Pánfilo de Narváez bigraphy, stories - 16th-century Spanish explorer and soldier

Pánfilo de Narváez : biography

1478 - 1528

Pánfilo de Narváez (1478–1528) was a Spanish conqueror and soldier in the Americas. He is most remembered as the leader of two expeditions, one to Mexico in 1520 to oppose Hernán Cortés, and the disastrous Narváez expedition to Florida in 1527.

Jamaica and Cuba

Narváez took part in the Spanish conquest of Jamaica in 1509. In 1511 he went to Cuba to participate in the conquest of that island under the command of Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar. He led expeditions to the eastern end of the island in the company of Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan de Grijalva. As reported by de las Casas, who was an eyewitness, Narváez presided over the infamous massacre of Caonao, where Spanish troopers put to the sword a village full of Indians who had come to meet them with offerings of food.de las Casas, Bartolomé, , Book III, Ch. 29–30. 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!"


Narváez was subsequently appointed adelantado of Florida by Charles V. He sailed from Sanlúcar de Barrameda on June 17, 1527, with a fleet of five ships and 600 men. The expedition arrived on the west coast of Florida in April 1528, weakened by storms and desertions. He landed with 300 men near the Rio de las Palmas—at what is currently known as the Jungle Prada Site in St. Petersburg—among hostile natives.

marker at the [[Jungle Prada Site]]From there, his expedition marched northward through interior Florida until it reached the territory of the powerful Apalachee Indians. Unable to find the gold and other riches he sought and tired of the hostilities with the Indians, Narváez ordered the construction of four rafts to return to the sea from the interior. He intended to rejoin the ships and continue to Mexico, but the vessels were destroyed in a storm. Narváez and almost all the members of his expedition died. The storm wrecked two of the four rafts. The 86 who survived the storm began an overland trek for Mexico. Starvation claimed most of their lives. Only four men survived the trek including Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and the Berber slave Estevanico (Estebanico).

Cabeza de Vaca wrote a narration entitled Naufragios (Castaways), in which he described the journey made by these four survivors on foot across the present day southeastern United States. This trek took eight years before they arrived in Culiacán (Sinaloa), where they found a Spanish settlement.

Birth and Family

Pánfilo de Narváez was born in Castile (in either Cuéllar or Valladolid) in 1478. He was a relative of Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, the first Spanish governor of Cuba. His nephew was Antonio Velazquez de Narváez.


In 1519, Hernán Cortés led an expedition to Mexico that would eventually result in the overthrow of the Aztec Empire. In 1520, Diego Velazquez de Cuellar, the governor of Cuba, not wishing to see Cortés succeed, sent Narváez after him at the head of a large expedition of ships and Spanish troops, with instructions to bring Cortés back, dead or alive. Narváez disembarked at Veracruz, where Cortés had left behind a small garrison upon setting out with the rest of his men for the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. When the news of Narváez's arrival reached Cortés, the latter gathered his troops and returned to the coast, where he defeated Narváez and took him prisoner. Narváez remained a prisoner at Veracruz for approximately two years. 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.del Castillo, Bernal Díaz, Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España, Ch. CIX ff.

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