Panfilo de Narváez

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Angry Words by Hermann Trappman

Crowned with red hair, all the evidence suggests that Panfilo de Narváez was a true sociopath. He enjoyed watching people more vulnerable than himself suffer and die. Bartoleme de Las Casas wrote about the massacre in Caonao, a village in Cuba. Later Narváez had been ordered to defeat Cortez in Mexico. During that struggle, he had an eye put out and was imprisoned by Cortez for a year.

Narváez arrived in Boca Ciega Bay in April 1528, to claim La Florida for Spain. He established a momentary settlement which he named La Cruz. Cabeza de Vaca, to his right, was the Royal Treasurer, basically a King’s man, and Narváez didn’t like it one bit that he was being supervised. They had a bitter argument over abandoning the settlement and heading inland to look for gold.

The woman on the far right is one of ten women who accompanied the expedition to Florida. She too advised Narváez not to abandon the new town based on a visit to a fortuneteller back in Seville. But, Narváez was adamant.

“For Las Casas, the most determining event in his conversion was the massacre of Caonao. A Spanish entrada under the command of Panfilo de Narvaez, who would later attain fame being captured by Hernan Cortes, stumbled upon a large bohio, a rounded house with a thatch roof.  Around 500 Indians were huddled inside, no doubt frightened by the armed invaders.  One conquistador suddenly attacked the group, and others followed in a kind of bloodthirsty frenzy. Las Casas watched as hundreds of unarmed innocents were hacked to death by Spanish swords. In the midst of the slaughter, Las Casas appealed to Narváez to subdue this madness. However,Narváez ignored Las Casas, choosing instead to remain on his horse and watch the unfolding spectacle.  Las Casas was dumbfounded by this unwarranted slaughter of men, women, and children, and realized that the Indians were being, and would continue to be, victimized for the sake of gold and sugar. He freed the Indians in his own encomienda, and began to openly oppose not only the entrapment and forced servitude of the Indians, but also the mandatory conversions to Christianity.”

Narváez’s brutality did not end in Cuba. Here in Florida he was known to have captured an Honored Man (cacique) Hirrahigua and slice off his nose and to feed Hirrahigua’s mother live to his war dogs all in his pursuit of the elusive gold. This was one sick, disgusting man.