Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar
- E. Thomson Shields
Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alvar (1490–1559), soldier, explorer, and writer, was born in Jérez de la Frontera, Spain, the son of Francisco de Vera, a member of the municipal council, and Teresa Cabeza de Vaca, a noblewoman. Little is known about Núñez’s early life. He chose to use his matrilineal surname to emphasize his relationship to Martín Alhaja, who was ennobled in 1212 with the name Cabeza de Vaca (Head of Cow) after directing the king’s armies by marking their route with a cow’s skull. Núñez’s paternal grandfather, Pedro de Vera, was a conquistador and early Spanish governor in the Canary Islands. Núñez trained for a military career and by the time he left for the New World already had experience in battle....