Semester of Graduation

Spring 2022


Master of Arts (MA)


Department of World Languages, Literatures & Cultures

Document Type



This thesis examines the relaciónes (report) Naufragios (1542) and Comentarios (1555) with the intention of expanding upon the ample publications already existent on Cabeza de Vaca. With this thesis I offer a contrasting reading and reexamination of both of Cabeza de Vaca’s works. I argue that a number of the scholarly publications on Cabeza de Vaca fail to understand, define, and explore the identity and goals of Cabeza de Vaca as his own unique version of a conqueror which ultimately leads to a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the texts. After an initial chapter discussing how Cabeza de Vaca never underwent a transformation of identity in Naufragios the following chapter applies and builds upon certain aspects from Mary Louise Pratt’s (1992) concept of the anti-conquest to explore how Cabeza de Vaca creates a narrative that attempts to acquit him from being responsible yet, at the same time, gives justification for colonization. I use Pratt’s anti-conquest approach to explore the ways in which Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative in both Naufragios and Comentarios justifies European expansion while at the same time distinguishes itself from the common sixteenth century imperialist imperial rhetoric of the conquest. Through this interpretation, this thesis discusses how Cabeza de Vaca writes himself out of being responsible for acting as an agent, direct or indirect, of colonization and colonialism in an attempt to establish his innocence while at the same time legitimizing the conquest. I examine how he pushes this anti-conquest narrative even further to become what I call the counter-conquest to portray an extreme of the natives as being reliant on the Spaniards. The last chapter of this thesis sets out to analyze, rebalance and clarify the roles and contributions of both the natives and the Spaniards in Naufragios and Comentarios and analyze how natives resisted colonization.

Committee Chair

Brody, Mary J.