In 1528 Cabeza de Vaca, a Spanish explorer, was the first so-called civilized person to set foot on Texas soil. He, along with three other colleagues, wandered across South Texas, the Southwest and northern Mexico for eight years before being rescued. He could have predicted in 1528 where the oil from the present blowout would go ashore and that Texas and Mexico would be spared. How would he have known this before oil was even discovered beneath the sea?
De Vaca set out from Spain in five ships with over 500 people in 1528. They landed in Cuba after a terrible hurricane destroyed two ships and killed 200 in his party. He then departed Cuba with three ships and about 300 remaining people. He was headed for northern Mexico. Navigation was poor in those days. He sailed and sailed and finally put ashore on what is now Tampa, Florida. Why didn’t he cross the Gulf of Mexico? He didn’t know about the swift current of the Gulf Stream and the so-called loop current that we have been hearing about. His ships, like the current oil spill, were pushed east to the beaches of Florida.
De Vaca didn’t know where he was. They made rafts and sailed along the Gulf Coast. Of the 300 who made it to land all but four finally perished. They starved or were killed by Indians. De Vaca and his colleagues survived by adapting to the Indians ways and also practiced healing with some success. He removed an arrow from the chest wall of an Indian and the patient survived. This was the first surgical operation in Texas.
Cabeza de Vaca recorded his experiences in a Journal. He described how the Indians lived along the Gulf Coast. They had abundant oysters, fish and plants to eat. Unfortunately, they would not be able to survive after our current disaster. They would have moved onto higher ground and more fertile territory. We could learn a lesson from de Vaca about the direction of oil flow in the Gulf and we could also learn from his Indian friends the importance of preserving our environment.
As I sit on the porch and read the account of Cavaza de Vaca wandering along the Gulf Coast it make me sad to think that the beauty and the abundant resources from that area have now been destroyed. Like the Indians, the inhabitants ot the Gulf Coast are going to have to move to more fertile ground.