After a failed invasion of Northern Florida the Spanish conqueror and explorer Pánfilo de Nárvaez retreated back to port with a ragged bunch of restless men. More than half of his platoon had either been killed by the savage Florida jungles or were picked off by killer native attacks. Supplies had vanished, and when Narváez returned to the harbor he discovered that his ships had all disappeared. Returning to Cuba without him. He ordered the construction of four large rafts and told his fellow soldiers that this is “where New Spain ends”. It is not known for certain where and when Narváez died. The last man to see Narváez alive and tell of it was Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, a junior officer of the Narváez expedition. According to Cabeza de Vaca, when he asked Narváez for more food and provisions Narváez refused, basically saying “every man for himself.” The rafts took off for Cuba but were destroyed in a hurricane. Around thirty men survived the sinking of the rafts, but Narváez was not among them. Cabeza de Vaca and the remaining Spanish survivors washed ashore near modern-day Tampa Bay. They quickly formed an expedition to reach a Spanish settlement in Mexico and regroup there, thinking it was only a few miles away, but after a series of battles with hostile natives they ended up rafting their way into southwestern Texas. Traveling west along the Colorado River, de Vaca and the survivors of the ill-fated expedition became the first Europeans to see a bison, or American buffalo. De Vaca returned to Spain nine years later and published his story. It was the bestseller of its time. In it there are references to Conquistador encounters with giants. De Vaca’s astounding tales mention an encounter with giant natives during a raid while in Florida:
When we attempted to cross the large lake, we came under heavy attack from many giant Indians concealed behind trees. Some of our men were wounded in this conflict for which the good armor they wore did not avail. The Indians we had so far seen are all archers. They go naked, are large of body, and appear at a distance like giants. They are of admirable proportions, very spare and of great activity and strength. The bows they use are as thick as the arm, of eleven or twelve palms in length, which they discharge at two hundred paces with so great precision that they miss nothing.