Cumberland Academy

INCA – Spanish FLORIDA

This is a history of the Adelantado, Hernando de Soto, Govenor and Captain General of the kingdom of Florida, and of other heroic Spanish and Indian cavaliers, written by The Inca, Garcilaso de la Vega, an officer of His Majesty, and a native of the great city of Cuzco, capital of the provinces of Peru.

The Inca, Garcilaso de la Vega had begun recording the events of de Soto’s conquest of the land of Florida possibly in the mid 1500s. He had completed part of The Florida by 1587. Several years elapsed before he received the approvals necessary for publication. In 1605 it appeared in print.

The best known of the Spanish editions is that of 1723.

The Varners used the 1723 Madrid edition and then collated their results with the Lisbon edition of 1605. The Varners’ translation shows careful scholarship and attention to details. We are fortunate to have this translation available.

The Introduction tells of the fleet of tall-masted ships leaving San Lucar de Barrameda in 1538, and turning their prows toward the west and La Florida. Never before had there been assembled such an array of ships, men, dogs and horses for any expedition to the Indies. There were nine hundred, fifty men of all ranks. These were young men, for the tasks were to be difficult . Hernando de Soto had set forth to explore and exploit the unlimited reaches of the North American continent.

The harships of the great North American wilderness were to convert de Soto’s dreams into a dismal reality. By the year fifteen hundred and forty-three the deep forests and savannas of Florida were strewn with Spanish dead. De Soto himself had been lowered to a watery grave in Mississippi.

In the end several hundred half starved stragglers fought their way down the Mississippi and on to the shores of Mexico, while two faithful captains sailed the American coast from Nombre de Dios to the Land of the Cod in a vain search for their commander. The messianic zeal of the explorers was to be thwarted as well, for the Indians of Florida went on worshiping the sun and moon.

The survivors of the DeSoto expedition were quick to tell their story wherever they found themselves. But the account recorded in this book is from an anonymous Spanish cavalier who told this story to a Peruvian mestizo who in later years took the name : The Inca, Garcilaso de la Vega. Garcilaso also supplemented the story with excerpts from the manuscripts of two additional eyewitnesses, Juan Coles and Alonso de Carmona.

There are six books within this work. Each book corresponds to one year of the expedition. The second book contains more material and is divided into two sections.

In the First Book of the History of Florida by the Inca, there is a description of the land and the customs of its natives. The Second Book describes traces of Pamphio de Narvaez. It also describes the further preparations made for the expedition. The second section of Book Two speaks of the fierce struggles that occurred between the Indians and the Spaniards in Apalache. The Third Book tells of the departure of the Spaniards from Apalache. It also tells of the hunger they suffered in some of the uninhabited lands. The Fourth Book relates the battle at the fort of Alibamo, the death of many Spaniards for want of salt, and the crossing of the great river. The Fifth Book tells of a Spaniard who remained among the Indians; the lamentable death of the Govenor Hernando de Soto and the two burials that his men gave him. The second section of the Fifth Book describes how the Spaniards decided to abandon Florida and the long journey they made to do so. The Sixth Book contains an account of the selection of the captains for the navigation, the death of forty-eight Castilians because of the mad action of one of them, the difficulty at sea, the skirmish with the people on the coast, the fine reception given them by the Imperial City of Mexico. It tells of the way in which they dispersed through different parts of the world. Object Name Book Author de la Vega, Garcilaso Published Date 1951 Physical Description Hard Bound
6 x 9 1/2
655 p., with index Catalog Number 2009.20.06 Year Range from 1951

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