The most interesting of Panfilo de Narvaez facts is that he mostly remembered for his two failed expeditions that led to the memoirs and exploits of Cabeza de Vaca. He participated in the conquest of Cuba and was known for his cruelty to the natives. He did not stray too far from the reputation of the Spanish Conquistadors.
Panfilo de Narvaez Facts: Early Life and Expeditions
Narvaez was born in Castile and was a relative of the first Governor of Cuba. He was described as a man of authoritative personality, tall of body and somewhat blonde inclined to redness.
Narváez displayed his brutality when he presided over the infamous massacre of Caonao, where Spanish troops put to the sword a village full of Indians who had come to meet them with offerings of food. Following the massacre, Narváez asked de las Casas, “What do you think about what our Spaniards have done?” to which de las Casas replied, “I send both you and them to the Devil.”His brutality became infamous.
In 1519, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, the governor of Cuba authorized and paid for Hernán Cortés to man an expedition to Mexico. But having second thoughts about Cortés’ loyalty, he recalled the expedition shortly after embarking. Cortés disobeyed and proceeded with the planned expedition that would eventually result in the overthrow of the Aztec Empire. Arriving from Cuba Narváez was named governor of Mexico by Velázquez who sent him and 1400 men on 19 ships to México to intercept Cortés.
Panfilo de Narvaez Facts: The End
Narváez disembarked at Veracruz, where Cortés had left behind a small garrison as he set out with the rest of his men for the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. The garrison was manned by Cortés’ captain Gonzalo de Sandoval who managed to capture some of Narváez’s men and send them to Tenochtitlan to alert Cortés of the coming danger. Unable to defeat the garrison Narváez went to the Totonac town of Cempoala, where he set up camp.
When the news of Narváez’s arrival reached Cortés, the latter gathered a contingent of his troops, perhaps as few as 250 men, and returned to the coast. On May 27, 1520, Cortés men moved in on Narváez’s camp at Cempoala under the cover of a driving rain, and quickly took control of the artillery and horses before entering the city. Narváez took a stand at the main temple of the city of Cempoala with a contingent of muskteers and crossbowmen. Finally Gonzalo de Sandoval arrived with reinforcements to Cortés who managed to set the main temple on fire, driving out Narváez and his men. Narváez was sorely wounded, having lost an eye in the fighting. He was taken prisoner and spent two years as a prisoner at the garrison of Veracruz before he was sent back to Spain. His men, who had been promised gold by Cortés, joined the conquistadors and returned to Tenochtitlan where they participated in the conquest of the Aztec empire.
In the meantime, the deadly disease of smallpox spread from a carrier in Narváez’s party to the native population of New Spain, killing many.
He met disaster in Florida and his expeditions would fail. This would be the beginning of Cabeza de Vaca’s epic journey through the Americas. He died of drowning due to a fierce storm.
Panfilo de Narvaez Facts: Online Resources
- Wikipedia – Panfilo de Narvaez
- The Pirate King
- The History Junkie’s Guide to Famous Explorers
- The History Junkie’s Guide to Spanish Conquistadors
- The History Junkie’s Guide to Piracy in the Caribbean
- The History Junkie’s Guide to European Exploration
- The History Junkie’s Guide to Colonial America