A Land So Strange is a novel about the arduous journey that a band of Spanish colonists undergo in an effort to explore Florida and other parts of the New World. However, it cannot so simply be defined as a journey. Andrés Reséndez proves that it is a expedition filled with continuous misfortune, disastrous hardship, and harsh conditions. Initiated by Naraváez, the men pass through several foreign areas with different goals manifesting as they adventure. First and foremost, they do their best to survive through many environmental settings, such as hurricanes, powerful currents, swampy grounds, and frigid winters. Acquiring food and drink in an effort to resist starvation and dehydration are two other important goals for the debilitated men. Additionally, the natives serve to be a huge hindrance for the Spanish colonists as they try to locate their desired landmarks which are much farther than the colonists assume. However, the men have unwavering determination to both survive and colonize.
As it can be seen, environment plays a huge role in the narrative and could almost be described as a character in itself. Reséndez’s illustrative portrayal of the harsh conditions the colonists face is extremely useful because it sheds light on the disease-ridden and fatiguing circumstances the colonists undergo. I do not gain a sense of any exaggeration from Reséndez when describing the awful conditions and the causes for why the men die off. It paints a perfect picture of an imperfect situation where a constant struggle for survival is an inescapable reality. Description of the severe environmental conditions allows the reader to gain a sense of understanding of the explorers’ emotions, morale, and state of health. Further, the brutal conditions are very significant throughout the text because it shows the mens’ strength in spirit. As they are Christian, Cabeza de Vaca explains that it must be God who is allowing them to survive through such tropical storms and cold temperatures. In this case, the environment almost acts as both a deterrent that leads the colonists to failure and a motivating factor that enables the men to persist.