behind on the island, as they appear to have been offered better jobs.

A: That’s already not a good innings, if you can lose nearly a quarter of your crew at the first stop.

C: [Laughs] Hey, you know, you’ve gotta take a job offer where you get one.

A: Work through your contract!

C: Following that, they head to Santiago on Cuba to gather up some more men, arms, and yet more horses.

A: The horses are going to start outnumbering the crew.

C: Some of the party, including CdV, head off to Trinidad in two ships to pick up some extra bits and bobs.

A: Horses.

C: They get caught in a hurricane.

A: Oooh.

C: CdV is off the ships at the time, which is lucky for him, as they are completely wrecked and 60 people die.

A: So we’re down to three ships, three quarters of the crew, and a lot of horses. Why is this episode involving so much maths?

C: [Laughs] Don’t bother keeping track of it – they will be down to much smaller numbers later, so it’s not really worth knowing!

[Alix laughs]

C: The other ships eventually come to join them, and everyone is so afraid to sail again in case they hit another hurricane – which, by the way, they have never encountered these before, they’ve got no idea what the fuck is going on.

A: Oh God! Imagine being the first person to encounter a hurricane…

C: This is thought to be the first written European account of a hurricane.

A: I mean, still, they’re not doing a good thing here, but my God that would fuck with you.

C: So they decide to overwinter on Cuba, which I guess is understandable, and they venture out again in February. And are promptly run aground by their pilot for 15 days.

[Alix laughs]

C: And, following that, are hit several more times by storms. Finally, they reach Florida on 12 April, just in time for Easter.

A: Aww, that’s nice.

C: On 13 April (which is apparently Holy Thursday. Didn’t know there was a day in between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but there is, and it’s called Holy Thursday), they enter the mouth of a bay and come across an indigenous village. Narvaez trades for fish and venison, and on Good Friday, most of the men go ashore to have a mingle. They find the village now deserted – it looks like the villagers fled in the night. Probably sensible.

A: A very rational reaction to a group of men just randomly turning up.

C: Yeah, to an invasion… As CdV writes, “The governor raised standards in behalf of Your Majesty and took possession of the country in Your Royal name”. Now, I hark back to Charlesfort: you go to a place, there are people already there, and you’re like ‘I own this place now.’ Colonialism’s wild.

A: Yeah, we look back at this with hindsight, but it’s like, how was that ever rational? ‘Here are these people’s homes.’ ‘Yeah, but it’s our land.’ I don’t know which is worse – the disconnect you have to have, or actually believing the bullshit that ‘we can just take whatever we want because God wants it to be ours.’

C: Yeah! After a couple of days, some of the villagers do reappear. “We had no interpreters and did not understand them; but they made many gestures and threats, and it seemed they were telling us to leave the country.” Hmm, wonder why they were saying that!

A: [Sarcastically] Didn’t they know that it was their country, because they’d put down a flag? Oh my- Argh!

C: The next day, Narváez decides to explore inland a bit. As you remember, he has permission to do that.

A: From–

C: Spain.

A: Yeah, the King of Spain said he could.

C: He rustles up some officers, including CdV, and 40 men to go with him. CdV notes that the horses “would be of little use”, as they are all on their last legs from the hardships of the journey.

A: All of those horses?

C: Those particular horses… The party manage to accost – in their words, “capture” – four guys, “to whom we showed corn in order to find out if they knew of it”. As it turns out, they did know what corn was.

A: [Sarcastically] What a surprise!

C: And they led the Spanish guys to some young crops near their village. They also tell the Spanish guys, through, I presume, mostly gesture, of a far-off province called Apalache, where lots of food and gold can be found – which is a very smart move on their part, I think.

A: Yeah, ‘go to this place, it’s much better.’

C: I’m referring to Narváez’s gang as ‘the Spanish dudes’, but, as you will see later, they’re not all Spanish: there are some Greek, some Portuguese, some African, but they’re under the auspices of Spain, so I’m calling them Spanish for simplicity’s sake. Hope that’s okay with you?

A: Speak up now if it’s not.

[Pause]

C: No?

A: Okay, it’s cool.

C: Cool, cool, let’s move on. Here’s a little anecdote to illustrate the arrogance and disrespect of these European explorers.

A: [Laughing] Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast.

C: “We also found many cargo boxes from Castile. In each was a corpse, each corpse covered with painted deerskins. The commissary believed this to be some idolatrous practice, so he burned the crates with the corpses inside.” So, you come into their village; you say ‘this land is ours now’; you take their corn; and then you desecrate their dead.

A: ‘It’s a ritual, we don’t know what it is. It’s some weird ritual.’ How about, it’s got nothing to do with you?

C: It’s just some guys in some coffins and you take such offence. Anyway… After returning to camp, they find the pilots arguing about the next steps. The plan had been to find a safe port, but they aren’t sure where exactly to find that.

A: Well, you look for it!

C: Narváez is thinking of taking most of the men inland to find this amazing Apalache, with a small crew and the pilots following the coast in search of a better harbour.

A: I want to be on the team who’s looking for a harbour.

C: I think we all want to be on that team. CdV thinks that this is a terrible idea of Narváez’s, for several reasons, which I shall list. A) The ships won’t be safe to be left until they’re in an occupied port.

A: Yep.

C: B) The pilots are shit at their job, as happened when they ran their ships aground. C) The horses are also shit at their job.

A: [Laughs] Their job of being horses!

C: They’re not up for travel right now. D) They have no interpreter to ask the locals for help if they need it.

A: They should have thought of that before they went there.

C: E) They don’t know anything about the land they’d be travelling in.

A: Should have thought about that before they said they owned it.

C: And, finally, F) They don’t have enough supplies.

A: F) They’re fucked.

C: They should all get back on the ships and sail together, says CdV.

A: I think CdV sounds very sensible, and I think Narváez has dollar signs in his eyes because he’s been told about ‘El Dorado’.

C: I will remind you, though, that CdV is giving this account with the benefit of hindsight, so who knows if he actually came up with all of those genius arguments at the time. Maybe he did, because it doesn’t take a genius to foresee those consequences, but equally…

A: I mean, I saw some of those problems, and I’m just sat somewhere in London.

C: [Laughs] Friar Xuarez disagrees with CdV, and argues, confusingly, that it would “tempt God” if they get back on the ships after all those storms and hardships. I don’t understand the theology behind that.

A: So, ‘God really wants to kill us, and he’s tried really hard so far, and we’ve evaded him.’ That friar should be like, ‘Onto those ships we go; God wants us dead, we need to just go straight into a hurricane.’

C: [Laughs] True! Yeah, I don’t know what his religious knowledge is as a friar, but you’d think– Anyway, each to their own interpretation of the Bible, I suppose. After some heated debate, Narváez ignores CdV’s recommendation and calls for an inland party to form. In a really petty move–

A: Does he make CdV go on it?

C: “After this he turned to me and told me in the presence of all who were there that, since I so strongly opposed the expedition into the interior and was afraid of it, I should take charge of the ships and men remaining.” So, with clear intent to humiliate CdV into going along with the inland party. As he very tactfully puts it in his account, “I declined.” I’d love to see how that conversation actually went!

A: [Laughs] I get it from a petty bullshit point of view. From a practical leading-an-expedition point of view, we have encountered, in other situations, people who don’t want to be there, and they’re not the ones that you generally want on-board. I’m thinking Greely.

C: Mmhmm. When questioned why he will not stay with the ships, CdV tells Narváez, “I refused to accept because I felt sure that he would never see the ships again, nor the ships him,” and, ultimately, he thinks that the inland party are all gonna fail and die – and whilst that would sound like you wouldn’t want to go with that party, he doesn’t want people with retrospect to say ‘you’re a coward’. It’s like an honour thing.

A: ‘I would rather die than someone thought I didn’t want to die.’

C: Yeah.

A: Men are weird.

C: Yeah. In the end, Narváez gives up the argument and a magistrate named Caravallo gets appointed to look after the ships. Around 100 people are left behind with the ships, being left with few supplies. Among them are ten women, all wives of various officials. One of the women warns Narváez that, if he leaves the ships, he will suffer greatly, and neither he nor any of his company will ever return. Apparently she learned this information from a Moorish fortune teller in Castile. So this is where I’m saying that maybe there’s a bit of fictionalisation, because that’s a great story, but CdV is hamming up the ‘Narváez is incompetent’ thing in his account here, right?

A: [In a mystical voice] ‘Oooh, go not into the interior, you will never return.’

C: On 1 May, around 300 people – including Narváez, CdV, Friar Xuarez, the officers, and 40 horsemen – set out. I assume there are 40 horses with the horsemen, but–

A: I mean, I don’t.

[Carmella laughs]

A: I’m assuming they’re doubling up; it’s really cute.

C: [Delighted] Aww! Each of them is given, for rations, two pound of ship’s biscuit and a half pound of bacon, and they all carry their own rations.

A: That is the world’s most depressing bacon sandwich.

C: They march for 15 days, finding almost nothing else to supplement their diet, and no further signs of habitation. They then spend a day crossing a swift river by swimming and on rafts, and on the other side of the river, they are greeted by 200 Native Americans. After some attempts to communicate, “they acted in such a manner that we were obliged to attack them.”

A: Oh fuck right off!

C: [Mockingly] ‘We had no choice!’ They captured some people, and made them take them (the Spanish) to their houses, where the Spanish stole– [Clears throat] I’m sorry, found, plenty of corn to eat. After hearing from their new captives that the sea is not far away, CdV begs Narváez to be allowed to go and have a look for that harbour again. Narváez is against it at first, but then allows CdV to take 40 men for a quick recce to the coast.

A: I feel that CdV is sort of being sensible with that, but I then worry… I’m in a hypothetical where this goes well, and I know, from the podcast that we are, that this is not going to go well. But I worry that you go and find the harbour, and then you have to go back 15 days to go and find the ships – the ships that are looking for the harbour. Strangely, I just feel like this whole situation is not gonna end well.

C: They don’t find a harbour; they find an estuary, and they find oysters. But they cut their feet badly on the oyster shells.

A: Wear shoes!

C: [Chuckles] They then journey on until 17 June – presumably, I don’t know, hopping a bit – taking their captives with them as guides.

A: So did they actually eat any of the oysters, or did they just hurt their feet, so not harvest them? Or is it unclear because they focus more on their sore feet?

C: It’s unclear; the focus is on ‘ooh I hurt my foot.’ Eventually, they encounter a Native American chief named Dulchalchelin, whom they try to question about the location of this Apalache. They are given to understand that he’s an enemy of the Apalache people, and will help the Spanish to move against them. They exchange gifts and now they’re friends.

A: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my enemy.’ That’s not right.

C: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’

A: That’s the one!

C: [Laughing] But yours is probably more accurate!

[Both laugh]

C: They are obliged to cross another river on canoes, and one horseman and his horse drown in the process. “His death made us very sad, since until then we had not lost anybody.” Apart from all those men who died in the hurricane but, hey, who’s counting?

A: That was God, that was God.

C: That one was God. The drowned horse is eaten for supper.

A: Eww, waterlogged.

C: Yum. And they reach Dulchalchelin’s village the next day and are given some more corn. On 25 June, they come to Apalache. It’s a real place!

A: I have to be honest, I did not think it really existed. I’m gonna go out on a limb, though: I don’t think it’s really full of gold.

C: Well, let’s see… CdV describes the condition of his men: “Besides suffering great fatigue and hunger, the backs of the men among us were covered with wounds from the weight of the armor and other things they had to carry.” However, they’re in really good spirits now that they’d arrived in this land that’s full of food and gold and is really good.

A: I mean, I would be very excited to be somewhere that was full of food and gold.

C: They enter the Appalachian village, where they find only women and children.

A: Is the real treasure the love we found at home? And we all learn a lesson? And everyone’s friends again?

C: No, what actually happens is that then the men come home and they all get into a big fight, from which the Spanish seem to rise victorious, aside from the death of one more horse. They take corn, hides and blankets from the villagers, and remain for 25 days, with several fights along the way – because they are just unwelcome invasive guests who have done some killing. After quizzing their existing captives, and a new Appalachian captive, they’re advised that the village Aute near the sea is also really rich.

A: Full of gold and food.

C: So they decide they’re gonna go there next, actually.

A: Have they not worked out what’s going on yet? I worked it out the minute someone said, ‘Go there, it’s full of gold.’

C: [Laughs] Anyway, they reach Aute after five or eight or nine days – CdV gives three numbers. In, like, one sentence.

[Alix snorts]

C: Timekeeping, huh.

A: The days just sort of blur into one on the road.

C: In Aute, they ‘find’ more food and rest for two days. CdV goes out looking for the sea again in a party of 60, and they find oysters – which they do eat. They eat these oysters; they specify that.

A: They don’t just walk on them.

C: They’ve learnt their lesson. Oysters go in the mouth, not the foot.

[Alix laughs]

C: They find that the coast is too inletty to really explore, so they return to the other men the next day. However, when they return to camp, they find Narváez and his men in poor condition, after yet another fight in the night, which has injured many and killed another horse.

A: Firstly, these horses are doing surprisingly well for being knackered old nags. But secondly, I’m just picturing this team of Spanish colonial soldiers as English football fans.

[Carmella laughs]

A: Going from village to village and just fucking shit up.

C: Lads, lads, lads. The following day, they all leave Aute and head back to the coast; but it’s difficult going, as they have too few horses to carry all the sick and injured people. CdV estimates that about a third of the whole group are seriously unwell at this point. It becomes clear that they do not have the medical knowledge among them to heal their comrades; they also have very few resources for the journey ahead, and – in CdV’s words – “even if we had been provided with them, we did not know where to go”.

A: But they’d ‘found’ so many resources just naturally lying around! It’s almost as though they’re talking bollocks.

C: [Laughs] Many of the horsemen – at least, the ones that still have healthy horses and are healthy themselves – begin to abandon them in secret.

A: How do you secretly abandon a horse?

C: No, no: abandon the party.

A: That makes more sense.

[Both laugh]

A: It’s like, ‘I just put him down and he wandered off.’ That makes more sense, okay.

C: Sorry: the horsemen and their horses abandon the party. Narváez calls a meeting and, on reviewing their dire straits, it’s decided that they will build ships and leave.

A: Um, go back to the ships you already have?

C: They don’t know where those ships are – they sent those off up the coast. And they don’t know where they are. Yeah, it’s almost like very little fore-thought was put into this.

A: Does CdV at some point in his writings use the immortal phrase, ‘I told you so’?

C: I think it’s implicit. [Sarcastically] CdV is also very receptive to this plan from Narváez: “This seemed impossible to everyone, since none of us knew how to build them.”

A: [Laughs] Fuck’s sake.

C: “We had no tools, no iron, no smithery, no oakum, no pitch, no tackling, in sum, nothing… Neither was there anyone to instruct us in shipbuilding, and above all, there was nothing for those who would have to perform these tasks to eat.”

A: He is a snarky bastard.

C: [Laughing] But he is right.

A: But they managed it at Charlesfort. I didn’t think they were going to be able to build a ship either.

C: You will recall at Charlesfort they had a great, great deal of help from their Native American friends.

A: Oh yeah, they had friends. They hadn’t just antagonised everyone.

C: One of the men does know how to make wooden flues and deerskin bellows. So, based on those qualifications, he’s in charge.

A: Of building a ship?

C: [Laughing] Multiple ships!

A: Oh mate, mate, mate… There are not going to be enough people left for you to need multiple ships.

C: They dismantle the stirrups, spurs, crossbows and other ron bits and bobs to make shipbuilding tools.

A: That’s gonna end well, with the afore-mentioned ‘pissing people off’ routine you’ve got going.

C: All the horses and men that are remaining and fit for service get sent to raid the Aute village again for more food, and it’s decided that they’re gonna kill and eat a horse every three days.

A: Sensible. Thank you.

C: They can also gather seafood, although this is risky because it often leads to encounters with the locals, who, you will remember, they are constantly fighting with.

A: And it hurts their feet.

C: [Laughing] It does hurt their feet. For oakum, they gather palm trees and make do with those. They have one carpenter on their team, and he has to construct the boats single-handedly. By this point they seem to have downgraded their ambitions to boats from ships, just FYI.

A: I was thinking, ‘yeah, they’ve come to their senses a little bit.’ They’re not gonna go for multiple decks or anything fancy.

C: A Greek man called Don Teodoro manages to make pitch from pine trees. They use the tails and manes of horses to make rope and tackles, and the horse skin to make water pouches.

A: Finally, a sensible concept. Yes, you can do those things! Well done.

C: They carve oars from the surrounding trees, and make sails from their own shirts.

A: Okay, now we’re getting stupid again…

C: Having begun on 4 August, by 20 September, they’ve miraculously managed to make five boats. They have suffered casualties along the way, some to fighting, some to sickness, some to hunger–

A: Some to oysters.

C: Over 40 have died since they first started their journey. By 22 September, they have eaten all but one of their horses. It’s time to leave the bay, which they have now named… the Bay of Horses.

[Alix laughs]

C: These guys and their horses!

A: Do they kill the final horse, or do they just leave the final horse alone in the Bay of Horses to sail off?

C: Hmm, you know what?

A: ‘Neigh!’

C: CdV doesn’t comment on the fate of that horse. I have to assume they eat it.

A: It would make sense, but also they’re horse mad.

[Carmella laughs]

A: Either they eat it, they leave it, or they Road to El Dorado it, and take it with them.

C: [Delighted] Yesss! [Laughs]

A: And they just never mention it because it’s not relevant to the plot.

C: [Laughs] They set out in the five boats. CdV is in a boat with Alonso de Solis, who’s the inspector, and 49 men. With so many on board plus all the remaining supplies, the sides of the boats are just half a foot above the water line, and it’s too crowded to move at all. They’re waist-deep in bilge most of the time.

A: Sexy.

C: Yeah. In this manner, they sail for seven days among the inlets.

A: Oh my God, their skin’s going to be falling off.

C: Before finally reaching an island near the shore, with CdV’s boat taking the lead. They encounter five canoes of Native Americans who, when approached, abandon their canoes and skedaddle, because–

A: They’re faster than the Spanish.

C: Yep. The abandoned canoes are used to fix up the Spanish boats, plus the Native Americans’ food is stolen for a meal. [Pause]. Sorry, found. It’s found. With their boats now in mildly better condition, they head back out to sea, following the coast in search of this bloody harbour that they’ve been looking for the whole time.

A: At this point, they will take just seeing their own ships.

C: Their food and water supplies are running low, particularly the water, because, as you will recall, they made some water pouches from the horse skin – but they made it very quickly, and it’s now starting to rot.

A: Ewww! Nice. Adds a bit of extra nutrition and flavour to the water.

C: [Grimacing] Mmm. They’re all feeling the effects of hunger and thirst, and after 30 days of hugging the coast and finding nowhere safe to go ashore to water, they land on a small island… Which has no freshwater on it. Then a storm hits, and they’re forced to stay there for six days.

A: They’ve got freshwater now, though.

C: I don’t think they do very well at capturing it, because, for five days, they drink sea water.

A: Oh, that’s on them, then.

C: And five men drink so much of it that it kills them. With the storm still raging, they decide that they’re gonna die of dehydration if they don’t just trust in God and brave the sea once more. So this time around they think that God’s gonna protect them from the storm? I don’t know.

A: God is sending you clean water.

[Carmella laughs]

A: And you are drinking the sea. I think at this point, you and God have some communication issues.

C: They’re all convinced they’re going to drown; the going’s really rough. But by nightfall, they finally do manage to find somewhere on the mainland suitable to land their boats. They find another Native American village, and try for a diplomatic approach this time.

A: 47th time lucky.

C: It works! They’re offered food and water.

A: They are also pitiful, naked, mad, half dead, and are rocking up in five homemade boats.

C: Yeah.

A: You might be inclined to take pity on them, especially if you didn’t know what arseholes they’d been earlier.

C: So here’s how it goes: they turn up; they get given food and water; Narváez gives some trinkets to their chief as a gift; and then ‘suddenly’, the villagers attack the Spanish explorers. Totally unprovoked, I’m sure. ‘Just snapped and attacked us, can’t think what we could have done to cause offence’, CdV swears.

A: [Not believing] Yeah, sure.

C: Narváez is wounded, as is CdV, and they all retreat to the boats. They sail for another three days, having only managed to take on a small supply of freshwater, then they encounter another canoe, whom they ask for more water. They hand over their water carriers and agree to do a trade of men as a sort of insurance policy. So, they take two Native American men aboard their boats, and in return hand over a Greek man and a Black African man. No Spanish men sacrificed there, interestingly enough.

A: It’s almost as though that endo- and exo- communities thing is coming up again here.

C: That night, the other canoe returns with the water carriers still empty, and no sign of Narváez’s two men. Accordingly, the Spanish keep the Native Americans hostage, because that’s their hobby, I guess. That’s just what they do, right?

[Alix laughs]

C: And, by the way, they’ve still got all of their original captives along with them – they’re basically swelling their ranks with kidnapped men!

A: I didn’t realise that!

C: Yeah!

A: You’d have needed less boats and less food if you just let your prisoners go home.

C: It boggles the mind.

A: Why are you keeping people?!

C: In the morning, they get approached by more canoes, demanding the return of their two guys. Narváez says, ‘Well, you can have them back if you give us our guys.’ Narváez is told that if the Spanish follow the Native Americans, they will be given plenty of water, plus their two mates back.

A: Oh, go on, believe them.

C: It’s a ‘no deal’ for Narváez, and the Spanish boats sail back out to sea, with no additional water and without those two guys.

A: Well, they’re fucked.

C: At nightfall, they stop in a cove, where a freshwater river meets the sea, so they’re finally able to gather some water. They even go ashore to cook some corn, which they’ve been eating raw until now. However, they’re unable to find any wood, and when they try to sail up the river to look further afield, a strong wind blows them all back out to sea. After four days, they manage to get back near the coast, but the boats are separated. Only CdV and Narváez’s boats are still together, and they’re forced to abandon attempts to reunite with their friends, so they can concentrate on their efforts to make land. Narváez has more fit men on his boat.

A: Well of course he does: he’s in charge.

C: So he’s better able to row to shore, whereas CdV’s men are struggling. Now, this may ring some bells from the ‘Raft of the Medusa’ episode. CdV asks to be thrown a rope, but Narváez refuses.

[Alix titters]

C: CdV asks, in that case, as it’s not possible for him to keep up with Narváez, what are his orders? Narváez “answered that this was no time for orders; that each one should do the best he could to save himself, which was what he intended to do.”

A: What a dick!

C: [Laughs] There’s just no lost love there between them, huh? CdV gives up on trying to get ashore, and he and his boat head back out to sea to meet up with a third boat that they’ve spotted drifting out there.

A: Boat. Bit of driftwood. Manatee. Could be anything at this point.

C: This one’s captained by two guys called Peñalosa and Tellez. They travel together for four days, living on a daily ration of half a handful of raw corn.

A: Delicious.

C: Then another storm hits, and CdV loses Peñalosa and Tellez’s boat.

A: Adios.

C: In CdV’s words, “The next day people began to break down.” Frankly, I’m impressed it’s taken them that long.

A: I mean, they’ve not been at sea, in this instance, for too long – it’s only been, what, four, five days – but, my God, the run up has been rough.

C: Most of them fall unconscious, with only five still able to stand by sunset.

A: Why are you standing? You’re on a boat.

C: I don’t know why they’re standing. For fun.

A: [Laughs] There’s not much to do.

C: CdV and the skipper are left to man the boat alone at night, and the skipper tells CdV to take over completely, because he (the skipper) is going to go and lie down now and die.

A: [Laughs] I mean, I’ve had days like that at work.

C: At midnight, CdV goes to check in on the skipper, but finds him feeling much better after a little lie-down.

A: Again, when you have a little nap at lunch break and everything feels much better.

C: And he takes over for the rest of the night so CdV can get some shut-eye. At dawn, they make land. Or it’s more accurate to say that they hit the breakers and get thrown out of the boat onto land.

A: Face first onto land.

C: This is modern-day Galveston Island on the Texas Gulf Coast. They are finally able to gather some rainwater and to build a fire to cook their corn. Are things looking up?

A: No.

C: Well, let’s… Let’s just say that they will eventually name this island the Isla de Malhado, or the Isle of Bad Fate.

[Alix laughs]

C: This is 6 November by now. CdV sends the healthiest man to climb a tree, to have a little look around the area.

A: Just to get some exercise.

C: This guy reports that he can see hollows, as if grazed by cattle, and concludes that they must have reached Christian land. They haven’t, but that’s what he thinks. He goes off with two other guys to look around, and encounters some Native American archers, who follow them back to camp then call for reinforcements. Realising they’re completely unable to fight these archers–

A: Because they’ve deconstructed all of their weapons to be turned into a boat.

C: CdV again adopts a diplomatic approach, trading some beads and arrowheads and asking for food.

A: How do they still have stuff?

C: Good question. The Native Americans promise to bring some food the following day, which they do. In fact, they come back daily with fresh provisions. Being nice works!

A: Diplomacy, and not murdering people the minute you see them.

C: It’s amazing.

A: And also not claiming that you own them.

C: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s funny that that will upset some people. The Native Americans they encounter here are two different groups, the Cavoques and the Han. Not to be confused with the Han First Nations people of Alaska – these Han are a different group, recorded only by CdV, and apparently never met by any other European explorers, at least under that name. So that might not be what they call themselves, but that’s what CdV calls them.

A: [Insincerely] And that’s what matters.

C: [Laughs] Yeah.

A: Because CdV is nothing if not consistent.

C: With their food and water now restocked, CdV’s crew decide to head back out. The boat is sunk into the sand, so they get naked to shift it.

A: What you get up to in your own free time is no concern of us.

C: I have to assume it’s to keep their clothes dry, but I don’t really understand the logic their.

A: A) They don’t have shirts, because they’ve turned them into sails. B) They’ve been in and out of the sea. C) It’s been raining. And D) guys, if you wanna just get naked, that’s fine, get a nice tan – you don’t need to pretend it’s something to do with the boat!

C: I go back to when CdV was saying that he wandered ‘naked and lost’ through the land.

[Alix laughs]

C: Sometimes literally, honestly. Once the boat’s upright, they set off, but in their naked, soaking wet state, they’re too cold to hold the oars, and they accidentally drop them into the sea.

A: See! They’re already naked. They’re naked, they’re wet, and they’re cold – doesn’t make a difference if you’re wearing clothes or not. Guys, you’re weird.

C: Then the boat gets overturned, and the other officer aboard, Alonso de Solis, drowns, along with two other men. The others are swept back to shore. “The rest of us, as naked as we had been born, had lost everything… It was November, and bitterly cold. We were in such a state that our bones could easily be counted and we looked like death itself… since the month of May I had not eaten anything but toasted corn, and even sometimes had been obliged to eat it raw.” He’d also eaten horses, as we know, but I guess he’s just exaggerating for effect.

A: And oysters.

C: And oysters, yeah. Come on, wh–

A: What you complaining about?!

C: They’re able to find their previous fire and get it going again for warmth. [Laughs]. Because they haven’t been gone that long.

[Both laugh]

C: And, not aware that they’ve tried to leave, their Native American neighbours return that night with more food, but, “‘when they saw us in such different attire from before and of such strange appearance, they were so frightened that they turned back.”

[Alix laughs]

C: Which is fair, if you don’t know the context. [Laughs]. That’s a pretty scary scene.

[Alix laughs]

C: CdV is able to communicate to them what’s happened, however, and apparently elicits such compassion that his new friends “weep” for him for half an hour. CdV begs to be taken back to their village, despite some of his men fearing that they will be used as human sacrifices if they go. You know, that classic. CdV points out that they’re gonna die anyway, so what difference does it make? Let’s just go with them.

A: Very pragmatic.

C: Yeah, I mean, he still thinks he’s gonna be sacrificed, but he’s willing to take that gamble. The Native Americans lead CdV’s men back to their village, lighting fires along the way to re-warm them as they go. That’s nice.

A: That is nice. I wonder if they’ve given them any clothes?

[Carmella laughs]

A: Is it never mentioned again?

C: Never mentioned.

A: So we can just imagine that from now on, completely buck naked.

C: Or that maybe they don’t know anything about Spanish customs because they’ve never met them before, and are like, ‘This is normal for them?’

[Alix laughs]

C: I’m not sure. His new hosts have even built a special hut for him and his mates, so they’ve clearly thought ahead and they were expecting them to stay over anyway.

A: Is it a prison?

C: [Laughs] Maybe! They are fed some more, and despite passing a night in terror about what will happen and whether they’ll be sacrificed, they aren’t sacrificed.

A: Surprise!

C: Weird, right? The following day, CdV notices that one of the villagers has a European trinket, that was not given to him by CdV’s guys. Which means that there must be some other Christians in the area. On looking into it, CdV manages to find Captains Andrés Dorantes and Alonso del Castillo, plus crew, who’d been in one of the other boats.

A: Hola mis amigos.

C: Dorantes, CdV, and Castillo plan to repair their boat, and for any healthy or willing men to get back out to sea, with the sick remaining behind to be looked after by their new friends.

A: Sounds good.

C: However, this other boat is also completely fucked, and it soon sinks when they try to save it.

A: Sounds bad. They are surprisingly not dead. I did think more of this group would just taper off. I mean, they’ve lost lots of the horse guys, they’ve lost everyone else on the other boats, they’ve clearly lost the ships. But this core group, there have been a few who drowned, but they seem like they’re doing alright, for being walking, emaciated corpses.

C: They are getting a fair bit of help along the way.

A: It’s almost like there’s a correlation there.

C: After taking stock, they all agree to overwinter in the village. However, four men are sent overland to Panuco, which they think is nearby, to ask for help. Actually, they’ve miscalculated their location by around 1,700 miles, so–

[Alix laughs mockingly]

C: They’re not gonna find Panuco. But they’re trying.

A: An attempt is made.

C: A few days later, the weather turns “cold and stormy”, making it hard to obtain food even for the Native Americans, because you can’t forage in the bad weather, and fishing’s too difficult because the sea’s rough. So between this and the poor shelter provided by the buildings, people begin to die. “So great was the lack of food that I often went three days without eating anything at all, which was their situation as well.” As in, the Native American hosts’ situation. “It seemed to me impossible for life to go on.”

A: Are we getting to cannibalism time?

C: Here we go… CdV recounts, “Five Christians quartered on the coast were driven to such extremes that they ate each other, until but one remained, who, being left alone, had no one to eat him.”

A: Ha!

C: So they’ve split off into little groups. There are some staying on the coast, there are some staying in the village – I think it’s dependent upon which are more scared of getting sacrificed. They guys on the coast were Sierra, Diego Lopez, Corral, Palacios, and Gonzalo Ruiz.

A: And they’re the five that became one?

C: Indeed. Not actually sure which one remained. The Native Americans “were so startled at this and there was such uproar among them that I truly believe if they had seen this at the beginning they would have killed them.”

A: Well, yes. It’s almost as though there’s something very ironic about the fact that the Christians were so fearful of the Native Americans sacrificing them, only for it to be the Spanish conquistadors who end up eating each other.

C: [Sarcastically] Hmmm… Never seen that one before in Casting Lots history. Oh wait, yes we have, multiple times. Fast forward: we’re down to 15 men remaining alive out of 80 originally in the parties on those two boats. Then the Native Americans fall ill with a stomach ailment, for which they blame the Spanish men. To be fair, valid accusation, we know how it goes with disease: when you get colonised, you’ve got new people coming into your country, you’re not used to the Spanish diseases, etc.

A: You don’t have the immunity that the Spanish will have built up.

C: It does sound like they think it’s an intentional attack from the Spanish, though, and threaten to kill them over it.

A: I’m not saying they’ve not been attacking the Native Americans constantly, but in this instance, I think it might be an unintentional slaughter.

C: Well, very astute, Alix. And, in fact, one guy who’d been looking after CdV, points out that, “if we had so much power we would not have allowed so many of our own people to die”. So all of his mates listen to him and don’t kill the Spanish.

A: Ah!

C: Now, CdV thinks of himself as a bit of an ethnographer…

A: Oh yes, he knows an awful lot about people and he records their habits.

C: Here’s an interesting little bit, coming directly in his account after the cannibalism by the Christians, in which he gives a summary of the customs he has observed in his hosts, including funerary rites.

A: Oh here we go…

C: When a “medicine man” – as CdV describes them – dies, the rest of the community cremate the body and hold a festival. The bones are then powdered, and, on the anniversary of the death, the relatives mix the bone dust into water and drink it. So, it seems that CdV’s intention is to frame this as some kind of [mockingly] ‘primitive ritual’, but it’s really interesting when you’re reading it back to back with this European survival cannibalism, that there’s a real contrast between this structured, organised funerary cannibalism that’s a custom – he doesn’t specify whether that’s from the Cavoques or the Han, or both groups – and then the opportunistic survival cannibalism of the Spanish, who are sort of sacrificing one another, and which so horrifies their hosts. A fun bit of culture clash. Both groups are chill with cannibalism, but only their kind of cannibalism.

A: Is CdV chill with his own cannibalism? It didn’t seem overly chill.

C: He doesn’t really moralise about it.

A: Oh, okay.

C: He’s just like, ‘This happened. And our hosts were really upset.’

A: [Laughs] ‘They didn’t like it at all.’

C: If only they could put aside their differences, they’d realise that we’re all human, and that we all eat other human beings. [Laughs]. Shortly after this cannibalistic incident, CdV’s particular host family decide to leave the island, and they take him to the mainland bays where they find oysters and blackberries to eat.

A: It’s like an exchange trip.

C: CdV is separated from all his party for some time, and to top it all off, he gets dangerously ill whilst he’s on the mainland. When the Spanish back on the island learn of CdV’s illness, twelve of the 14 remaining venture out to visit him on his sickbed. The two left behind are too ill to travel.

A: They don’t care about them.

C: Yeah, fair. On the mainland, they encounter another of their former party – Francisco de Léon – and so 13 turn up.

A: Oooh, now that’s– That’s an unlucky number.

C: CdV’s too ill to see them, so that is unlucky I guess, and he gets left behind when the 13 men decide to resume their travels along the coast. Abandoned by his peers, he remains with his hosts for over a year in total. He complains that “they made me work so much and treated me so badly… I could no longer bear the life I was forced to lead. Among many other miseries, I had to pull the edible roots out of the water from among the canes.”

A: You ungrateful bastard!

C: Can you imagine?! The horror! The woe!

A: ‘I had to pull my weight in a village that saved me.’

C: CdV is so unhappy that he decides to escape to the Charrucan people, who live on the wooded mainland a bit further along. Among them, he’s able to establish himself as a trader, which he feels is more fitting for his skill set. He spends almost six years living there as a trader. He explains that one of the reasons he leaves it so long, is because, of the two men left behind on the island, one of them – Lope de Oviedo – is still alive. Every year, CdV tries to get him to leave the island and journey on with him, and every year, Oviedo says he’s not quite ready yet.

A: He quite likes it.

C: It sounds to me like this is more of a… They’re having quite a nice time chilling, and don’t want to move, and this is a very paltry excuse – right?

A: Yeah.

C: And he also, very conveniently, skips over most of these six years in his account, so he perhaps doesn’t want to admit to the people back in Spain that he’s been having a chill time with the Native Americans and, I mean, presumably not keeping up with his Christian duties and that sort of thing.

A: Having just a sort of normal life.

C: Yeah.

A: I assume, by the way, he’s still naked.

C: Presumably. One hopes.

A: Is this–

C: Bills & Boon?!

A: The first Bills & Boon of season three!

C: He’s naked, he’s got a great big beard…

A: Well, he would do, by this point now.

C: After those six years, Oviedo is finally persuaded, and the two go in search of their old Spanish fellows, who they seem to assume are still in the country. But, as it will turn out, it’s a fair assumption, actually! CdV hears tell of three other Christians in the area, and these three guys are, again, three who he knows from the original ships. There’s two Spaniards named Andrés Dorantes and Alonso de Castillo – back again – and a Black Moroccan called Estevanico, often thought of as the first African explorer of the Americas. And they’re all from his original party. It seems like originally Estevanico was Dorantes’ slave, but has since been freed – perhaps in the six years that they’ve been in the Americas, or perhaps before, I’m not quite sure.

A: A sort of change in circumstance that, for some reason, CdV doesn’t bother to explain.

C: From these three guys, he learns the fate of Narváez’s boat after they were separated. A word of warning about this… These three guys have heard it from a guy called Figueroa, and Figueroa’s heard it from another guy called Esquivel. So it’s not a first-hand account by any means here, this is a real chain.

A: It is a game of telephone. Right, let’s see how Mister ‘fend for yourself’ fended.

C: Narváez had reunited with the boat commanded by the comptroller. After revoking the powers of the comptroller as his lieutenant, he refused to land for the night. His boat had nothing to eat or drink aboard. Around midnight, a strong wind set in, and the boat was carried out to sea – never to be heard from again.

A: Well, that was a disappointing story.

C: Yeah, sorry. I think we can just assume that he probably starved to death on his boat.

A: He could of drowned.

C: He could of done some cannibalism

.A: He could of done some cannibalism.

C: It’s likely.

A: We will never know, unfortunately. We can dream.

C: CdV also hears how the men who had landed that night, rather than staying on the boat with no supplies, had travelled along the shore and, despite picking somewhere to overwinter with firewood, freshwater and seafood, they still “began to die from the cold and hunger”.

A: Did they forget to light the fires?

C: [Laughs] Between starvation and occasional murderous quarrels, men began to die.

A: Sounds like there was some cannibalism happening there to me…

C: “The survivors sliced the dead for meat.”

A: Whooo! That was inappropriate.

C: Until only one was left – Esquivel – again, because there was no one around to eat him. So then he told this to Figueroa, and Figueroa told this to the three guys who are telling it to CdV.

A: I feel these people aren’t being very sensible with their cannibalism. The idea isn’t that you’re trying to whittle everyone down.

[Carmella laughs]

A: The idea is that as many people as possible survive. It’s not like, ‘Oh, damnit, I’ve lost because I’m the last one standing and there’s no one to eat me.’ That’s not the goal!

C: [Laughs] The goal is not to get eaten. CdV and his three mates stay with the Native Americans for another six months, secretly plotting their getaway to Spain but not acting upon it. I assume from the fact that he writes that he’s plotting it in secret, that they are being kept as slaves at this point, or prisoners at the very least – otherwise it seems like there’s no reason not to tell your hosts that you want to go home. But I dunno.

A: In contrast, CdV was saying how appalling his conditions were earlier – why would he not say that he was being held against his will, if, as we were thinking, it would be really useful to him to be able to explain why he hadn’t come home earlier.

C: I have to say that his account is very inconsistent.

A: Unless it’s possibly degrading to be a prisoner.

C: Can you imagine?

A: Maybe he learns something from this experience.

C: We’ll see…

A: He doesn’t, does he?

C: [Firmer] We’ll see. The lads are then separated for another a year, but then finally reunite and scarper. They continue bopping about between various host peoples for some months. They spend most of this time very hungry, as it appears that either the Native Americans in the area are struggling to feed themselves at this point, or maybe they’re just struggling to feed the extra mouths. After many adventures, during which they get by as medicine men themselves, faith healing via Catholic prayers, and accepting (or taking) gifts in return, and attempting to proselytise as they go.

A: I assume baptising people against their will?

C: They make it back to a Spanish settlement in northwest Mexico, having “traveled the world over nine years”, covering 2,000 leagues by CdV’s estimate on land and by sea. Now, just as a note to all of CdV’s readers back in Spain, “nowhere did we come upon either sacrifices or idolatry” in the whole time.

A: You literally burned people’s coffins because you thought they were idolatrous.

C: I’m gonna assume that he has, at this point, realised that this wasn’t the case, and that maybe the friar was wrong.

A: Oooh! Learning.

C: In 1536, they make it to Mexico City, where CdV writes a joint report with Dorantes and Castillo, the original of which has since been lost. Then they return to Spain in 1537, where CdV writes up his full account. He also learns the account of the 100 people who were left behind on the three ships by Narváez. The ships had sailed in search of this fabled harbour, and eventually found a harbour. Following this, for a year they searched for Narváez and the rest of the men, and eventually they gave up.

A: Did they just go home?

C: Yep.

A: See, that’s what I expected them to do! This is why when they were like, ‘Oh they’ll all still be here’ – no they won’t, it’s been six years! You have been sodding around pretending to be a faith healer.

[Carmella laughs]

A: They have left you, Señor.

C: Back in Spain, CdV seeks a royal commission. He dreams of being made governor of Florida himself, now that Narváez is missing, presumed dead.

A: That is a long game, if that was his goal.

C: Indeed, all his experience among Native Americans seems to have radicalised him somewhat. He begins arguing in favour of Indigenous rights and outlawing slavery, having been one himself.

A: I was joking earlier, but oh my gosh, he’s actually learnt! I’m going to assume that this doesn’t go down well for his dream of becoming governor of Florida?

C: No, he doesn’t get Florida, although in 1540 he becomes governor of the Rio de la Plata in modern day Argentina and Paraguay, after the previous position holder ironically starved to death.

[Both laugh]

A: That’s not funny.

C: It is.

A: It’s a bit funny.

C: His first full account of the Narváez expedition – or second, if you count the joint report – is published as La relacion in 1542. Then he holds that position in Rio de la Plata until 1545, when his people rebelled against him and brought him back to Spain in chains to bring four different lawsuits against him, consisting of 32 specific charges.

A: I’m going to assume that he was brought back in chains by the Spanish settlers?

C: Yes.

A: Which, ironically, suggests that he might not have been as awful as we might think.

C: Well, I’m a bit confused, because the sources seem to conflict a bit. So, some sources say he was kicked out for obstructing the slave trade, and basically getting in the way of oppressing the indigenous Guaraní Paraguayans, and other sources say that it was for abuse of power and violence against the indigenous populations. Maybe the thing they’re pissed about is the anti-slavery stance, and so they bring these other charges against him? But, like, human beings are multi-faceted, and I guess he could believe in pro-Indigenous rights and also–

A: Be a dick.

C: Be pro-violence as a means of control, yeah. So he’s learned some things, but not all the things.

A: By 16th century standards, I’m almost impressed.

C: It could also be that it’s, like, a nice narrative for him to go and learn and grow as a person, and maybe that’s been filtered down as a sort of mythology through the sources. Like, maybe he didn’t become cool?

A: I mean, we are quite impressed by just the very idea that after living for nearly a decade among the Indigenous population of Mexico that he has possibly learnt that they’re people, so maybe our standards aren’t very high.

C: Yeah… By 1551, he is sentenced to be stripped of his titles, banned from the New World altogether, and sent to a penal colony in Algeria.

A: He is sentenced to be stripped naked.

C: Wa-hey! After appealing that, he manages to be banned only from Rio de la Plata and doesn’t get sent to Algeria, but he does lose all his titles.

A: He really wants to go back to America.

C: He wants Florida. He wants it! In 1555, his further Naufragios and Comentarios are released – so that’s the second version – and the tone here is a bit more trying to exonerate himself of the drama of his governorship, and to prove that he’s still important, guys.

A: He’s still cool.

C: He’s likely to have died in 1559, disempowered and poor.

A: He never got his hands on Florida.

C: That is the story of Cabeza de Vaca and his adventures. He would be the first European to write about that particular area, and no one else would follow up on that for 150 years.

A: I’d never heard of that expedition, and I know we only found out about it because of the cannibalism angle, which he wasn’t really involved in – well, he says he wasn’t involved in – but that was quite a wild ride.

C: And I’ll tell you what, it makes for a really good read. Normally, things from the 16th century aren’t that fun to read, they’re a bit of a slog to get through. But thrilling stuff. Very entertaining. Real adventure story.

A: The Road to El Dorado, it was not.

[Outro Music – Daniel Wackett]

A: Gracias por escuchar el episodio tres, la historia de la expedición Narváez, y lo siento por mi atroz español.

C: Join us next time for more famine. So much famine.

[Outro music continues]

A: Casting Lots Podcast can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr as @CastingLotsPod, and on Facebook as Casting Lots Podcast.

C: If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts, and please rate, review and share to bring more people to the table.

A: Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast, is researched, written and recorded by Alix and Carmella, with post-production and editing also by Carmella and Alix. Art and logo design by Riley – @Tallestfriend on Twitter and Instagram – with audio and music by Daniel Wackett – Daniel Wackett on SoundCloud and @ds_wack on Twitter. Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network – search #MorbidAudio on Twitter – and the network’s music is provided by Mikaela Moody – mikaelamoody1 on Bandcamp.

[Morbid Audio Sting – Mikaela Moody]

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İçerik Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis tarafından sağlanmıştır. Bölümler, grafikler ve podcast açıklamaları dahil tüm podcast içeriği doğrudan Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis veya podcast platform ortağı tarafından yüklenir ve sağlanır. Birinin telif hakkıyla korunan çalışmanızı izniniz olmadan kullandığını düşünüyorsanız burada https://tr.player.fm/legal özetlenen süreci takip edebilirsiniz.

It’s 1527 and a Spanish expedition to Florida are on the hunt for safe harbour, immense riches, and somewhere to put all their horses. This is the story of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and the Narváez Expedition.

CREDITS

Written, hosted and produced by Alix Penn and Carmella Lowkis.

Theme music by Daniel Wackett. Find him on Twitter @ds_wack and Soundcloud as Daniel Wackett.

Logo by Riley. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @tallestfriend.

Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network. Network sting by Mikaela Moody. Find her on Bandcamp as mikaelamoody1.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

TRANSCRIPT

Alix: Have you ever been really, really hungry?

Carmella: You’re listening to Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast.

A: I’m Alix.

C: I’m Carmella.

A: And now let’s tuck into the gruesome history of this ultimate taboo…

[Intro Music – Daniel Wackett]

C: Welcome to Episode Three, the story of the Narváez Expedition.

[Intro music continues]

C: Alix, would you like to hear about the Narváez Expedition?

A: I would love to hear about the Narváez Expedition. I have never heard of this. I assume there’s cannibalism. I’m on board.

C: We’re in the early 1500s.

A: [Intrigued] Ooooh.

C: Columbus has already made his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. The territory of Florida has been ‘discovered’ in 1513 by Juan Ponce de León. Exploration is in vogue.

A: Oh, it is the key fashion. Go ‘discover’ a new land and, er, eat people there.

C: We’ve seen it done many times on this podcast: we’ve got Jamestown, we’ve got Charlesfort. That’s two times.

A: That makes it a plural.

C: Now, let’s go over to a Spanish fella named Pánfilo de Narváez.

A: ¡Hola!

C: He was born sometime around 1480.

A: ¡Cumpleaños feliz!

C: In the early 16th century, he’s living in Cuba and Hispañola, aka Haiti and the Dominican Republic today. In 1509, he took part in the conquest of Jamaica, and in the early 1520s was imprisoned in Veracruz by Hernán Cortés on suspicion of political intrigue in Mexico. Following his release, he returned to Spain and was awarded governorship of Florida – so I guess the political intrigue worked? According to a contemporary, Narvaez was: “a man of authoritative personality, tall of body, somewhat blonde, inclined to redness.”

[Alix laughs]

C: He was also reported to have a booming and arrogant voice, but in fact had good and courteous manners. There are actually many sources that say that he was tall, so clearly, you know, you would look at him and be like, ‘I remember that this guy’s tall.’

A: Ah, the basketball player.

C: Tall for the 16th century though, so, you know.

A: 5’2’’?

C: [Laughing] Yeah.

A: I know the height thing isn’t real, it’s still funny.

C: [Laughs] In his military conquests, he was known as a strong and courageous fighter, if a tad impulsive…

A: [Snorts] ‘A tad.’

C: And he also was a favourite of the King. So all of this adds up to a man who is very, very excited to lead a mission to conquer the ‘New World’ on the King’s behalf, and who lavishes his own personal finances upon equipping it. The Spanish government gave him permission to colonise and rule the land along the Gulf Coast from Northern Mexico to the Florida peninsula,and as far inland as he was then able to get. I guess they didn’t know how far inland it went at that time.

A: ‘It just goes on forever!’

C: On 27 June 1527 – that’s on the Julian calendar; I couldn’t be bothered to sit down and convert the dates to the Gregorian calendar. It’s probably fairly easy to do, so if you care then do it yourself).

[Both laugh]

A: We’re a research-based podcast here at Casting Lots.

C: Does it matter? You know… With five ships containing a crew of 600 men, the Narváez Expedition set out from Spain to Florida.

A: Adiós.

C: Among them was a fella–

A: A fella?

C: A fella called Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

A: CdV.

C: I am calling him CdV for the most part. He’s a Spanish explorer – obviously.

A: You say ‘obviously’; the number of people we have on expeditions like this who are just, like, lawyers or painters or just accidentally wandered onto the ship – it’s impressive that they’ve got any explorers at all.

C: Not only is he an explorer, he comes from a line of explorers. His grandfather was Pedro de Vera, who was known for conquering the largest Canary Island, Gran Canaria.

A: Ah, I see where that name comes from. Big Canary.

C: CdV had a military career that included the 1512 attack on Bologna, the Battle of Ravenna, and an effort in 1520 to put down a popular uprising. He married his wife–

A: That’s nice.

C: Maria Marmolejo, around the same time.

A: [Wanting Carmella to suffer] Sorry, can I have her name again, please?

C: Maria Marmolejo. I apologise if my Spanish pronunciations aren’t quite as up-to-scratch as, for example, my French ones.

[Both snicker]

C: And now, 1527 to 1536, he’s joining Narváez for a little Florida trip, serving as treasurer and chief legal officer.

A: Spring break.

C: A long spring break.

A: A very long spring break.

C: What follows in this episode is based pretty much exclusively on his account of the adventure, because it’s the only one that we really have.

A: Not to ask for too many spoilers, but is he the only one that survives, or the only one that writes anything down?

C: He’s not the only one that survives, and he’s not the only one that writes anything down – but all of the accounts of the expedition are either written by him or co-authored by him, so he has his hand in all of them.

A: He has his hand in a lot of pies.

C: His account was published in a few different versions, so this a mixture of one published in 1542, known as La relacion, and another expanded version from 1555, published as the Naufragios and Comentarios. These accounts are… interesting. They’re less self-aggrandising than, for example, Columbus’ accounts of his adventures, and CdV leaves room to admit when he was, for example, “lost and naked.” I assume metaphorically, but at times actually that’s literally as well.

A: It still sounding like spring break…

C: He’s maybe a little prone to flights of fancy; there’s perhaps a bit of fictionalisation and some omissions, but, you know, it’s the only one we have, so let’s go with it. Along with CdV, other officers are Alonso Enriques and Alonso de Solis, plus the Franciscan friar Juan Xuarez as commissary, along with four other monks.

A: We’ve not had any monks in a survival cannibalism case before.

C: No, we’ve had some priests, but I don’t think we’ve had any monks hitherto. That’s fun!

A: Just a statement of fact, really.

C: Yeah. The ships stop at Santa Domingo (aka Hispañola), and re-supply there for 45 days, taking on “horses in particular.” That’s a quote.

A: [Delighted] Are they big horses or little horses?

C: I don’t know the size of the horses–

A: Aw, that’s sad.

C: But they are particularly horses.

A: They’re particularly horses.

C: 140 men remain behind on the island, as they appear to have been offered better jobs.

A: That’s already not a good innings, if you can lose nearly a quarter of your crew at the first stop.

C: [Laughs] Hey, you know, you’ve gotta take a job offer where you get one.

A: Work through your contract!

C: Following that, they head to Santiago on Cuba to gather up some more men, arms, and yet more horses.

A: The horses are going to start outnumbering the crew.

C: Some of the party, including CdV, head off to Trinidad in two ships to pick up some extra bits and bobs.

A: Horses.

C: They get caught in a hurricane.

A: Oooh.

C: CdV is off the ships at the time, which is lucky for him, as they are completely wrecked and 60 people die.

A: So we’re down to three ships, three quarters of the crew, and a lot of horses. Why is this episode involving so much maths?

C: [Laughs] Don’t bother keeping track of it – they will be down to much smaller numbers later, so it’s not really worth knowing!

[Alix laughs]

C: The other ships eventually come to join them, and everyone is so afraid to sail again in case they hit another hurricane – which, by the way, they have never encountered these before, they’ve got no idea what the fuck is going on.

A: Oh God! Imagine being the first person to encounter a hurricane…

C: This is thought to be the first written European account of a hurricane.

A: I mean, still, they’re not doing a good thing here, but my God that would fuck with you.

C: So they decide to overwinter on Cuba, which I guess is understandable, and they venture out again in February. And are promptly run aground by their pilot for 15 days.

[Alix laughs]

C: And, following that, are hit several more times by storms. Finally, they reach Florida on 12 April, just in time for Easter.

A: Aww, that’s nice.

C: On 13 April (which is apparently Holy Thursday. Didn’t know there was a day in between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but there is, and it’s called Holy Thursday), they enter the mouth of a bay and come across an indigenous village. Narvaez trades for fish and venison, and on Good Friday, most of the men go ashore to have a mingle. They find the village now deserted – it looks like the villagers fled in the night. Probably sensible.

A: A very rational reaction to a group of men just randomly turning up.

C: Yeah, to an invasion… As CdV writes, “The governor raised standards in behalf of Your Majesty and took possession of the country in Your Royal name”. Now, I hark back to Charlesfort: you go to a place, there are people already there, and you’re like ‘I own this place now.’ Colonialism’s wild.

A: Yeah, we look back at this with hindsight, but it’s like, how was that ever rational? ‘Here are these people’s homes.’ ‘Yeah, but it’s our land.’ I don’t know which is worse – the disconnect you have to have, or actually believing the bullshit that ‘we can just take whatever we want because God wants it to be ours.’

C: Yeah! After a couple of days, some of the villagers do reappear. “We had no interpreters and did not understand them; but they made many gestures and threats, and it seemed they were telling us to leave the country.” Hmm, wonder why they were saying that!

A: [Sarcastically] Didn’t they know that it was their country, because they’d put down a flag? Oh my- Argh!

C: The next day, Narváez decides to explore inland a bit. As you remember, he has permission to do that.

A: From–

C: Spain.

A: Yeah, the King of Spain said he could.

C: He rustles up some officers, including CdV, and 40 men to go with him. CdV notes that the horses “would be of little use”, as they are all on their last legs from the hardships of the journey.

A: All of those horses?

C: Those particular horses… The party manage to accost – in their words, “capture” – four guys, “to whom we showed corn in order to find out if they knew of it”. As it turns out, they did know what corn was.

A: [Sarcastically] What a surprise!

C: And they led the Spanish guys to some young crops near their village. They also tell the Spanish guys, through, I presume, mostly gesture, of a far-off province called Apalache, where lots of food and gold can be found – which is a very smart move on their part, I think.

A: Yeah, ‘go to this place, it’s much better.’

C: I’m referring to Narváez’s gang as ‘the Spanish dudes’, but, as you will see later, they’re not all Spanish: there are some Greek, some Portuguese, some African, but they’re under the auspices of Spain, so I’m calling them Spanish for simplicity’s sake. Hope that’s okay with you?

A: Speak up now if it’s not.

[Pause]

C: No?

A: Okay, it’s cool.

C: Cool, cool, let’s move on. Here’s a little anecdote to illustrate the arrogance and disrespect of these European explorers.

A: [Laughing] Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast.

C: “We also found many cargo boxes from Castile. In each was a corpse, each corpse covered with painted deerskins. The commissary believed this to be some idolatrous practice, so he burned the crates with the corpses inside.” So, you come into their village; you say ‘this land is ours now’; you take their corn; and then you desecrate their dead.

A: ‘It’s a ritual, we don’t know what it is. It’s some weird ritual.’ How about, it’s got nothing to do with you?

C: It’s just some guys in some coffins and you take such offence. Anyway… After returning to camp, they find the pilots arguing about the next steps. The plan had been to find a safe port, but they aren’t sure where exactly to find that.

A: Well, you look for it!

C: Narváez is thinking of taking most of the men inland to find this amazing Apalache, with a small crew and the pilots following the coast in search of a better harbour.

A: I want to be on the team who’s looking for a harbour.

C: I think we all want to be on that team. CdV thinks that this is a terrible idea of Narváez’s, for several reasons, which I shall list. A) The ships won’t be safe to be left until they’re in an occupied port.

A: Yep.

C: B) The pilots are shit at their job, as happened when they ran their ships aground. C) The horses are also shit at their job.

A: [Laughs] Their job of being horses!

C: They’re not up for travel right now. D) They have no interpreter to ask the locals for help if they need it.

A: They should have thought of that before they went there.

C: E) They don’t know anything about the land they’d be travelling in.

A: Should have thought about that before they said they owned it.

C: And, finally, F) They don’t have enough supplies.

A: F) They’re fucked.

C: They should all get back on the ships and sail together, says CdV.

A: I think CdV sounds very sensible, and I think Narváez has dollar signs in his eyes because he’s been told about ‘El Dorado’.

C: I will remind you, though, that CdV is giving this account with the benefit of hindsight, so who knows if he actually came up with all of those genius arguments at the time. Maybe he did, because it doesn’t take a genius to foresee those consequences, but equally…

A: I mean, I saw some of those problems, and I’m just sat somewhere in London.

C: [Laughs] Friar Xuarez disagrees with CdV, and argues, confusingly, that it would “tempt God” if they get back on the ships after all those storms and hardships. I don’t understand the theology behind that.

A: So, ‘God really wants to kill us, and he’s tried really hard so far, and we’ve evaded him.’ That friar should be like, ‘Onto those ships we go; God wants us dead, we need to just go straight into a hurricane.’

C: [Laughs] True! Yeah, I don’t know what his religious knowledge is as a friar, but you’d think– Anyway, each to their own interpretation of the Bible, I suppose. After some heated debate, Narváez ignores CdV’s recommendation and calls for an inland party to form. In a really petty move–

A: Does he make CdV go on it?

C: “After this he turned to me and told me in the presence of all who were there that, since I so strongly opposed the expedition into the interior and was afraid of it, I should take charge of the ships and men remaining.” So, with clear intent to humiliate CdV into going along with the inland party. As he very tactfully puts it in his account, “I declined.” I’d love to see how that conversation actually went!

A: [Laughs] I get it from a petty bullshit point of view. From a practical leading-an-expedition point of view, we have encountered, in other situations, people who don’t want to be there, and they’re not the ones that you generally want on-board. I’m thinking Greely.

C: Mmhmm. When questioned why he will not stay with the ships, CdV tells Narváez, “I refused to accept because I felt sure that he would never see the ships again, nor the ships him,” and, ultimately, he thinks that the inland party are all gonna fail and die – and whilst that would sound like you wouldn’t want to go with that party, he doesn’t want people with retrospect to say ‘you’re a coward’. It’s like an honour thing.

A: ‘I would rather die than someone thought I didn’t want to die.’

C: Yeah.

A: Men are weird.

C: Yeah. In the end, Narváez gives up the argument and a magistrate named Caravallo gets appointed to look after the ships. Around 100 people are left behind with the ships, being left with few supplies. Among them are ten women, all wives of various officials. One of the women warns Narváez that, if he leaves the ships, he will suffer greatly, and neither he nor any of his company will ever return. Apparently she learned this information from a Moorish fortune teller in Castile. So this is where I’m saying that maybe there’s a bit of fictionalisation, because that’s a great story, but CdV is hamming up the ‘Narváez is incompetent’ thing in his account here, right?

A: [In a mystical voice] ‘Oooh, go not into the interior, you will never return.’

C: On 1 May, around 300 people – including Narváez, CdV, Friar Xuarez, the officers, and 40 horsemen – set out. I assume there are 40 horses with the horsemen, but–

A: I mean, I don’t.

[Carmella laughs]

A: I’m assuming they’re doubling up; it’s really cute.

C: [Delighted] Aww! Each of them is given, for rations, two pound of ship’s biscuit and a half pound of bacon, and they all carry their own rations.

A: That is the world’s most depressing bacon sandwich.

C: They march for 15 days, finding almost nothing else to supplement their diet, and no further signs of habitation. They then spend a day crossing a swift river by swimming and on rafts, and on the other side of the river, they are greeted by 200 Native Americans. After some attempts to communicate, “they acted in such a manner that we were obliged to attack them.”

A: Oh fuck right off!

C: [Mockingly] ‘We had no choice!’ They captured some people, and made them take them (the Spanish) to their houses, where the Spanish stole– [Clears throat] I’m sorry, found, plenty of corn to eat. After hearing from their new captives that the sea is not far away, CdV begs Narváez to be allowed to go and have a look for that harbour again. Narváez is against it at first, but then allows CdV to take 40 men for a quick recce to the coast.

A: I feel that CdV is sort of being sensible with that, but I then worry… I’m in a hypothetical where this goes well, and I know, from the podcast that we are, that this is not going to go well. But I worry that you go and find the harbour, and then you have to go back 15 days to go and find the ships – the ships that are looking for the harbour. Strangely, I just feel like this whole situation is not gonna end well.

C: They don’t find a harbour; they find an estuary, and they find oysters. But they cut their feet badly on the oyster shells.

A: Wear shoes!

C: [Chuckles] They then journey on until 17 June – presumably, I don’t know, hopping a bit – taking their captives with them as guides.

A: So did they actually eat any of the oysters, or did they just hurt their feet, so not harvest them? Or is it unclear because they focus more on their sore feet?

C: It’s unclear; the focus is on ‘ooh I hurt my foot.’ Eventually, they encounter a Native American chief named Dulchalchelin, whom they try to question about the location of this Apalache. They are given to understand that he’s an enemy of the Apalache people, and will help the Spanish to move against them. They exchange gifts and now they’re friends.

A: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my enemy.’ That’s not right.

C: ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’

A: That’s the one!

C: [Laughing] But yours is probably more accurate!

[Both laugh]

C: They are obliged to cross another river on canoes, and one horseman and his horse drown in the process. “His death made us very sad, since until then we had not lost anybody.” Apart from all those men who died in the hurricane but, hey, who’s counting?

A: That was God, that was God.

C: That one was God. The drowned horse is eaten for supper.

A: Eww, waterlogged.

C: Yum. And they reach Dulchalchelin’s village the next day and are given some more corn. On 25 June, they come to Apalache. It’s a real place!

A: I have to be honest, I did not think it really existed. I’m gonna go out on a limb, though: I don’t think it’s really full of gold.

C: Well, let’s see… CdV describes the condition of his men: “Besides suffering great fatigue and hunger, the backs of the men among us were covered with wounds from the weight of the armor and other things they had to carry.” However, they’re in really good spirits now that they’d arrived in this land that’s full of food and gold and is really good.

A: I mean, I would be very excited to be somewhere that was full of food and gold.

C: They enter the Appalachian village, where they find only women and children.

A: Is the real treasure the love we found at home? And we all learn a lesson? And everyone’s friends again?

C: No, what actually happens is that then the men come home and they all get into a big fight, from which the Spanish seem to rise victorious, aside from the death of one more horse. They take corn, hides and blankets from the villagers, and remain for 25 days, with several fights along the way – because they are just unwelcome invasive guests who have done some killing. After quizzing their existing captives, and a new Appalachian captive, they’re advised that the village Aute near the sea is also really rich.

A: Full of gold and food.

C: So they decide they’re gonna go there next, actually.

A: Have they not worked out what’s going on yet? I worked it out the minute someone said, ‘Go there, it’s full of gold.’

C: [Laughs] Anyway, they reach Aute after five or eight or nine days – CdV gives three numbers. In, like, one sentence.

[Alix snorts]

C: Timekeeping, huh.

A: The days just sort of blur into one on the road.

C: In Aute, they ‘find’ more food and rest for two days. CdV goes out looking for the sea again in a party of 60, and they find oysters – which they do eat. They eat these oysters; they specify that.

A: They don’t just walk on them.

C: They’ve learnt their lesson. Oysters go in the mouth, not the foot.

[Alix laughs]

C: They find that the coast is too inletty to really explore, so they return to the other men the next day. However, when they return to camp, they find Narváez and his men in poor condition, after yet another fight in the night, which has injured many and killed another horse.

A: Firstly, these horses are doing surprisingly well for being knackered old nags. But secondly, I’m just picturing this team of Spanish colonial soldiers as English football fans.

[Carmella laughs]

A: Going from village to village and just fucking shit up.

C: Lads, lads, lads. The following day, they all leave Aute and head back to the coast; but it’s difficult going, as they have too few horses to carry all the sick and injured people. CdV estimates that about a third of the whole group are seriously unwell at this point. It becomes clear that they do not have the medical knowledge among them to heal their comrades; they also have very few resources for the journey ahead, and – in CdV’s words – “even if we had been provided with them, we did not know where to go”.

A: But they’d ‘found’ so many resources just naturally lying around! It’s almost as though they’re talking bollocks.

C: [Laughs] Many of the horsemen – at least, the ones that still have healthy horses and are healthy themselves – begin to abandon them in secret.

A: How do you secretly abandon a horse?

C: No, no: abandon the party.

A: That makes more sense.

[Both laugh]

A: It’s like, ‘I just put him down and he wandered off.’ That makes more sense, okay.

C: Sorry: the horsemen and their horses abandon the party. Narváez calls a meeting and, on reviewing their dire straits, it’s decided that they will build ships and leave.

A: Um, go back to the ships you already have?

C: They don’t know where those ships are – they sent those off up the coast. And they don’t know where they are. Yeah, it’s almost like very little fore-thought was put into this.

A: Does CdV at some point in his writings use the immortal phrase, ‘I told you so’?

C: I think it’s implicit. [Sarcastically] CdV is also very receptive to this plan from Narváez: “This seemed impossible to everyone, since none of us knew how to build them.”

A: [Laughs] Fuck’s sake.

C: “We had no tools, no iron, no smithery, no oakum, no pitch, no tackling, in sum, nothing… Neither was there anyone to instruct us in shipbuilding, and above all, there was nothing for those who would have to perform these tasks to eat.”

A: He is a snarky bastard.

C: [Laughing] But he is right.

A: But they managed it at Charlesfort. I didn’t think they were going to be able to build a ship either.

C: You will recall at Charlesfort they had a great, great deal of help from their Native American friends.

A: Oh yeah, they had friends. They hadn’t just antagonised everyone.

C: One of the men does know how to make wooden flues and deerskin bellows. So, based on those qualifications, he’s in charge.

A: Of building a ship?

C: [Laughing] Multiple ships!

A: Oh mate, mate, mate… There are not going to be enough people left for you to need multiple ships.

C: They dismantle the stirrups, spurs, crossbows and other ron bits and bobs to make shipbuilding tools.

A: That’s gonna end well, with the afore-mentioned ‘pissing people off’ routine you’ve got going.

C: All the horses and men that are remaining and fit for service get sent to raid the Aute village again for more food, and it’s decided that they’re gonna kill and eat a horse every three days.

A: Sensible. Thank you.

C: They can also gather seafood, although this is risky because it often leads to encounters with the locals, who, you will remember, they are constantly fighting with.

A: And it hurts their feet.

C: [Laughing] It does hurt their feet. For oakum, they gather palm trees and make do with those. They have one carpenter on their team, and he has to construct the boats single-handedly. By this point they seem to have downgraded their ambitions to boats from ships, just FYI.

A: I was thinking, ‘yeah, they’ve come to their senses a little bit.’ They’re not gonna go for multiple decks or anything fancy.

C: A Greek man called Don Teodoro manages to make pitch from pine trees. They use the tails and manes of horses to make rope and tackles, and the horse skin to make water pouches.

A: Finally, a sensible concept. Yes, you can do those things! Well done.

C: They carve oars from the surrounding trees, and make sails from their own shirts.

A: Okay, now we’re getting stupid again…

C: Having begun on 4 August, by 20 September, they’ve miraculously managed to make five boats. They have suffered casualties along the way, some to fighting, some to sickness, some to hunger–

A: Some to oysters.

C: Over 40 have died since they first started their journey. By 22 September, they have eaten all but one of their horses. It’s time to leave the bay, which they have now named… the Bay of Horses.

[Alix laughs]

C: These guys and their horses!

A: Do they kill the final horse, or do they just leave the final horse alone in the Bay of Horses to sail off?

C: Hmm, you know what?

A: ‘Neigh!’

C: CdV doesn’t comment on the fate of that horse. I have to assume they eat it.

A: It would make sense, but also they’re horse mad.

[Carmella laughs]

A: Either they eat it, they leave it, or they Road to El Dorado it, and take it with them.

C: [Delighted] Yesss! [Laughs]

A: And they just never mention it because it’s not relevant to the plot.

C: [Laughs] They set out in the five boats. CdV is in a boat with Alonso de Solis, who’s the inspector, and 49 men. With so many on board plus all the remaining supplies, the sides of the boats are just half a foot above the water line, and it’s too crowded to move at all. They’re waist-deep in bilge most of the time.

A: Sexy.

C: Yeah. In this manner, they sail for seven days among the inlets.

A: Oh my God, their skin’s going to be falling off.

C: Before finally reaching an island near the shore, with CdV’s boat taking the lead. They encounter five canoes of Native Americans who, when approached, abandon their canoes and skedaddle, because–

A: They’re faster than the Spanish.

C: Yep. The abandoned canoes are used to fix up the Spanish boats, plus the Native Americans’ food is stolen for a meal. [Pause]. Sorry, found. It’s found. With their boats now in mildly better condition, they head back out to sea, following the coast in search of this bloody harbour that they’ve been looking for the whole time.

A: At this point, they will take just seeing their own ships.

C: Their food and water supplies are running low, particularly the water, because, as you will recall, they made some water pouches from the horse skin – but they made it very quickly, and it’s now starting to rot.

A: Ewww! Nice. Adds a bit of extra nutrition and flavour to the water.

C: [Grimacing] Mmm. They’re all feeling the effects of hunger and thirst, and after 30 days of hugging the coast and finding nowhere safe to go ashore to water, they land on a small island… Which has no freshwater on it. Then a storm hits, and they’re forced to stay there for six days.

A: They’ve got freshwater now, though.

C: I don’t think they do very well at capturing it, because, for five days, they drink sea water.

A: Oh, that’s on them, then.

C: And five men drink so much of it that it kills them. With the storm still raging, they decide that they’re gonna die of dehydration if they don’t just trust in God and brave the sea once more. So this time around they think that God’s gonna protect them from the storm? I don’t know.

A: God is sending you clean water.

[Carmella laughs]

A: And you are drinking the sea. I think at this point, you and God have some communication issues.

C: They’re all convinced they’re going to drown; the going’s really rough. But by nightfall, they finally do manage to find somewhere on the mainland suitable to land their boats. They find another Native American village, and try for a diplomatic approach this time.

A: 47th time lucky.

C: It works! They’re offered food and water.

A: They are also pitiful, naked, mad, half dead, and are rocking up in five homemade boats.

C: Yeah.

A: You might be inclined to take pity on them, especially if you didn’t know what arseholes they’d been earlier.

C: So here’s how it goes: they turn up; they get given food and water; Narváez gives some trinkets to their chief as a gift; and then ‘suddenly’, the villagers attack the Spanish explorers. Totally unprovoked, I’m sure. ‘Just snapped and attacked us, can’t think what we could have done to cause offence’, CdV swears.

A: [Not believing] Yeah, sure.

C: Narváez is wounded, as is CdV, and they all retreat to the boats. They sail for another three days, having only managed to take on a small supply of freshwater, then they encounter another canoe, whom they ask for more water. They hand over their water carriers and agree to do a trade of men as a sort of insurance policy. So, they take two Native American men aboard their boats, and in return hand over a Greek man and a Black African man. No Spanish men sacrificed there, interestingly enough.

A: It’s almost as though that endo- and exo- communities thing is coming up again here.

C: That night, the other canoe returns with the water carriers still empty, and no sign of Narváez’s two men. Accordingly, the Spanish keep the Native Americans hostage, because that’s their hobby, I guess. That’s just what they do, right?

[Alix laughs]

C: And, by the way, they’ve still got all of their original captives along with them – they’re basically swelling their ranks with kidnapped men!

A: I didn’t realise that!

C: Yeah!

A: You’d have needed less boats and less food if you just let your prisoners go home.

C: It boggles the mind.

A: Why are you keeping people?!

C: In the morning, they get approached by more canoes, demanding the return of their two guys. Narváez says, ‘Well, you can have them back if you give us our guys.’ Narváez is told that if the Spanish follow the Native Americans, they will be given plenty of water, plus their two mates back.

A: Oh, go on, believe them.

C: It’s a ‘no deal’ for Narváez, and the Spanish boats sail back out to sea, with no additional water and without those two guys.

A: Well, they’re fucked.

C: At nightfall, they stop in a cove, where a freshwater river meets the sea, so they’re finally able to gather some water. They even go ashore to cook some corn, which they’ve been eating raw until now. However, they’re unable to find any wood, and when they try to sail up the river to look further afield, a strong wind blows them all back out to sea. After four days, they manage to get back near the coast, but the boats are separated. Only CdV and Narváez’s boats are still together, and they’re forced to abandon attempts to reunite with their friends, so they can concentrate on their efforts to make land. Narváez has more fit men on his boat.

A: Well of course he does: he’s in charge.

C: So he’s better able to row to shore, whereas CdV’s men are struggling. Now, this may ring some bells from the ‘Raft of the Medusa’ episode. CdV asks to be thrown a rope, but Narváez refuses.

[Alix titters]

C: CdV asks, in that case, as it’s not possible for him to keep up with Narváez, what are his orders? Narváez “answered that this was no time for orders; that each one should do the best he could to save himself, which was what he intended to do.”

A: What a dick!

C: [Laughs] There’s just no lost love there between them, huh? CdV gives up on trying to get ashore, and he and his boat head back out to sea to meet up with a third boat that they’ve spotted drifting out there.

A: Boat. Bit of driftwood. Manatee. Could be anything at this point.

C: This one’s captained by two guys called Peñalosa and Tellez. They travel together for four days, living on a daily ration of half a handful of raw corn.

A: Delicious.

C: Then another storm hits, and CdV loses Peñalosa and Tellez’s boat.

A: Adios.

C: In CdV’s words, “The next day people began to break down.” Frankly, I’m impressed it’s taken them that long.

A: I mean, they’ve not been at sea, in this instance, for too long – it’s only been, what, four, five days – but, my God, the run up has been rough.

C: Most of them fall unconscious, with only five still able to stand by sunset.

A: Why are you standing? You’re on a boat.

C: I don’t know why they’re standing. For fun.

A: [Laughs] There’s not much to do.

C: CdV and the skipper are left to man the boat alone at night, and the skipper tells CdV to take over completely, because he (the skipper) is going to go and lie down now and die.

A: [Laughs] I mean, I’ve had days like that at work.

C: At midnight, CdV goes to check in on the skipper, but finds him feeling much better after a little lie-down.

A: Again, when you have a little nap at lunch break and everything feels much better.

C: And he takes over for the rest of the night so CdV can get some shut-eye. At dawn, they make land. Or it’s more accurate to say that they hit the breakers and get thrown out of the boat onto land.

A: Face first onto land.

C: This is modern-day Galveston Island on the Texas Gulf Coast. They are finally able to gather some rainwater and to build a fire to cook their corn. Are things looking up?

A: No.

C: Well, let’s… Let’s just say that they will eventually name this island the Isla de Malhado, or the Isle of Bad Fate.

[Alix laughs]

C: This is 6 November by now. CdV sends the healthiest man to climb a tree, to have a little look around the area.

A: Just to get some exercise.

C: This guy reports that he can see hollows, as if grazed by cattle, and concludes that they must have reached Christian land. They haven’t, but that’s what he thinks. He goes off with two other guys to look around, and encounters some Native American archers, who follow them back to camp then call for reinforcements. Realising they’re completely unable to fight these archers–

A: Because they’ve deconstructed all of their weapons to be turned into a boat.

C: CdV again adopts a diplomatic approach, trading some beads and arrowheads and asking for food.

A: How do they still have stuff?

C: Good question. The Native Americans promise to bring some food the following day, which they do. In fact, they come back daily with fresh provisions. Being nice works!

A: Diplomacy, and not murdering people the minute you see them.

C: It’s amazing.

A: And also not claiming that you own them.

C: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s funny that that will upset some people. The Native Americans they encounter here are two different groups, the Cavoques and the Han. Not to be confused with the Han First Nations people of Alaska – these Han are a different group, recorded only by CdV, and apparently never met by any other European explorers, at least under that name. So that might not be what they call themselves, but that’s what CdV calls them.

A: [Insincerely] And that’s what matters.

C: [Laughs] Yeah.

A: Because CdV is nothing if not consistent.

C: With their food and water now restocked, CdV’s crew decide to head back out. The boat is sunk into the sand, so they get naked to shift it.

A: What you get up to in your own free time is no concern of us.

C: I have to assume it’s to keep their clothes dry, but I don’t really understand the logic their.

A: A) They don’t have shirts, because they’ve turned them into sails. B) They’ve been in and out of the sea. C) It’s been raining. And D) guys, if you wanna just get naked, that’s fine, get a nice tan – you don’t need to pretend it’s something to do with the boat!

C: I go back to when CdV was saying that he wandered ‘naked and lost’ through the land.

[Alix laughs]

C: Sometimes literally, honestly. Once the boat’s upright, they set off, but in their naked, soaking wet state, they’re too cold to hold the oars, and they accidentally drop them into the sea.

A: See! They’re already naked. They’re naked, they’re wet, and they’re cold – doesn’t make a difference if you’re wearing clothes or not. Guys, you’re weird.

C: Then the boat gets overturned, and the other officer aboard, Alonso de Solis, drowns, along with two other men. The others are swept back to shore. “The rest of us, as naked as we had been born, had lost everything… It was November, and bitterly cold. We were in such a state that our bones could easily be counted and we looked like death itself… since the month of May I had not eaten anything but toasted corn, and even sometimes had been obliged to eat it raw.” He’d also eaten horses, as we know, but I guess he’s just exaggerating for effect.

A: And oysters.

C: And oysters, yeah. Come on, wh–

A: What you complaining about?!

C: They’re able to find their previous fire and get it going again for warmth. [Laughs]. Because they haven’t been gone that long.

[Both laugh]

C: And, not aware that they’ve tried to leave, their Native American neighbours return that night with more food, but, “‘when they saw us in such different attire from before and of such strange appearance, they were so frightened that they turned back.”

[Alix laughs]

C: Which is fair, if you don’t know the context. [Laughs]. That’s a pretty scary scene.

[Alix laughs]

C: CdV is able to communicate to them what’s happened, however, and apparently elicits such compassion that his new friends “weep” for him for half an hour. CdV begs to be taken back to their village, despite some of his men fearing that they will be used as human sacrifices if they go. You know, that classic. CdV points out that they’re gonna die anyway, so what difference does it make? Let’s just go with them.

A: Very pragmatic.

C: Yeah, I mean, he still thinks he’s gonna be sacrificed, but he’s willing to take that gamble. The Native Americans lead CdV’s men back to their village, lighting fires along the way to re-warm them as they go. That’s nice.

A: That is nice. I wonder if they’ve given them any clothes?

[Carmella laughs]

A: Is it never mentioned again?

C: Never mentioned.

A: So we can just imagine that from now on, completely buck naked.

C: Or that maybe they don’t know anything about Spanish customs because they’ve never met them before, and are like, ‘This is normal for them?’

[Alix laughs]

C: I’m not sure. His new hosts have even built a special hut for him and his mates, so they’ve clearly thought ahead and they were expecting them to stay over anyway.

A: Is it a prison?

C: [Laughs] Maybe! They are fed some more, and despite passing a night in terror about what will happen and whether they’ll be sacrificed, they aren’t sacrificed.

A: Surprise!

C: Weird, right? The following day, CdV notices that one of the villagers has a European trinket, that was not given to him by CdV’s guys. Which means that there must be some other Christians in the area. On looking into it, CdV manages to find Captains Andrés Dorantes and Alonso del Castillo, plus crew, who’d been in one of the other boats.

A: Hola mis amigos.

C: Dorantes, CdV, and Castillo plan to repair their boat, and for any healthy or willing men to get back out to sea, with the sick remaining behind to be looked after by their new friends.

A: Sounds good.

C: However, this other boat is also completely fucked, and it soon sinks when they try to save it.

A: Sounds bad. They are surprisingly not dead. I did think more of this group would just taper off. I mean, they’ve lost lots of the horse guys, they’ve lost everyone else on the other boats, they’ve clearly lost the ships. But this core group, there have been a few who drowned, but they seem like they’re doing alright, for being walking, emaciated corpses.

C: They are getting a fair bit of help along the way.

A: It’s almost like there’s a correlation there.

C: After taking stock, they all agree to overwinter in the village. However, four men are sent overland to Panuco, which they think is nearby, to ask for help. Actually, they’ve miscalculated their location by around 1,700 miles, so–

[Alix laughs mockingly]

C: They’re not gonna find Panuco. But they’re trying.

A: An attempt is made.

C: A few days later, the weather turns “cold and stormy”, making it hard to obtain food even for the Native Americans, because you can’t forage in the bad weather, and fishing’s too difficult because the sea’s rough. So between this and the poor shelter provided by the buildings, people begin to die. “So great was the lack of food that I often went three days without eating anything at all, which was their situation as well.” As in, the Native American hosts’ situation. “It seemed to me impossible for life to go on.”

A: Are we getting to cannibalism time?

C: Here we go… CdV recounts, “Five Christians quartered on the coast were driven to such extremes that they ate each other, until but one remained, who, being left alone, had no one to eat him.”

A: Ha!

C: So they’ve split off into little groups. There are some staying on the coast, there are some staying in the village – I think it’s dependent upon which are more scared of getting sacrificed. They guys on the coast were Sierra, Diego Lopez, Corral, Palacios, and Gonzalo Ruiz.

A: And they’re the five that became one?

C: Indeed. Not actually sure which one remained. The Native Americans “were so startled at this and there was such uproar among them that I truly believe if they had seen this at the beginning they would have killed them.”

A: Well, yes. It’s almost as though there’s something very ironic about the fact that the Christians were so fearful of the Native Americans sacrificing them, only for it to be the Spanish conquistadors who end up eating each other.

C: [Sarcastically] Hmmm… Never seen that one before in Casting Lots history. Oh wait, yes we have, multiple times. Fast forward: we’re down to 15 men remaining alive out of 80 originally in the parties on those two boats. Then the Native Americans fall ill with a stomach ailment, for which they blame the Spanish men. To be fair, valid accusation, we know how it goes with disease: when you get colonised, you’ve got new people coming into your country, you’re not used to the Spanish diseases, etc.

A: You don’t have the immunity that the Spanish will have built up.

C: It does sound like they think it’s an intentional attack from the Spanish, though, and threaten to kill them over it.

A: I’m not saying they’ve not been attacking the Native Americans constantly, but in this instance, I think it might be an unintentional slaughter.

C: Well, very astute, Alix. And, in fact, one guy who’d been looking after CdV, points out that, “if we had so much power we would not have allowed so many of our own people to die”. So all of his mates listen to him and don’t kill the Spanish.

A: Ah!

C: Now, CdV thinks of himself as a bit of an ethnographer…

A: Oh yes, he knows an awful lot about people and he records their habits.

C: Here’s an interesting little bit, coming directly in his account after the cannibalism by the Christians, in which he gives a summary of the customs he has observed in his hosts, including funerary rites.

A: Oh here we go…

C: When a “medicine man” – as CdV describes them – dies, the rest of the community cremate the body and hold a festival. The bones are then powdered, and, on the anniversary of the death, the relatives mix the bone dust into water and drink it. So, it seems that CdV’s intention is to frame this as some kind of [mockingly] ‘primitive ritual’, but it’s really interesting when you’re reading it back to back with this European survival cannibalism, that there’s a real contrast between this structured, organised funerary cannibalism that’s a custom – he doesn’t specify whether that’s from the Cavoques or the Han, or both groups – and then the opportunistic survival cannibalism of the Spanish, who are sort of sacrificing one another, and which so horrifies their hosts. A fun bit of culture clash. Both groups are chill with cannibalism, but only their kind of cannibalism.

A: Is CdV chill with his own cannibalism? It didn’t seem overly chill.

C: He doesn’t really moralise about it.

A: Oh, okay.

C: He’s just like, ‘This happened. And our hosts were really upset.’

A: [Laughs] ‘They didn’t like it at all.’

C: If only they could put aside their differences, they’d realise that we’re all human, and that we all eat other human beings. [Laughs]. Shortly after this cannibalistic incident, CdV’s particular host family decide to leave the island, and they take him to the mainland bays where they find oysters and blackberries to eat.

A: It’s like an exchange trip.

C: CdV is separated from all his party for some time, and to top it all off, he gets dangerously ill whilst he’s on the mainland. When the Spanish back on the island learn of CdV’s illness, twelve of the 14 remaining venture out to visit him on his sickbed. The two left behind are too ill to travel.

A: They don’t care about them.

C: Yeah, fair. On the mainland, they encounter another of their former party – Francisco de Léon – and so 13 turn up.

A: Oooh, now that’s– That’s an unlucky number.

C: CdV’s too ill to see them, so that is unlucky I guess, and he gets left behind when the 13 men decide to resume their travels along the coast. Abandoned by his peers, he remains with his hosts for over a year in total. He complains that “they made me work so much and treated me so badly… I could no longer bear the life I was forced to lead. Among many other miseries, I had to pull the edible roots out of the water from among the canes.”

A: You ungrateful bastard!

C: Can you imagine?! The horror! The woe!

A: ‘I had to pull my weight in a village that saved me.’

C: CdV is so unhappy that he decides to escape to the Charrucan people, who live on the wooded mainland a bit further along. Among them, he’s able to establish himself as a trader, which he feels is more fitting for his skill set. He spends almost six years living there as a trader. He explains that one of the reasons he leaves it so long, is because, of the two men left behind on the island, one of them – Lope de Oviedo – is still alive. Every year, CdV tries to get him to leave the island and journey on with him, and every year, Oviedo says he’s not quite ready yet.

A: He quite likes it.

C: It sounds to me like this is more of a… They’re having quite a nice time chilling, and don’t want to move, and this is a very paltry excuse – right?

A: Yeah.

C: And he also, very conveniently, skips over most of these six years in his account, so he perhaps doesn’t want to admit to the people back in Spain that he’s been having a chill time with the Native Americans and, I mean, presumably not keeping up with his Christian duties and that sort of thing.

A: Having just a sort of normal life.

C: Yeah.

A: I assume, by the way, he’s still naked.

C: Presumably. One hopes.

A: Is this–

C: Bills & Boon?!

A: The first Bills & Boon of season three!

C: He’s naked, he’s got a great big beard…

A: Well, he would do, by this point now.

C: After those six years, Oviedo is finally persuaded, and the two go in search of their old Spanish fellows, who they seem to assume are still in the country. But, as it will turn out, it’s a fair assumption, actually! CdV hears tell of three other Christians in the area, and these three guys are, again, three who he knows from the original ships. There’s two Spaniards named Andrés Dorantes and Alonso de Castillo – back again – and a Black Moroccan called Estevanico, often thought of as the first African explorer of the Americas. And they’re all from his original party. It seems like originally Estevanico was Dorantes’ slave, but has since been freed – perhaps in the six years that they’ve been in the Americas, or perhaps before, I’m not quite sure.

A: A sort of change in circumstance that, for some reason, CdV doesn’t bother to explain.

C: From these three guys, he learns the fate of Narváez’s boat after they were separated. A word of warning about this… These three guys have heard it from a guy called Figueroa, and Figueroa’s heard it from another guy called Esquivel. So it’s not a first-hand account by any means here, this is a real chain.

A: It is a game of telephone. Right, let’s see how Mister ‘fend for yourself’ fended.

C: Narváez had reunited with the boat commanded by the comptroller. After revoking the powers of the comptroller as his lieutenant, he refused to land for the night. His boat had nothing to eat or drink aboard. Around midnight, a strong wind set in, and the boat was carried out to sea – never to be heard from again.

A: Well, that was a disappointing story.

C: Yeah, sorry. I think we can just assume that he probably starved to death on his boat.

A: He could of drowned.

C: He could of done some cannibalism

.A: He could of done some cannibalism.

C: It’s likely.

A: We will never know, unfortunately. We can dream.

C: CdV also hears how the men who had landed that night, rather than staying on the boat with no supplies, had travelled along the shore and, despite picking somewhere to overwinter with firewood, freshwater and seafood, they still “began to die from the cold and hunger”.

A: Did they forget to light the fires?

C: [Laughs] Between starvation and occasional murderous quarrels, men began to die.

A: Sounds like there was some cannibalism happening there to me…

C: “The survivors sliced the dead for meat.”

A: Whooo! That was inappropriate.

C: Until only one was left – Esquivel – again, because there was no one around to eat him. So then he told this to Figueroa, and Figueroa told this to the three guys who are telling it to CdV.

A: I feel these people aren’t being very sensible with their cannibalism. The idea isn’t that you’re trying to whittle everyone down.

[Carmella laughs]

A: The idea is that as many people as possible survive. It’s not like, ‘Oh, damnit, I’ve lost because I’m the last one standing and there’s no one to eat me.’ That’s not the goal!

C: [Laughs] The goal is not to get eaten. CdV and his three mates stay with the Native Americans for another six months, secretly plotting their getaway to Spain but not acting upon it. I assume from the fact that he writes that he’s plotting it in secret, that they are being kept as slaves at this point, or prisoners at the very least – otherwise it seems like there’s no reason not to tell your hosts that you want to go home. But I dunno.

A: In contrast, CdV was saying how appalling his conditions were earlier – why would he not say that he was being held against his will, if, as we were thinking, it would be really useful to him to be able to explain why he hadn’t come home earlier.

C: I have to say that his account is very inconsistent.

A: Unless it’s possibly degrading to be a prisoner.

C: Can you imagine?

A: Maybe he learns something from this experience.

C: We’ll see…

A: He doesn’t, does he?

C: [Firmer] We’ll see. The lads are then separated for another a year, but then finally reunite and scarper. They continue bopping about between various host peoples for some months. They spend most of this time very hungry, as it appears that either the Native Americans in the area are struggling to feed themselves at this point, or maybe they’re just struggling to feed the extra mouths. After many adventures, during which they get by as medicine men themselves, faith healing via Catholic prayers, and accepting (or taking) gifts in return, and attempting to proselytise as they go.

A: I assume baptising people against their will?

C: They make it back to a Spanish settlement in northwest Mexico, having “traveled the world over nine years”, covering 2,000 leagues by CdV’s estimate on land and by sea. Now, just as a note to all of CdV’s readers back in Spain, “nowhere did we come upon either sacrifices or idolatry” in the whole time.

A: You literally burned people’s coffins because you thought they were idolatrous.

C: I’m gonna assume that he has, at this point, realised that this wasn’t the case, and that maybe the friar was wrong.

A: Oooh! Learning.

C: In 1536, they make it to Mexico City, where CdV writes a joint report with Dorantes and Castillo, the original of which has since been lost. Then they return to Spain in 1537, where CdV writes up his full account. He also learns the account of the 100 people who were left behind on the three ships by Narváez. The ships had sailed in search of this fabled harbour, and eventually found a harbour. Following this, for a year they searched for Narváez and the rest of the men, and eventually they gave up.

A: Did they just go home?

C: Yep.

A: See, that’s what I expected them to do! This is why when they were like, ‘Oh they’ll all still be here’ – no they won’t, it’s been six years! You have been sodding around pretending to be a faith healer.

[Carmella laughs]

A: They have left you, Señor.

C: Back in Spain, CdV seeks a royal commission. He dreams of being made governor of Florida himself, now that Narváez is missing, presumed dead.

A: That is a long game, if that was his goal.

C: Indeed, all his experience among Native Americans seems to have radicalised him somewhat. He begins arguing in favour of Indigenous rights and outlawing slavery, having been one himself.

A: I was joking earlier, but oh my gosh, he’s actually learnt! I’m going to assume that this doesn’t go down well for his dream of becoming governor of Florida?

C: No, he doesn’t get Florida, although in 1540 he becomes governor of the Rio de la Plata in modern day Argentina and Paraguay, after the previous position holder ironically starved to death.

[Both laugh]

A: That’s not funny.

C: It is.

A: It’s a bit funny.

C: His first full account of the Narváez expedition – or second, if you count the joint report – is published as La relacion in 1542. Then he holds that position in Rio de la Plata until 1545, when his people rebelled against him and brought him back to Spain in chains to bring four different lawsuits against him, consisting of 32 specific charges.

A: I’m going to assume that he was brought back in chains by the Spanish settlers?

C: Yes.

A: Which, ironically, suggests that he might not have been as awful as we might think.

C: Well, I’m a bit confused, because the sources seem to conflict a bit. So, some sources say he was kicked out for obstructing the slave trade, and basically getting in the way of oppressing the indigenous Guaraní Paraguayans, and other sources say that it was for abuse of power and violence against the indigenous populations. Maybe the thing they’re pissed about is the anti-slavery stance, and so they bring these other charges against him? But, like, human beings are multi-faceted, and I guess he could believe in pro-Indigenous rights and also–

A: Be a dick.

C: Be pro-violence as a means of control, yeah. So he’s learned some things, but not all the things.

A: By 16th century standards, I’m almost impressed.

C: It could also be that it’s, like, a nice narrative for him to go and learn and grow as a person, and maybe that’s been filtered down as a sort of mythology through the sources. Like, maybe he didn’t become cool?

A: I mean, we are quite impressed by just the very idea that after living for nearly a decade among the Indigenous population of Mexico that he has possibly learnt that they’re people, so maybe our standards aren’t very high.

C: Yeah… By 1551, he is sentenced to be stripped of his titles, banned from the New World altogether, and sent to a penal colony in Algeria.

A: He is sentenced to be stripped naked.

C: Wa-hey! After appealing that, he manages to be banned only from Rio de la Plata and doesn’t get sent to Algeria, but he does lose all his titles.

A: He really wants to go back to America.

C: He wants Florida. He wants it! In 1555, his further Naufragios and Comentarios are released – so that’s the second version – and the tone here is a bit more trying to exonerate himself of the drama of his governorship, and to prove that he’s still important, guys.

A: He’s still cool.

C: He’s likely to have died in 1559, disempowered and poor.

A: He never got his hands on Florida.

C: That is the story of Cabeza de Vaca and his adventures. He would be the first European to write about that particular area, and no one else would follow up on that for 150 years.

A: I’d never heard of that expedition, and I know we only found out about it because of the cannibalism angle, which he wasn’t really involved in – well, he says he wasn’t involved in – but that was quite a wild ride.

C: And I’ll tell you what, it makes for a really good read. Normally, things from the 16th century aren’t that fun to read, they’re a bit of a slog to get through. But thrilling stuff. Very entertaining. Real adventure story.

A: The Road to El Dorado, it was not.

[Outro Music – Daniel Wackett]

A: Gracias por escuchar el episodio tres, la historia de la expedición Narváez, y lo siento por mi atroz español.

C: Join us next time for more famine. So much famine.

[Outro music continues]

A: Casting Lots Podcast can be found on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr as @CastingLotsPod, and on Facebook as Casting Lots Podcast.

C: If you enjoyed this episode and want to hear more, don’t forget to subscribe to us on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts, and please rate, review and share to bring more people to the table.

A: Casting Lots: A Survival Cannibalism Podcast, is researched, written and recorded by Alix and Carmella, with post-production and editing also by Carmella and Alix. Art and logo design by Riley – @Tallestfriend on Twitter and Instagram – with audio and music by Daniel Wackett – Daniel Wackett on SoundCloud and @ds_wack on Twitter. Casting Lots is part of the Morbid Audio Podcast Network – search #MorbidAudio on Twitter – and the network’s music is provided by Mikaela Moody – mikaelamoody1 on Bandcamp.

[Morbid Audio Sting – Mikaela Moody]

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