Cabeza de Vaca & Estevanico, The Conquistador, Conquered

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The Conquistador Conquered presents the first encounter between Spaniards and Natives in the Southwest as well as the epic journey of several unusual characters. It begins in Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain on June 17, 1527 with the departure of Panfilo de Narvaez’s expedition, followed by the crossing of the Atlantic, the arrival on the coast of Florida, the shipwreck and subsequent perilous voyage on rafts to Galveston Island.

From there, it traces the enslavement of the remaining Spaniards and the eventual conversion of Cabeza de Vaca and Estevanico into shamans and finally their arrival in Mexico City eight years later. Cabeza de Vaca then returns to Spain and Estevanico becomes the scout for Coronado’s expedition, finally arriving at Hawiku. It ends in Hawiku, July 7,1540, when Coronado entered the pueblo.

We chose the story of Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca because he started as a typical conquistador filled with hunger for money and power, and subsequently went through a journey that changed him completely. He became a shaman after integrating the suffering of being a slave of the Indians.

When he rejoined the world of the Spaniards, he refused to return to the life of a conquistador and became instead a defender of the native populations of the New World. His life became an example of a complete cycle of a mythic character as described by Joseph Campbell. His story is not just one of a historical character but is completely relevant to our present world.

The story of Cabeza de Vaca gives another point of view completely opposite to the black legend of la Conquista. The play is based on Cabeza de Vaca’s own words using his own writing about the journey. We tell the story as he reported it… we don’t invent anything. The play is very well documented in order to represent what really happened. But of course puppets add their own vision, which always has to do with fun, humour and perspective… therefore, comprehension and healing. We work very accurately from the historic point of view, with a vision that helps the audience to relate to the story in a new way. It is learning with fun. The play is fast moving and engaging… the audience remains riveted to the action and details.

It has been our experience that this play appeals to a wide audience, including professional historians, general public interested in the history of the Southwest, people who are interested in myths and human character development, people who like all types of theater, and younger audiences who specifically like puppets.

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