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Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
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We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
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Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
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Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
35 From the EditorsArea Missions Are Part of Living History (with 2017 update)Downtown El Paso is Monument to Anson Mills (with 2017 update)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio (with 2017 update)The Magic of Mariachis (with 2017 update)New Generation of Mariachis (with 2017 update)Looking Back at the Chile PepperMen Behind the Chile Pepper (with 2017 update)Hot Peppers: They're Not Just for EatingEl Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations (with 2017 update)Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe Serves El Paso County (with 2017 update)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso into a Health Center (with 2017 update)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assault (with 2017 update)Company E Survivor Recalls Days as Prisoner of War (with 2017 update)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers (with 2017 update)
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Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas

Article first published in Vol. 17, 1998.

 By Chris Fumagalli with research contributed by Sal Martinez

In 1212, a shepherd named Martin Alhaja showed King Sancho, who was at war with the Moors, an unguarded mountain pass to catch the Muslims by surprise. Alhaja marked the trail using a cow's skull, and the Spanish Army defeated the Moors in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa on July 12. For his bravery Alhaja received from the king the honorable title "Cabeza de Vaca," meaning "head of a cow."

entitled "The Operation" showing Cabeza de Vaca performing surgery on a nativeIn 1490, Alvar Núñez was born in the southern town of Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. When he came of age, Núñez joined the Spanish Army and quickly added the name "Cabeza de Vaca," the title won by his mother's ancestor, Martin Alhaja, hundreds of years before.

Núñez Cabeza de Vaca would become a famous explorer of the New World and the first to step foot in what is now Texas. He would endure great punishments from both nature and man, but his experiences and writings ultimately would inspire other explorers.

Image caption: Mural entitled "The Operation" showing Cabeza de Vaca performing surgery on a native encountered in his travels. Photo courtesy of Tom Lea and Evan Haywood Antone

In 1511, at the age of twenty-one, Cabeza de Vaca joined the Spanish Army and was sent by King Ferdinand to Italy to aid Pope Julius II in keeping the French forces from attacking the Vatican. For 16 years, Cabeza de Vaca fought for his king and church. At 37, he was appointed treasurer of the Narváez Expedition to the New World.

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The Narváez Expedition cast off from Spain in June 1527, and reached Santo Domingo almost two months later. A hurricane killed 60 men and 20 horses, and Narváez waited several months before sailing to Florida in late February 1528. Three days after sighting Florida, Narváez came ashore (somewhere near present-day Sarasota) and conducted a formal ceremony claiming Florida for the King of Spain on Good Friday, April 15, 1528.

Indians told Narváez about gold in a northern village called Apalachee, and he split the expedition apart, with Cabeza de Vaca, Narváez, and 300 men marching inland, while the other half followed along the Gulf coastline. The parties never saw each other again.

When the Spaniards did reach Apalachee on June 24, they were disappointed to only find a few huts, some corn, hostile natives and no gold. In a desperate attempt to fight hunger, disease, and Apalachee warriors, the Narváez expedition reached the coast, only to discover the other half of the expedition was not waiting for them.

The soldiers built their own flatboats using metal and other materials from their belongings. Six weeks after arriving on the beach, 242 men piled onto the five flatboats they had made and said good-bye to Vaya de Cavallos (Bay of Horses), which the expedition named shortly before leaving on September 22, 1528.

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The entire expedition decided that if they were to survive, they would have to reach Panuco, Mexico. Cabeza de Vaca was in charge of one of the flatboats with 49 men. At first, the men would scour the coast, looking for food, but after a month of traveling by sea, their supplies started running low. It was at this point that the expedition came upon the mouth of a broad river - the Mississippi - which provided the men with fresh water. However, here the boats became separated, and floated out into the Gulf of Mexico.

On the morning of November 6, 1528, Cabeza de Vaca woke up to the sound of breakers crashing on the beach. The men had arrived on Mustang Island off the coast of what we now call Texas.

Of the 242 men that started on the second leg of the expedition, only 80 men lived through the harrowing voyage. Now the voyage's leader, Cabeza de Vaca wrote in his journal, "Those of us who had survived…had lost everything we had." The men named the island Malhado (Isle of Misfortune), because of all the bad things that had happened to them. Malhado, as it turns out, was occupied by the Karankawa Indians, who, upon looking at the miserable shape the expedition was in, took the men to their village nearby.

The Karankawas welcomed their guests openly at first, but within a short time they either drove the soldiers out to their village, or enslaved those who stayed behind, including Cabeza de Vaca. He would later write in his journal entitled "Relación," or "The Account," about the first winter in Texas. In one hut, five Spaniards were turned into cannibals, he writes, "until only one remained … there was no one there to eat him." In February 1529, Cabeza de Vaca became seriously ill, and when he recovered, he noted only 15 soldiers of the 80 remained.

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Allowed to travel the following spring, Cabeza de Vaca roamed throughout east and central Texas, trading conch shells for food to eat. He carried beans various tribes used in ceremonies, collected buffalo hides and made arrows.

Then in late 1532, Cabeza de Vaca was reunited with the last remaining members of the Narváez Expedition: Captain Alonso Castillo Maldonado, Andreas Dorantes de Carranza, and Dorantes' African Muslim slave, Estebán. Cabeza de Vaca wrote, "We thanked God very much for being together," and the reunion was a day they would never forget.

The four men would eventually become enslaved by other Indian tribes. Cabeza de Vaca and Dorantes became slaves of the Mariames, central plain Indians. Castillo and Estebán were claimed by the Yguazes. In his writing, Cabeza de Vaca described the Mariames as a small tribe, who hunted the bison, or buffalo, which they ate, using the hides for shoes and clothing.

The Spaniard noted that in times of famine, the Yguazes would eat anything. Some starving members of the tribe ate spiders, worms, and poisonous snakes. Their daily intake also included dirt, wood, and even deer dung. Cabeza de Vaca did credit the Yguazes for their strength and endurance. They could "run from morning to night without resting or becoming tired," he wrote.

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On September 22, 1534, after some minor difficulties, Cabeza de Vaca, Dorantes, Castillo, and Estebán escaped from their masters and began their trek towards Panuco.

On the night the four men escaped, they were accepted by the tribe known as the Avares.

Cabeza de Vaca described the Avares warriors with admiration in his journal: "They take strength in the fear of their adversaries. They see and hear better and have keener senses than any other men I know of in the world. They are great in withstanding hunger and thirst and cold, as though they were accustomed to these…more that other men."

The castaways stayed with the Avares for at least eight months, and it was with the Avares that all four men practiced healing. Their methods involved genuflecting and making the sign of the cross over the patient. In the summer of 1535, the castaways left the Avares tribe and unknowingly crossed into Mexico.

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It was there that Cabeza de Vaca performed the first surgery by a European in North America. Cabeza de Vaca writes, "An Indian had been wounded for some time before by an arrow that entered the right side of his back. The arrowhead had lodged over the heart, causing great pain and suffering." With a knife, Cabeza de Vaca opened the chest of the native, extracted the projectile, and closed the incision with two stitches.

The following day the stitches were removed and the Indian was healed. For this remarkable piece of surgery, Cabeza de Vaca has been recognized by the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. Tom Lea's rendition of this operation hangs in the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

Some historians believe that from northern Mexico, the four men made their way towards the north and west, traveling near present -day San Elizario, twenty miles downstream from El Paso. Cabeza de Vaca commented on the beauty of the Spanish Southwest: "It is no doubt, the best land in all these Indians. Indeed, the land needs no circumstances to make it blessed."

As the castaways made their way west towards the Pacific coast, Indians told them of a tribe to the north who lived in luxurious houses on top of mountaintops. Five green precious arrowheads this tribe used for ceremonies somehow were gained by Cabeza de Vaca, but he lost the arrowheads before he reached the Spanish Army. As a result, his story of this tribe later would spark an interest throughout Spain and Mexico to seek out the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola, land of gold and incredible treasures. The Moor, Estebán, would later lead an expedition to find these golden cities.

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The Castaways descended upon Rio Yaqui, near the Gulf of California sometime before Christmas 1535 and headed south. Seven months later, they were joyfully received in Mexico City by Viceroy Mendoza and the conquistador Hernán Cortés on July 24, 1536.

Once Cabeza de Vaca returned to Spain, it took some time before he fully adjusted to the lifestyle he had left over eight years earlier. He could not stand wearing clothes and would sleep only on the floor. But then he decided to write about his experiences in "Relación," his own narrative of the ill-fated Narváez Expedition.

"Relacion" introduced themes that touched the human soul such as slavery, discrimination and the beauty of a land never seen by Europeans before. His account helped encourage other explorers to go to the New World and to search for the riches about which he had only heard.

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