Tejano History

Malhado Island

Tejanos |

       MALHADO ISLAND. Isla de Malhado (“Isle of Misfortune”) was the name applied by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca to an island off the Texas coast where and he and approximately eighty Spaniards and an African were shipwrecked in November 1528. The location of this landform has often been the subject of heated debate since the 1920s. For example, plaintiffs in Civil Action No. G-78-188 (1990), heard by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Galveston Division, contended that “Malhado is Galveston Island.” The court found those arguments unconvincing, as do many historians. There are compelling arguments that the initial landfall was slightly to the west of Galveston Island, and that Cabeza de Vaca's Malhado was a combination of San Luis Island and Oyster Bay peninsula in the Brazosport area. This revisionist conjecture was first advanced in 1918 by Harbert Davenport and Joseph X. Wells. Central to the Davenport and Wells thesis is their contention that silting from the discharge of rivers and the impact of hurricanes turned what had been an elongated island in Cabeza de Vaca's time into a peninsula. Furthermore, the dimensions of Malhado, given by Cabeza de Vaca as about one-half league by five leagues (1.3 by 13 miles), are too small for Galveston Island but approximate those of San Luis Island. Spaniards, as modern-day measurements have confirmed, have been amazingly accurate in estimating their travel in leagues.


Full article on the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas Online

   Courtesy of the Texas State Historical Association.