Esteban : The African Slave Who Explored America

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When Pueblo Indians say, ""The first white man our people saw was a black man,"" they are referring to Esteban, who came to New Mexico in 1539. After centuries of negative portrayals, this book highlights Esteban's importance in America's early history.

Books about the history of the American West have ignored Esteban or belittled his importance, often using his slave nickname, Estebanico. What little we know about Esteban comes from Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and other Spanish chroniclers, whose condescension toward the African slave has carried over into most history books. In this work Herrick dispels the myths and outright lies about Esteban. His biography emphasizes Esteban rather than the Spaniards whose exploits are often exaggerated and jingoistic in the sixteenth-century chronicles. He gives Esteban full credit for his courage and his skill as a linguist and cultural intermediary who was trusted and respected by Indians from many tribes across the continent.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 304 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 27.18mm | 580.6g
  • Albuquerque, NM, United States
  • English
  • 0826359817
  • 9780826359810

Review quote

"A well-crafted and thorough synthesis of the existing documentary evidence and the most recent scholarly speculations regarding the life of the black African Moor who played a pivotal role in the earliest Spanish reconnaissance of what is now the southern United States and northwest Mexico."--Richard Flint, author of No Settlement, No Conquest: A History of the Coronado Entrada "Drawn from a broad spectrum of secondary sources, Dennis Herrick's Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America takes a new approach to understanding the importance of Esteban. . . . Clearly he was a hero and not a villain."

--True West "Herrick's book . . . uses every type of source, from Spanish records to French recollections and the recollections and opinions of modern-day Pueblo historians and African American opinion leaders, to help reconstruct the world of Esteban and his connection with the Cabeza de Vaca expedition and others in the New World."

--Wagon Tracks "Coalesces a great deal of information and offers interesting insights."

--Southwestern Historical Quarterly "Offers a fresh perspective on one of the most elusive men in early American history. . . . Herrick argues persuasively that the odyssey of Cabeza de Vaca was also the odyssey of Esteban."

--Roundup "A highly readable book by a writer who has spent a lifetime writing clear, enjoyable prose. . . . Herrick's ability to sweep the reader along while still managing to question every old detail simply makes Esteban all the more welcome."

--The Journal of Arizona History
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About Dennis Herrick

Dennis Herrick, a former newspaper reporter, editor, and publisher, is a lecturer emeritus of journalism at the University of New Mexico. He is the author of nine books and numerous articles and short stories, many of them about the Southwest and its Indian peoples. Herrick lives in Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
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