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The Florida of the Inca

The Florida of the Inca
Translated and edited by John and Jeannette J. Varner

The story of Hernando de Soto's expedition.

January 1951
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708 pages | 6 x 9 |

Perhaps the most amazing thing of all about Garcilaso de la Vega's epic account of the De Soto expedition is the fact that, although it is easily the first great classic of American history, it had never before received a complete or otherwise adequate English translation in the 346 years which have elapsed since its publication in Spanish. Now the Inca's thrilling narrative comes into its own in the English speaking world.

Hernando de Soto's expedition for the conquest of North America was the most ambitious ever to brave the perils of the New World. Garcilaso tells in remarkably rich detail of the conquistadors' wanderings over half a continent, of the unbelievable vicissitudes which beset them, of the Indians whom they sought to win for King and Church and by whose hands most of them died, of De Soto's death, and of the final pitiful failure of the expedition.


1951 Dallas Museum of Fine Arts award

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • The Inca’s Dedication
  • The Inca’s Preface
  • The First Book: Of the History of Florida by the Inca presents a description of the land and the customs of its natives; a record of its first explorer and of those explorers who went there afterward; an account of the people who accompanied Hernando de Soto in his expedition; the strange events that occurred on their voyage, the supplies which the Governor ordered and provided in Havana, and his embarkation for Florida. It contains fifteen Chapters, which are as follows.
    • Chapter I—Hernando de Soto requests permission of Emperor Charles the Fifth to make a conquest of Florida. His Majesty grants him this favor
    • Chapter II—A description of Florida and an account of the first, second, and third explorers of that land
    • Chapter III—Other explorers who have gone to Florida
    • Chapter IV—Still others who have made the same journey to Florida. The customs and common weapons of the natives of that country
    • Chapter V—Both the writs authorizing the conquest and the great preparations for carrying it forward are made known in Spain
    • Chapter VI—The number of men and officers who embarked for Florida
    • Chapter VII—What happened to the armada on the first night of its navigation
    • Chapter VIII—The armada arrives at Santiago de Cuba; what happened to the flagship at the entrance to that port
    • Chapter IX—A four day naval battle between two ships in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba
    • Chapter X—A continuation of the incident of the sea fight until its close
    • Chapter XI—The festivities given in honor of the Governor at Santiago de Cuba
    • Chapter XII—The supplies that the Governor procured in Santiago de Cuba. One notable circumstance concerning the natives of those islands
    • Chapter XIII—The Governor goes to Havana. The preparations which he makes there for the conquest
    • Chapter XIV—A ship arrives at Havana with Hernán Ponce, a companion of the Governor
    • Chapter XV—The issues between Hernán Ponce de León and Hernando de Soto. How the Governor embarked for Florida
  • The First Part of the Second Book: Of the History of Florida by the Inca treats of the Governor’s arrival in that land and his discovery there of traces of Pámphilo de Narváez; his finding of a Christian captive who describes the tortures and cruelties imposed upon him by the Indians as well as the hospitalities extended him by a certain Indian lord of vassals; the further preparations which the Spaniards made for the expedition and the events that occurred in the first eight provinces they explored; and the extraordinary bravery in both words and deeds of a bold cacique. It contains thirty Chapters, which are as follows.
    • Chapter I—The Governor arrives in Florida and finds traces of Pámphilo de Narváez
    • Chapter II—The tortures which an Indian chief inflicted upon a Spaniard who was his slave
    • Chapter III—A continuation of the miserable life of the captive. How he fled from his master
    • Chapter IV—The magnanimity of the Curaca or Cacique Mucozo to whom the captive was entrusted
    • Chapter V—The Governor sends for Juan Ortiz
    • Chapter VI—What happened between Juan Ortiz and the Spaniards who were seeking him
    • Chapter VII—The entertainment which the whole army gave Juan Ortiz. How Mucozo came to visit the Governor
    • Chapter VIII—The mother of Mucozo arrives in great anxiety concerning her son
    • Chapter IX—The preparations which were made for the exploration. How the Indians seized a Spaniard
    • Chapter X—How the exploration was begun. The entrance of the Spaniards into the interior of the land
    • Chapter XI—What happened to the Lieutenant General while on his way to seize a curaca
    • Chapter XII—The account which Baltasar de Gallegos sent of what he had discovered
    • Chapter XIII—They fail twice to cross the great swamp. The Governor sets out to search for a passage and finds it
    • Chapter XIV—What the two Spaniards experienced on their journey before coming to the camp
    • Chapter XV—Thirty lancers with a supply of biscuits set out in pursuit of the Governor
    • Chapter XVI—The insolent reply of the lord of the province of Acuera
    • Chapter XVII—The Governor arrives at the province of Ocali. What befell him there
    • Chapter XVIII—Other events which occurred in the province of Ocali
    • Chapter XIX—The Spaniards construct a bridge and cross the Ocali river. They come to the province of Ochile
    • Chapter XX—The brother of the Curaca Ochile comes in peace. They send ambassadors to Vitachuco
    • Chapter XXI—The arrogant and foolish reply of Vitachuco. How his brothers go to persuade him to peace
    • Chapter XXII—Vitachuco comes out in peace. He plans a betrayal of the Spaniards and confides in the interpreters
    • Chapter XXIII—Vitachuco commands his captains to conclude the betrayal, and he begs the Governor to come out and review his people
    • Chapter XXIV—How they seized Vitachuco. The outbreak of the battle which occurred between the Spaniards and the Indians
    • Chapter XXV—The gradual surrender of the conquered Indians, and the constancy of seven of them
    • Chapter XXVI—What the Governor did with the three Indians, lords of vassals, and with the Curaca Vitachuco
    • Chapter XXVII—An objection or counter-view is answered
    • Chapter XXVIII—A foolhardy action which Vitachuco ordained for the purpose of destroying the Spaniards, and which resulted instead in his own death
    • Chapter XXIX—The strange battle which took place between the captive Indians and their masters
    • Chapter XXX—The Governor continues to Osachile. Herein is described the manner in which the Indians of Florida build their towns
  • The Second Part of the Second Book: Of the History of Florida by the Inca wherein will be seen the many fierce struggles that occurred under difficult circumstances between the Indians and the Spaniards in the great province of Apalache; the hardships the Spaniards suffered in finding the sea; the events and incredible anxieties experienced in the going and coming of thirty cavaliers who returned for Pedro Calderón; and the fierceness of the Indians of Apalache, the capture and strange flight of their Cacique, and the fertility of that great province. It contains twenty-five Chapters, which are as follows.
    • Chapter I—The Spaniards come to the famous province of Apalache. The resistance of the Indians
    • Chapter II—The Spaniards gain the passage to the swamp. The great and fierce struggle which occurred therein
    • Chapter III—The continuous fighting which lasted until the arrival at the principal town of Apalache
    • Chapter IV—Three captains go to explore the province of Apalache. The report which they bring
    • Chapter V—The hardships which Juan de Añasco experienced in his effort to find the sea
    • Chapter VI—Captain Juan de Añasco arrives at the Bay of Aute. What he found there
    • Chapter VII—Thirty lancers make preparations to return to the Bay of the Holy Spirit
    • Chapter VIII—What the thirty cavaliers did before arriving at Vitachuco and what they found there
    • Chapter IX—The journey of the thirty lancers continues to the River of Ochile
    • Chapter X—The Governor seizes the Curaca of Apalache
    • Chapter XI—The Cacique of Apalache goes by order of the Governor to subdue his Indians
    • Chapter XII—The Cacique of Apalache, being handicapped, flees from the Spaniards on hands and knees
    • Chapter XIII—An account of the journey of the thirty cavaliers until they reach the great swamp
    • Chapter XIV—The intolerable hardships that the thirty cavaliers experienced in crossing the great swamp
    • Chapter XV—An account of the journey of the thirty cavaliers until their arrival a half-league from the village of Hirrihigua
    • Chapter XVI—The thirty cavaliers come to where Captain Pedro Calderón is. The manner in which they were received
    • Chapter XVII—The things that Captains Juan de Añasco and Pedro Calderón ordained in fulfillment of what the General had commanded them
    • Chapter XVIII—Pedro Calderón sets out with his men. The events of his trip until he comes to the great swamp
    • Chapter XIX—Pedro Calderón crosses the great swamp and arrives at the swamp of Apalache
    • Chapter XX—Pedro Calderón continues along the way, fighting constantly with the enemy
    • Chapter XXI—By persisting in the struggle, Pedro Calderón comes to where the Governor is
    • Chapter XXII—Juan de Añasco arrives at Apalache. The provisions the Governor made for finding a port along the coast
    • Chapter XXIII—The Governor sends an account of his discovery to Havana. The temerity of an Indian is described
    • Chapter XXIV—Two Indians offer to guide the Spaniards to a place where they may find much gold and silver
    • Chapter XXV—Some dangerous fighting which occurred in Apalache. The fertility of that province
  • The Third Book: Of the History of Florida by the Inca tells of the departure of the Spaniards from Apalache; the fine reception offered them in four provinces; the hunger they suffered in some of the uninhabited lands; the infinity of pearls and other grandeurs and riches which they found in a temple; the generosities of the Lady of Cofachiqui and of other caciques, lords of vassals; a very bloody battle which the Indians under the guise of friendship perpetrated upon the Spaniards; a mutiny which certain Castilians discussed; the laws of the Indians against adulteresses; and another very fierce battle which was waged at night. It contains thirty-nine Chapters, which are as follows.
    • Chapter I—The Governor leaves Apalache. There is a battle of seven against seven
    • Chapter II—The Spaniards arrive in Altapaha. The manner in which they were received
    • Chapter III—The province of Cofa, its Cacique and a piece of artillery which the Spaniards left for him to guard
    • Chapter IV—Treats of the Curaca Cofaqui and the great hospitality he offered the Spaniards in his land
    • Chapter V—Patofa promises his Curaca vengeance. A strange story is told about what happened to an Indian guide
    • Chapter VI—The Governor and his army find themselves in great confusion on seeing that they are lost and without food in some uninhabited lands
    • Chapter VII—Four captains go out to explore the land. Patofa inflicts a strange punishment upon an Indian
    • Chapter VIII—A special story about the hunger the Spaniards suffered. How they found food
    • Chapter IX—The army comes to a place where there are provisions. Patofa returns home; and Juan de Añasco goes out to explore the land
    • Chapter X—The mistress of Cofachiqui comes to talk with the Governor, offering him both provisions and passage for his army
    • Chapter XI—The army crosses the river of Cofachiqui and is quartered in the town. Juan de Añasco is sent to fetch a widow
    • Chapter XII—The Indian ambassador destroys himself, and Juan de Añasco continues on his way
    • Chapter XIII—Juan de Añasco returns to the army without the widow. What happened concerning the gold and silver of Cofachiqui
    • Chapter XIV—The Spaniards visit the burial place of the nobles and later that of the curacas of Cofachiqui
    • Chapter XV—The splendors found in the temple and burial place of the lords of Cofachiqui
    • Chapter XVI—The riches of the burial place and the store of arms that was in it
    • Chapter XVII—The army leaves Cofachiqui in two sections
    • Chapter XVIII—What occurred to the three captains on their journey. How the army came to Xuala
    • Chapter XIX—Some of the great spiritual endowments of the Señora of Cofachiqui are described
    • Chapter XX—Events which occurred in the army until its arrival at Guaxule and at Ychiaha
    • Chapter XXI—How they extract the pearls from their shells. The report brought by those who went to seek the gold mines
    • Chapter XXII—The army leaves Ychiaha and enters Acoste and Coza. The hospitality offered them in these provinces
    • Chapter XXIII—The Cacique Coza offers his lands to the Governor to settle and populate. How the army leaves that Curaca’s province
    • Chapter XXIV—The fierce Curaca Tascaluza, who was almost a giant, and the manner in which he received the Governor
    • Chapter XXV—The Governor arrives in Mauvilla where he finds indications of treason
    • Chapter XXVI—Tascaluza’s council resolves to kill the Spaniards. Herein is told the beginning of the battle which occurred
    • Chapter XXVII—The events of the first third of the battle of Mauvila are related
    • Chapter XXVIII—A continuation of the battle of Mauvila through the second third of it
    • Chapter XXIX—The end of the battle of Mauvila and the lamentable condition in which the Spaniards were left
    • Chapter XXX—The efforts that the Spaniards made to aid themselves, and two strange occurrences that took place in the battle
    • Chapter XXXI—The number of Indians who died in the battle of Mauvila
    • Chapter XXXII—What the Spaniards did after the battle of Mauvila. An insurrection that was discussed among them
    • Chapter XXXIII—The Governor makes certain of the insurrection, and alters his plans
    • Chapter XXXIV—Two laws that the Indians of Florida observe in regard to adulteresses
    • Chapter XXXV—The Spaniards leave Mauvila and enter Chicaza. They construct boats to cross a great river
    • Chapter XXXVI—Our men camp in Chicaza. The Indians inflict upon them a sudden and very cruel nocturnal battle
    • Chapter XXXVII—A continuation of the battle of Chicaza until its close
    • Chapter XXXVIII—Notable deeds that occurred in the battle of Chicaza
    • Chapter XXXIX—A protection which a Spaniard devised against the cold suffered at Chicaza
  • The Fourth Book: Of the History of Florida by the Inca treats of the battle at the fort of Alibamo; the death of numerous Spaniards for want of salt; the arrival at Chisca and the crossing of the Great River; the solemn procession made by both the Indians and Spaniards to adore the cross and beseech God’s mercy; the cruel war and pillage between Capaha and Casquin; the Spaniards’ discovery of a means for making salt; the fierceness of the Tulas both in stature and in arms; and the comfortable winter which the Castilians passed in Utiangue. It contains sixteen Chapters, which are as follows.
    • Chapter I—The Spaniards leave the camp at Chicaza and attack the fort of Alibamo
    • Chapter II—A continuation of the battle of the fort of Alibamo until its close
    • Chapter III—Many Spaniards die for lack of salt. How they arrive at Chisca
    • Chapter IV—The Spaniards return what they have pillaged to the Curaca Chisca and are happy to be at peace with him
    • Chapter V—The Spaniards leave Chisca and construct barges to cross the Great River. They arrive at Casquin
    • Chapter VI—A solemn procession of Indians and Spaniards is made to adore the cross
    • Chapter VII—Both Indians and Spaniards go against Capaha. The location of this town is described
    • Chapter VIII—The Casquins sack the town and the burial place of Capaha, and then go in search of the Cacique himself
    • Chapter IX—The Casquins flee from the battle and Capaha petitions the Governor for peace
    • Chapter X—The Governor twice supports Casquin and makes the two Curacas friends
    • Chapter XI—The Spaniards send men out to seek salt and gold mines; and they come to Quiguate
    • Chapter XII—The army arrives at Colima, discovers a process for making salt and passes on to the province of Tula
    • Chapter XIII—The strange fierceness of spirit of the Tulas, and the battles that the Spaniards fought with them
    • Chapter XIV—A fight between a Tula Indian and four Spaniards, three of whom were on foot and one on horseback
    • Chapter XV—The Spaniards leave Tula and enter Utiangue where they encamp for the winter
    • Chapter XVI—The good winter passed in Utiangue. A treason committed against the Spaniards
  • The First Part of the Fifth Book: Of the History of Florida by the Inca where mention is made of a Spaniard who remained among the Indians; the efforts exerted to regain him; a long journey of the Castilians across eight provinces; the enmity and cruel war between the Guachoyas and Anilcos; the lamentable death of the Governor Hernando de Soto and the two burials that his men gave him. It contains eight Chapters, which are as follows.
    • Chapter I—The Spaniards enter Naguatex where one of them remains
    • Chapter II—The efforts that were made to obtain Diego de Guzmán. His reply and that of the Curaca
    • Chapter III—The Governor leaves Guancane, passes through seven other small provinces, and arrives at the province of Anilco
    • Chapter IV—The Spaniards enter Guachoya. Herein is told how these Indians carry on perpetual warfare with each other
    • Chapter V—How Guachoya visits the General and both return to Anilco
    • Chapter VI—An account of other cruelties of the Guachoyas. The manner in which the Governor attempts to solicit aid
    • Chapter VII—An account is given of the Governor’s death and of the successor whom he appointed
    • Chapter VIII—The two burials that they gave to the Adelantado, Hernando de Soto
  • The Second Part of the Fifth Book: Of the History of Florida by the Inca tells of how the Spaniards decided to abandon Florida, and the long journey they made in an effort to do so; the unbearable hardship they suffered both in going and returning until they came once again to the Great River; the seven brigantines they constructed for the purpose of leaving that kingdom; the league of ten Caciques formed against the Spaniards and the secret information which they obtained concerning this league; the promises of General Anilco and the fine qualities of this man; a severe rise in the Great River; the efforts involved in making the brigantines; a challenge of General Anilco to the Cacique Guachoya and the reason for this challenge; and the punishment inflicted upon the messengers of the league. It contains fifteen Chapters, which are as follows.
    • Chapter I—The Spaniards decide to abandon Florida
    • Chapter II—Some superstitions of the Indians of Florida as well as those of Peru. How the Spaniards come to Auche
    • Chapter III—The Spaniards kill the guide. A particular act of an Indian is told
    • Chapter IV—Two Indians give the Spaniards to understand that they challenge them to single combat
    • Chapter V—The Spaniards return to search for the Great River. The hardships they experienced along the way
    • Chapter VI—The intolerable hardships that the Spaniards suffered before reaching the Great River
    • Chapter VII—The Indians abandon two towns, and the Spaniards take lodgings within them for the purpose of passing the winter
    • Chapter VIII—Two Curacas come in peace. The Spaniards talk of constructing seven brigantines
    • Chapter IX—Ten Curacas form a league against the Spaniards, whom the Apu Anilco advises of the fact
    • Chapter X—Guachoya speaks ill of Anilco in the presence of the Governor and Anilco responds with a challenge to single combat
    • Chapter XI—The Spaniards wound an Indian spy; the complaint which the Curacas lodged concerning the incident
    • Chapter XII—The efforts of the Spaniards to make the brigantines. A very severe flood in the Great River
    • Chapter XIII—In order to complete the brigantines, a Spanish commander is sent to the Curaca Anilco for assistance
    • Chapter XIV—The incidents which occurred during the rising and falling of the Great River, and the information that Anilco supplied concerning the league
    • Chapter XV—The punishment given the messengers of the league and the efforts made by the Spaniards until they embarked
  • The Sixth Book: Of the History of Florida by the Inca contains an account of the selection of the captains for the navigation; the multitude of canoes opposing the Spaniards; the order and the manner of their fighting, which continued for eleven days without ceasing; the death of forty-eight Castilians because of the mad action of one of them; the return of the Indians to their homes; the arrival of the Spaniards at the sea and a skirmish they had with the people on the coast; the events of their fifty-five days of navigation before reaching Pánuco; the many quarrels which took place among them there, and the reason for these quarrels; the fine reception given them by the Imperial City of Mexico; the way in which they dispersed through different parts of the world; and the wanderings and hardships of Gómez Arias and Diego Maldonado, with which our history ends. It contains twenty-two Chapters, which are as follows.
    • Chapter I—The Spaniards choose commanders for the caravels and embark upon their journey
    • Chapter II—Types of rafts made by the Indians for crossing the rivers
    • Chapter III—The size of the canoes and the splendor and order the Indians manifested in them
    • Chapter IV—The manner of fighting which the Indians employed with the Spaniards as they traveled down the river
    • Chapter V—What happened on the eleventh day of the navigation of the Spaniards
    • Chapter VI—The Indians almost succeed in overcoming a caravel. The folly of a vainglorious Spaniard
    • Chapter VII—Because of the lack of prudence of one Spaniard, the Indians kill forty-eight of them
    • Chapter VIII—The Indians return to their homes and the Spaniards sail on until they recognize the sea
    • Chapter IX—The number of leagues that the Spaniards journeyed inland
    • Chapter X—A battle that the Spaniards had with the Indians of the coast
    • Chapter XI—The Spaniards set sail. The outcome of the first twenty-three days of their navigation
    • Chapter XII—An account of the navigation up to the fifty-third day. A storm which strikes the Spaniards
    • Chapter XIII—A wild storm which two caravels ran, and how they were grounded
    • Chapter XIV—What the commanders and the soldiers of the two caravels ordained
    • Chapter XV—What happened to the three captain explorers
    • Chapter XVI—The Spaniards learn that they are in the land of Mexico
    • Chapter XVII—The Spaniards unite in Pánuco. Bitter quarrels spring up among them. The reason for these quarrels
    • Chapter XVIII—How the Spaniards went to Mexico. The fine reception given them by that remarkable city
    • Chapter XIX—They give an account to the Viceroy of the most noteworthy incidents that occurred in Florida
    • Chapter XX—Our Spaniards spread out into divers parts of the world. What Gómez Arias and Diego Maldonado did in order to obtain news of Hernando de Soto
    • Chapter XXI—A continuation of the peregrination of Gómez Arias and Diego Maldonado
    • Chapter XXII—The number of Christians, both secular and religious, who died in Florida before the year 1568
  • Leaf of Privilege
  • Index

“Great endurances and deeds were surviving treasures for the soul that marched with DeSoto, and this book is their richest storehouse.”
New York Times Book Review

“When you regretfully lay aside this extraordinary volume and add it to your shelf of favorite titles, you will appreciate the tremendous adventure into history which you have had.”
San Francisco Examiner

“A distinguished and beautiful book, greatly translated.”
New York Herald Tribune