Cabeza De Vaca, Alvar Nunez
CABEZA DE VACA, ÁLVAR NÚÑEZ (ca. 1490–ca. 1556). Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, an early Spanish explorer, was born about 1490 in Jerez de la Frontera, an Andalucian town near Cádiz, to Francisco de Vera and Teresa Cabeza de Vaca. Cabeza de Vaca was his preferred surname. It descended from an ancestor who had helped secure victory for Christian forces at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) by marking an unguarded pass in the Sierra Moreno with the skull of a cow. In gratitude, King Sancho of Navarra bestowed the surname “Cow's Head” on Cabeza de Vaca's matrilineal progenitors. The Álvar Núñez portion of Cabeza de Vaca's name also came from a prominent ancestor of his mother, who was an accomplished naval officer.