CABEZA DE VACA (1991)

Filmic Context:  Print-- Audio -- Online
Print Resources
Bruce-Novoa, Juan.  "Shipwrecked in the Seas of Signification: Cabeza de Vaca's La Relacion and Chicano Literature." Reconstructing a Chicano Literary Heritage.  Ed. Maria Herrera-Sobek.  Tucson: U of Arizona P, 1993.

Bruce-Novoa's focus in this essay is in affirming Cabeza de Vaca's Relacion as "a fundamental text of Chicano literature" (4).  He suggests a dual analysis of the work to affirm the meaning of Cabeza de Vaca's place in the Chicano literary heritage.  First, he asserts the need for a "refocus" of traditional critical analytical approaches.  Second, he says that Chicano critics need to "demonstrate how the text exerts a creative force on Chicano letters" (4). Bruce-Novoa is also concerned that the defining characteristics of Cabeza de Vaca's text are "in one way or another, our [Chicano] very own" (4). He believes that Cabeza de Vaca's experiences in the New world changed him forever and that his "American alterability distinguished him from other Spaniards" (16).  Juan-Novoa concludes by asserting that Cabeza de Vaca's attributes are Chicano and Relacion represents Cabeza de Vaca's " metamorphosis" as a "founding" text of Chicano culture and literature (5).

Della Flora, Anthony.  "Film Follows Life of Cabeza de Vaca."  Albuquerque Journal 14 June 1998: H2.

Della Flora's article reports on the screening of Cabeza de Vaca at the University of New Mexico's Media Arts Program, "Spain and the Americas: Mutual Cinematic Perceptions." Della Flora interviews Nicolas Echevarria the director of Cabeza de Vaca. He discovers that Echevarria chose Cabeza de Vaca as the subject for his film because the story of the conquistador-turned-shaman  is considered an exception to the notion that the history of the conquest of the New world is a story about the conflict between Spanish conquistadors and native peoples. Echevarria says that the film "is one of the few examples of the Spaniards, that after living with the Indians, took the Indians' side. They became defenders of the Indians' cause, instead of continuing to support the conqueror's cause."  Echevarria points out that the film's depiction of the transformation of Cabeza de Vaca into a mystic during his eight-year journey in the American wilderness "is the main story of the film."  He stresses that the film's main theme is "the creation of a new man--a man who is not European, who is not Indian, who is right in the middle."   The article ends with a quote by Echevarria  suggesting that Cabeza de Vaca depicts "the beginning of the newborn American or Latin American."

Ebel, Mark T.  Five Films of Pre-Columbian Culture, The Discovery of the New World, and the Spanish Conquest.  Diss. Florida State U, 1996.  Ann Arbor: UMI, 1997.

This study focuses on five films from three continents that were produced and released around the time of the celebration of the quincentennial of Christopher Columbus in1992. The main focus of the book is on three Latin American films-- Jerico (Venezuela), Retorno a Aztlan (Mexico), and Cabeza de Vaca (Mexico-Spain). The author also examines two film about Columbus--1492: Conquest of Paradise (Britain- France- Spain)) and Christopher Columbus :The Discovery (U.S.). Ebel notes that the three Latin American films are all first feature films of directors who were documentarians, and both Cabeza de Vaca and Jerico are films about first contact between European and Natives. The writer devotes an entire chapter in the book to Cabeza de Vaca. Ebel summarizes the plot of the movie and traces briefly the historical background on which the film is based.  Ebel notes that the film relies primarily on visual images to tell the story and suggests that the scant dialogue in the film distances the audience and "adds to the viewer's sense of discomfort or alienation" (85). The writer explores the ways in which the film offers a "message of universality" in its depiction of Cabeza de Vaca's "combination of religious virtue and adaptability to Indian religious beliefs' (131).

Gordon, Richard.  "Exoticism and National Identity in Cabeza de Vaca and Como Era Gostoso O Meu Frances [How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman]."  Torre de Papel 10:1 (2000): 77-119.

"Cabeza de Vaca's display and subsequent critique of exoticism and Como era's appropriation of exoticism within a strategy of self-exoticizing are central" to both films.  "To what degree do the films run the risk of perpetuating negative stereotypes by concurrently activating and de-activating exoticism?  Are the films' arguments ultimately consistent or contradictory?"

Hershfield, Joanne.  "Assimilation and Identification in Nicolas Echevarria's Cabeza de Vaca."  Wide Angle  16 (1995): 7-24.

Hershfield 's article traces briefly the history of Mexican cinema before offering her central argument that the film Cabeza de Vaca "proposes a critical examination of conventional narrativizations of the Conquest," by dramatizing "the production of a New World Identity through the process of assimilation and identification with the Other" (9). She notes that Cabeza de Vaca's captivity by native tribes forces him to become "the Other"  in a position of subservience to indigenous tribes (9).  Hershfield claims that Cabeza de Vaca is a film that meets the specific Mexican need for reinterpretation of the country's past history in order to "define [Mexican] national identity"  or "essential Mexicanness (11). The film's depiction of Cabeza de Vaca's self-discovery during his journey into Mexico "deconstructs the historical logic of the Spanish discovery of America" according to Hershfield (15).. The film suggests that Mexican identity is not merely the result of the biological bonding of Spanish and Native men and women but a complex process that involves " various dialogic processes of everyday interactions between selves and others" (21). Hershfield concludes that the movie is an example of Mexican cinema's contribution to the ongoing "search for an 'authentic' national identity in [Mexican] social and cultural discourse" (16).

Kraniauskas, John.  "Cabeza de Vaca."  Travesia (Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies) 1.2 (1992): 113-22.

Not seen.

Maciel, David R.  "El Imperio de la Fortuna: Mexico's Contemporary Cinema, 1985-1992."  The Mexican Cinema Project.  Ed. Chon A. Noriega and Stephen Ricci.  Austin: U of Texas P, 1994.  33-44.

Maciel's essay offers an overview and interpretation of contemporary Mexican cinema and examines the factors that have led to a "renaissance of Mexican cinema" (33). Maciel notes that the appointment in 1989 of Ignacio Duran as director of the Mexican Institute of Cinematography (IMCINE) by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari resulted in "a new era in Mexican cinema" (34). Duran encouraged coproductions with foreign investors in order to supplement  limited Mexican financial resources and began a major promotion of foreign exhibitions of Mexican films. Cabeza de Vaca is offered as an example of a Mexican and Spanish coproduction.  Maciel notes that the film became "the official film of IMCINE" which promoted the film aggressively in foreign markets.  The article traces director Nicolas Echevarria's ten-year effort to complete the film.  Maciel says that Cabeza de Vaca offers "a revisionist view of the conquest and the colonial legacy of Spain in Mexico," and that Echevarria attempts "to portray the perspective and world vision of the indigenous people" (39).

Restrepo, Luis Fernando.  "Primitive Bodies in Latin American Cinema: Nicolas Echevarria's Cabeza de Vaca."  Primitivism and Identity in Latin America.  Ed. Erik Camayd-Freixas and Jose Eduardo Gonzalez.  Tucson: U of Arizona P, 2000.  189-208.

"In this essay I will focus on Cabeza de Vaca's process of inscribing Amerindians in the realm of the primitive.  The film primitivizes the Other in several ways.  It's main theme is the hero's discovery of his primitive Other.  Also, the Other is turned 'primitive' through a film language that focuses on the body."

"Retelling in Modern Media."  Americas 48 (1996): 27.

This article by an anonymous author offers an overview of the wide variety of artists, authors, poets, musicians, film, and screen writers who have represented the story of Cabeza de Vaca in media. The article notes Echevarria's film Cabeza de Vaca and the published screenplay by Echevarria and Guillermo Sheriden. The writer suggests that Cabeza de Vaca's story may be one inspiration for the Captain John Smith story that the recent Disney film Pocohantas is based. Works about Cabeza de Vaca by poets Clinton DeWitt and Walter Henderson, music composer George Antheil, painter Ted De Grazia, and writers Haniel Long, Morris Bishop, John Upton Terrell, Daniel Pranger, and Henry Miller are described.

Walter, Krista.  "Filming the Conquest: Cabeza de Vaca and the Spectacle of History."  Literature/Film Quarterly 30.2 (2002): 140-45.

"What I wish to examine . . . is the film's . . . distinctly postmodern view of history, Native Americans, and cultural identity in general.  Replicating the strategy of American films about the Vietnam war . . . Cabeza de Vaca envisions a kind of cultural redemption from the 'horror' of conquest via a familiar, Western male hero paradoxically empowered through his loss of self."

Representations of Cabeza de Vaca:

Cheaves, Sam Frank.  Child of the Sun: A Historical Novel Based on the Journey of Cabeza de Vaca Across North America.  Santa Fe:  Sun, 1986.

Clissold, Stephen.  The Seven Cities of Cibola.  New York: Potter, 1962.

De Grazia, Ted.  De Grazia Paints Cabeza de Vaca: The First Non-Indian in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona 1527-1536.  Tuscon: U of Arizona P, 1973.

Hall, Oakley.  The Children of the Sun.  New York: Atheneum, 1983.

Haven, Stephen.  "A Geography of Movement."  The American Poetry Review  24(1995): 48-49.  (click for a reading of the poem)

Henderson, Walter Brooks Drayton. The New Argonautica: An Heroic Poem in Eight Cantos of the Voyage Among the Stars of the Immortal Spirits of Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Francis Drake, Ponce De Leon and Nunez de Vaca.  New York:  Macmillan, 1927.

Johnston, Lisa Jones.  Crossing the Continent: The Incredible Journey of Cabeza de Vaca.  Austin: Eakin, 1997.

Long, Haniel.  The Power Within Us.  New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, 1944.

Mac, Perry I.  Black Conquistador.  St. Petersburg: Boca Bay, 1998.

Panger, Daniel. Black Ulysses.  Athens: Ohio UP, 1982.

Remington, Frederic. Cabeza de Vaca. The Frederic Remington Book. Garden City: Doubleday,1966.

Swan, Gladys.  Do You Believe in Cabeza de Vaca?.  Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1991.

Slaughter, Frank Gill.  Apalachee Gold: The Fabulous Adventures of Cabeza de Vaca.  New York:  Doubleday, 1954.

Terrell, John Upton.  Journey Into Darkness.  New York: Morrow, 1962.

Wade, Mary Dodson.  Cabeza de Vaca: Conquistador Who Cared.  Houston: Colophon House, 1995.

See also:

Bishop, Morris.  The Odyssey of Cabeza de Vaca.  New York: The Century Co., 1933.

Howard, David A.  Conquistador in Chains.  Tuscaloosa:  U of Alabama P, 1997.

King, John.  Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America.  New York: Verso, 1990.

Maciel, David.  "The Cinematic Renaissance of Contemporary Mexico 1985-1992."  Spectator 13 (1992): 70-85.

McGann, Thomas F. "The Ordeal of Cabeza de Vaca."  American Heritage 12 (1960): 78-82.

Miller, Henry. Introduction. The Power Within Us or The Story of Cabeza de Vaca. Transformation Four. By Haniel Long. Ed. Stephan Schimanski and Henry Treece. London: Lindsay Drummond, 1946.

Rosenstone, Robert A.  "History in Images / History in Words: Reflections on the Possibility of Really Putting History onto Film."  American Historical Review  93 (1988): 1173-1185.

Sheriden, Guillermo. Cabeza de Vaca Screenplay.  Mexico City: Ediciones El Milagro, 1994.

Stevens, Donald. "Never Read History Again?"  Based on a True Story: Latin American History at the Movies.  Ed. Donald Stevens. Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 1997. 1-11.

White, Hayden. "Historigraphy and Historiophoty."  American Historical Review 93 (1988): 1193-1199.

Wild, Peter.  Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca. Boise: Boise State U, 1991.

Audio Resource

Matthews, Colin.  The Great Journey.  Cond. Colin Matthews.  The Nash Ensemble.  NMC, 1997.  (click here for a slide show with an excerpt from Matthews' opera)

"The Great Journey" is a contemporary opera in English based on Cabeza de Vaca's Relacion.  This recording is from a July, 1990 performance of the opera at Blackheath Concert Hall in London. Parts I and II describe the expedition, the disasterous outcome, and first contact with natives.  Part III and IV tells of the journey in the interior of the American wilderness and Cabeza de Vaca's eventual arrival at a Spanish settlement in Mexico.

Online Resources

Cabeza de Vaca de Nicolas Echevarria
http://www.monteuve.com/pag/peliculas/pc1.html

A Spanish language site which contains brief information on the film Cabeza de Vaca and actor Juan Diego who portrays Cabeza de Vaca in the film.  It also contains links to the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematographia (IMCINE) website and several other Cabeza de Vaca websites.

The IMCINE Homepage
http://imcine.gob.mx/cabeza.html

This page is on the the Spanish language website for the Instituto Mexicano de Cinematographia (IMCINE). It includes general information on the film Cabeza de Vaca, a short synopsis of the life of Cabeza de Vaca, and information on film director Nicolas Echevarria.

Mexican Film Resource Page
http://www.wam.umd.edu/~dwilt/mfb.html

This page includes a variety of Spanish language links relating to Mexican cinema, radio, and television. A variety of educational, government, and commercial sites are included, including a link to IMCINE.
 
 

Copyright (c) 2000 by Paul Galante, Graduate Student at Lehigh University.

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