A Land So Strange – The Epic Journey

Subject: History    / General History

What book: Andrés Reséndez, A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca (New York: Basic Books, 2007).

Due Date: 3/20/2017

Length: 5 pages, double space, Times New Roman 12, 1 inch margins (default option in Word).

Cabeza de Vaca was part of a Spanish expedition that was meant to go to Northern Mexico but ended up in Florida by mistake. Lost in Florida, Cabeza de Vaca travelled with a few surviving fellow explorers throughout the sourthern United States and Northern Mexico. During his eight years traversing these regions, the lost explorers experienced many first encounters with native societies. In this review you will provide an analysis of the lost expedition considering:

We usually learn about explorers and conquerors who successfully prevailed over natives. Explain how different the experience of Cabeza de Vaca was from the most stereotypical stories about the “conquest” we learn through movies and K-12 education.
Examine the experience of Cabeza de Vaca in the contest of what you learned about the “conquest” of the Americas in class. What happened in this expedition that serves as an example of what you learned? Where European horses, weapons, and technologies useful? Did European have superior navigational techniques that were useful for them to prevail over natives? In the interactions between Cabeza de Vaca and the natives, who was more powerful and why?
Consider the difficulties of inter-cultural communication. What happened when the Spaniards and natives tried to talk to one another? Did they understand each other? To what extent?
Where all native societies the same? Provide a description of the differences between them in terms of the activities they performed to survive, their worldviews, their relation to space, etc.
What were the challenges of organizing an expedition to the Americas? What did explorers have to do before sailing? Did they have to seek permission? From whom? How did they find resources and manpower for the expedition?
Where all the Spanish always in agreement with each other or did they also have internal conflicts? Provide examples of conflicts the Spanish had as they tried to conquer the Americas.
Provide a description of Spain and Seville at the time of the expedition. Had Spain always been a unified country? Who had the Spanish fought with before they began to colonize the Americas? What type of city was Seville? Why was it important for the colonization of the Americas?
Was travelling by the sea an enjoyable experience in the 16th century? What kind of obstacles did travelers have to sort out before they could reach the shores on the other side of the ocean? Include a description of scarcity of space and the challenge of preserving food and liquids. Explain why the expedition ends up in Florida instead of Mexico and what are the causes and consequences of such mistake.
Provide a detailed description of the challenges the lost explorers faced while in Florida, on the rafts, and while they were enslaved. Explain who engaged in cannibalism and why. Provide an explanation of the reactions of the host society. Discuss the reasons why the explorers were enslaved and how they finally escaped.
Stipulate the importance of religion in the worldview of Cabeza de Vaca and how it helped him become a healer.

Grading Criteria

Wrong length and format:less than 5 pages according to the stated format can make you lose up to 12 points out of 22; more than 5 and a half pages can make you lose up to 4 points out of 22. Remember that the amount of pages will be calculated with Times New Roman 12 and 1 inch margins. If you chose another format, I will convert it to the right format and consider the actual length that way.

Writing problems: you can lose up to 10 points for writing problems, even if the contents are correct. This is a list of writing problems that can affect your grade:

Lack of transition = your writing jumps to a new paragraph or topic without providing an explanation of how it relates to what you claimed before.

Rephrase = your writing is unclear; you should rewrite this section to make it understandable for a general educated audience. I use this in cases where I am able to understand what you are saying, but it is confusing enough for anyone who does not now the topic. Remember that the goal of an essay not to tell the contents to the professor who already knows about it, but to present an explanation to an audience that is not familiar with the issue.

No introduction = You start your paper without providing an overview of the topics you will discuss throughout your essay.

No conclusion = Your essay ends suddenly after you refer to the last topic, without providing any concluding remarks.

Format problems = your format violates the essay guidelines instructions regarding length, spacing, margins, or font.

Chronology problems:

Wrong Date

Revise chronology = the sequence of historical events is not presented in the right order.

Lack of chronology = you fail to provide dates for the events you are describing.

Content problems: you can lose 4 points for every topic you fail to fully develop. I will mark the specific number you missed or did not fully develop.

Topics unrelated to the book.

Wrong = what you wrote is not substantiated by either lectures, the readings or any valid scholarly resource.

Topic not fully developed

Provide citation= you should have provided a citation or a page number.