This is a timely edition and translation of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s Naufragios, as this book is commonly known in its Spanish editions. Enrique Pupo-Walker’s edition is based on his Spanish edition for Editorial Castalia (1992). Pupo-Walker follows the 1555 Valladolid edition of Naufragios y comentanos rather than the less polished 1542 Zamora edition, which was printed without Cabeza de Vaca’s supervision. Although the original titles did not use the term naufragios (shipwrecks) but La relación que dio Alvar Núñez Cabeça de Vaca (1542) and La relación y comentarios del gouernador Aluar Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca, the table of contents of the Valladolid edition uses Relación y naufragios as a title. The title Naufragios gained popularity after Andrés González Barcia Carbadillo y Zúñiga’s 1749 Madrid edition. Naufragios clearly conveys, better than Relación, Cabeza de Vaca’s experiences between 1528 and 1536, living among Native Americans and crossing the continent from Tampa Bay in Florida to the Pacific coast village of Culiacán in Northern Mexico.

Translator Frances M. López-Morillas’ rendition of the title captures well the power of the Spanish while providing an accurate translation of the original. The choice of Narrative is a definite improvement over Relation in Buckingham Smith’s 1851 version or the avoidance of the term in Fanny Bandelier (The Journey of Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, 1905) and Cyclone Covey (Cabeza de Vaca’s Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America, 1961). This last version takes the liberty of editing the text and reorganizing the chapters beyond recognition. Bandelier’s translation follows the 1542 version. Smith, on the other hand, contains many passages whose garbled prose does little to clarify obscure passages in the original Spanish. López-Morillas should be commended for her clarity and lively style, which convey the vibrancy of Cabeza de Vaca’s narrative.

Pupo-Walker’s short introduction provides biographical information (expanded in greater detail in an appendix) and an informative discussion of Cabeza de Vaca’s journey to Río de la Plata, where he sailed as governor and adelantado in 1540. In his observations on the Comentarios, Pupo-Walker singles out the literary qualities of the Naufragios, what he calls the imaginary dimension. Pupo-Walker’s preference for the Naufragios over the Comentarios and his compartmentalization of history and fiction as not only discernible between passages but in binary opposition (the imaginary dimension “cast doubt on its historical content,” p. xxix) betrays recent definitions of historical truth. Rhetorical commonplaces or literary motifs need not imply an imaginative license that annuls historical accuracy, but simply the adoption of particular forms to convey specific ideological significations.

Another appendix provides a useful identification of the Native American nations Cabeza de Vaca encountered. In his notes and references to the Spanish edition, Pupo-Walker tends to evaluate Cabeza de Vaca’s ethnographic descriptions in terms of their approximation of modern anthropology without considering the colonialist baggage of this academic discipline. Readers might want to consider the Naufragios as a sixteenth-century cultural artifact rather than as an anticipation of the Enlightenment.

These reservations, however, do not diminish the immense value of this edition and translation. While the linguistic observations in the editor’s Spanish edition are indispensable for advanced students of the Naufragios, this English version, with its short introduction, sparse notes, and informative appendixes, is an excellent text for undergraduate courses taught in English.