Artist Ted DeGrazia’s Cabeza de Vaca Collection



Lance Laber, Executive Director of the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun in Tucson, Arizona, talks about artist Ted DeGrazia’s Cabeza de Vaca Collection, one of the permanent collections you can view at the Gallery.

In 1527, Cabeza de Vaca and 600 Spanish conquistadors set sail for the Americas charged with conquering the Native Americans, converting them to Christianity and finding the seven cities of gold. Upon reaching the coast of Florida, only four men including Cabeza de Vaca, Alonso Castillo, Andrés Dorantes and his slave Estebán, an Arab Moor from Morocco, survived illness and the seas. The men embarked on a nine-year-long trek through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona battling starvation, cholera, malaria, mosquitoes and slavery at the hands of the Native Americans. Despite their struggles, Cabeza de Vaca learned to understand and appreciate the local tribes. In turn, the Native Americans came to believe the conquistadors had traveled from the sun and had great powers of healing. Crowds of Native Americans followed them in their journey and asked for blessings from the bearded strangers.

Famed Arizona artist Ted DeGrazia, most likely the most reproduced artist in the world, is known for his art and paintings that trace historical events and native cultures of the Southwest. DeGrazia read extensively about the adventures of the Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, known as the first non-Native American to travel into what are now the states of Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The story of the ill-fated Spanish expedition is told in this collection that includes sketches, watercolors, oils and enamels.

The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun is a 10-acre historic landmark nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona. Opened in 1965, it is home to over 15,000 originals of Ted DeGrazia art pieces including oil paintings, watercolors, ceramics and sculptures. There are six permanent collections on display including: DeGrazia and Padre Kino, DeGrazia Paints Cabeza de Vaca, DeGrazia Paints Papago Indian Legends, Retrospective Collection, DeGrazia Paints the Yaqui Easter and DeGrazia Paints The Bullfight. Showcasing DeGrazia’s other original works, the Gallery hosts different exhibitions throughout the year. Learn more at

JIGSAW PUZZLE: Listen to the Big Blend interview with Lance Laber while you make the online jigsaw of DeGrazia’s ‘Cactus Patch’ painting that is part of the Cabeza de Vaca Collection. Use the full screen icon to make it easier. Use your mouse roller or arrow keys to rotate the puzzle pieces and click and drag to put the pieces in place. Use the Image Icon to see the picture and the Ghost Icon to set your workspace.

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