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Narváez, Panfilo (1470-1528)


    Born in either Valladolid or Cuéllar in 1470, he was very interested in a career as a soldier. He went to Jamaica in 1510 and then to Cuba in 1511. Diego de Velázquez gave him a command of archers (crossbows) and sent him to explore Camagüey as  an escort to Bartolomé de las Casas.  Narváez was effective but cruel. In 1514, he pacified Huahuanigua, returned to Havana, and went to Spain. In 1520, he returned to Cuba going to Santiago de Cúba and discovered that Governor Velázquez  was furious with Hernán Cortés for having disobeyed orders and launched an expedition to Mexico. Velázquez appointed Narváez Governor of New Spain and gave him a fleet of ships with 900 men to find Cortés and bring him back dead or alive. When he reached the Isle of Sacrifices where he met an emissary of Cortés and tried to convince him to submit. That failed and he went to Cempoala and met another envoy from  Cortés who tried to get Narváez to join Cortés. On May 24, 1520, Cortés and Narváez fought. Narváez lost the battle and an eye. Cortés absorbed his army and allowed him to go to Spain. Charles V made him adelantado of Florida and he sailed to the New World with five ships and 600 men on June 17, 1527. He had been given the right to conquer and populate the territory from the Palmas River (Rio Grande) eastward to Florida. With him as treasurer was Alvaro Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca. The fleet arrived in Santo Domingo and stayed for 45 days while taking on provisions. Then it went to Santiago de Cúba to pick up soldiers, arms, and horses. Misfortune struck in the form of storms. He lost the lives of about 400 men. He got to the Texas coast, but he drowned in a storm in 1528.

See Harbert Davenport, ed., "`The Expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez,' by Gonzalo Fernández Oviedo y Valdez," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 27-28 (October 1923-October 1924); Juan López de Escalera, Diccionario Biográfico y de Historia de México. México, Editorial del Magisterio, 1964. pp. 757-8; Frank Goodwyn, "Pánfilo de Narváez, A Character Study of the First Spanish Leader to Land an Expedition in Texas," Hispanic American Historical Review 29 (February 1949).

Don Mabry