a film by David Fenster

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Based on the writings of 16th century conquistador turned shamanic healer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca an early European explorer of the "New World" and one of the strangest figures in U.S. history.

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"Cabeza de Vaca is an unusual figure, so I used unconventional techniques to tell his story: I collaborated with Psychic Asher Hartman and practiced mediumship to channel the spirit of Cabeza De Vaca who chose to communicate through the prickly pear cacti, also known as the Opuntia, the plant that saved him from starvation."

— David Fenster, director


In 1528 Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca crossed the Gulf of Mexico on a raft made of melted armor and slaughtered horses. Over the next eight years, experiences with various Native American groups transformed him from conquistador to shamanic healer. When he returned to Spain he wrote La Relación, a chronicle of his experiences in the "New World". Using these writings and with help from a psychic medium, David Fenster (director) attempts to communicate with Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca through a prickly pear cactus, also known as OPUNTIA, the plant that saved him from starvation. 

OPUNTIA follows de Vaca’s route from Florida to Texas to Chihuahua, tracing the physical markers of his journey and exploring history’s echoes and fictions encountered along the way.

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