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All The World Is Human

series: Conquistadors With Michael Wood

air date: 8/29/13 8:59 PM

In the last segment, the story shifts to the North American continent. In April 1528, 400 conquistadors, dreaming of gold, land in Florida to begin the exploration and conquest of what is now the southern United States. After terrible months of trekking northward, fighting off hostile Indians in the swamps of Florida, they build boats and try to escape to Mexico. Most are never seen again. This is the tale of four survivors shipwrecked on the shores of Texas and in particular that of Alvar Nuez Cabeza de Vaca, who wrote it all down many years later. Living among the Indians of the coast for five years, Cabeza de Vaca finally rejoins the three others; together they embark on an epic walk across America to the Pacific coast, reappearing in Mexico eight years after they were lost. Riding through the north Mexican desert, sleeping at prehistoric campsites and staying in caves with the Tarahumara Indians in the wild gorges by Copper Canyon, Wood travels to the Pacific along ancient Indian trails walked by the Spaniards and visits the spectacular Native- American city of Casas Grandes. Cabeza de Vaca, in a book recounting his adventures, came to identify with the Indians against his fellow Spanish and Christians. At the end of this episode, Wood considers how the message of people like Cabeza de Vaca awakened the conscience of Europe about the brutality of the conquistadors, the justice of the conquest and the rights of the native peoples of the New World.

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