Art of the Month

Estevanico worked as a spiritual healer as he traveled among the natives. He carried a red gord that rattled and wore feathers.

He was called Estevanico “Little Stephen” by history, but perhaps his given name was Mustafa. He born free in the Moroccan city of Azemmouri between 1490 and 1500. His faith was probably Muslim, which meant he probably knew how to read and write. As a young man, he was taken captive by slavers and sold to a Spanish nobleman, which meant he had to learn the language of Spanish and maybe even Portuguese.

He was taken on a expedition to conquer the new world in 1527, but things went terribly wrong. Of the 600 men who set out on the journey only 4 made it, and he was one of them.

Estevanico and his fellow travelers had to journey across North America from Tampa Bay coast along the Gulf to South Texas. They were captured by Natives and enslaved for almost six years. He worked as the interpreter, because he knew how to learn languages and communicate with people who were different than him.

At one point they escaped from the natives and made a two-year journey to Mexico posing as spiritual healers for Native Americans. He was known to wear feathers like the natives and carry a red gord as a rattle. Once they made it to the Spanish colony in Mexico, life went back to usual, where Estevanico was once again a slave at the will of the others.

The explorers were still looking for gold but were too afraid to go themselves, so his owner lent Estevanico to a friar and sent him back out to explore North America in search for gold.

Legend has it that Estevanico died in his encounter with the Zuni natives in modern day New Mexico, but no body was ever found. By 1539 he was assumed dead because none of the Europeans ever saw him again.


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