Bookmark and Share

SOLAS and LAII Partner to Present "Whatever Happened to Cabeza de Vaca?" with Professor Baker Morrow

The Student Organization for Latin American Studies (SOLAS), in partnership with the LAII, presents "Whatever Happened to Cabeza de Vaca? The South American Expeditions, 1540-1945, by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca" with Professor Baker Morrow. The presentation is part of SOLAS' regular brown bag lecture series. It will be held on Wednesday, October 31, 2012, from 12:00-1:00 p.m. in the LAII Conference Room.

The great explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who was born in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, about A.D. 1478, was the earliest European to visit New Mexico and the Southwest in the 1520s. Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions were the first people to walk across North America from east to west, beginning in Florida and ending their journey on the coast of the Sea of Cortes in 1535. But few people know of his "second act," his time as royal governor from 1540-1545 in the Rio de la Plata, South America, where he saved the nascent Spanish colony, continued his endless explorations, and discovered Yguazu Falls.

First published in 1555, Cabeza de Vaca's narrative of his South American expeditions is a detailed account of his five years as governor of Spain's province of the Rio de la Plata in South America. Cabeza de Vaca was already a celebrated explorer by the time he went to La Plata, known for his great trek across North America in the 1520s and 1530s and for the Relación he wrote about that journey. His tales of his river and forest explorations in South America show that he had lost none of his early curiosity and drive. He was the great secular champion of the native peoples of the New World and the only Spaniard to explore the coasts and interiors of two continents. This book, The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545," is one of the great first-person accounts of the Spanish conquest of the Americas in the sixteenth century. Morrow's new translation is the first English translation of Cabeza de Vaca's memoir in 500 years, which makes the text newly and widely available to an English-speaking audience. His comments on the early American landscape and its peoples and customs paint a wonderful portrait of the New World of half a millenium ago.

Baker H. Morrow, FASLA, has been a principal of Morrow Reardon Wilkinson Miller, Ltd., Landscape Architects, for the past 39 years. His office has earned over 110 design awards and citations since 1980. The Journal Center and the Big I in Albuquerque are among the notable projects of his office, as well as the renovation of Santa Fe Plaza and downtown Artesia, New Mexico. Mr. Morrow is the founder of the Master of Landscape Architecture Program at UNM's School of Architecture and Planning, where he currently serves as the University's first Professor of Practice. A third-generation New Mexican, he is the author of Best Plants for New Mexico Gardens and Landscapes and the co-editor of Canyon Gardens: The Ancient Pueblo Landscapes of the American Southwest. His most recent book is Cabeza de Vaca's The South American Expeditions, 1540-1545, for which he was the translator. In 2001, Mr. Morrow became the first native New Mexican to be elected a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects. He was the recipient of the Stewart Udall Cultural Landscape Preservation Award from the New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance in 2008.

Information for this article was drawn in part from the University of New Mexico Press.

--Posted October 30, 2012.