by Jack Nilan            EMail :

Cabeza de Vaca (1991)

Jack   A

IMDB    7.0

Tribe(s) : The Iguase and other Indigenous Tribes of Florida and Texas

Language : Spanish / Latin / native



   The movie is based on a true story. Cabeza de Vaca, the treasurer for a Spanish expedition to the New World is shipwrecked off the coast of Florida in 1528. He traveled on foot from Florida to the Pacific coast of Mexico and Texas (horses hadn't been introduced to the New World yet), an eight year journey of hardship, discovery and adventure.

   Cabeza is taken prisoner by members of the Iguase tribe. He is the slave of a shaman. The movie has many mystical and magical scenes and Cabeza somehow acquires magical healing powers which leads to his release. He then wanders the land as a shaman while searching for his shipmates. Cabeza is shown encountering three different tribes in his travels although in his real adventures he must have encountered many more. The tribes are represented as being in an almost "stone age" culture.

  He does find some of his shipmates but is captured by another tribe. He manages to escape again and eventually finds his way back to the Spanish settlement.

   The movie ends on an ominous note for the native culture as Spanish conquistadors are seen caring a huge cross for their new cathedral that is being built with native slave labor.

   Cabeza de Vaca is unlike any other movie I have seen. It shows a depiction of native life before the Europeans that is different than anything else ever presented.