Concluding Summary of last week: - uni-tuebingen.de
The Relation of Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (1542): Early New World Encounters Horst Tonn American Studies A hemispheric perspective on the Americas:
The American continent has historically been a contested space: conquest, migration, expansionism, imperialism, border conflict. American literature and culture come in many languages, media and art forms. It reaches from Native American oral and material culture to the Meso-American cultural empires (Aztec, Maya) to many immigrant languages to contemporary
varieties of artistic expression. ... the ancient part of American history is written chiefly in Spanish (Thomas Jefferson, 1787, in a letter) Euro-American literature begins with the letters of Columbus and the reports and chronicles of the conquests of Mexico and Peru (Hernn Corts, Bartolom de las Casas, etc.) lvar Nnez Cabeza de Vaca, La relacin que dio lvar Nnez Cabeza de
Vaca de le acaescido en las Indias en la armada donde iva por governador Pnphilo de Narbez, desde el ano de veinte y siete hasta el ano de treinta y seis que volvi a Sevilla con tres de su compania (1542) First intense and sustained engagement of a European with North America its native inhabitants, geography, animals and plants. report, document, ethnography, travelogue, chronicle, naturalist account, novel of chivalry, story of transformation, captivity narrative
Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca (1485-92 to ca. 1559) Jerez de la Frontera (Andalusia) Military man: King Ferdinands campaigns in North Africa and Italy 1527: sails to Florida as royal treasurer with the Narvaez expedition 1528-1536: overland travail Gulf of Mexico, Texas, Rio Grande Valley, Arizona, south to Mexico/Tenochtitlan and Veracruz 1537: returns to Spain 1540-1545: governor of Ro de la Plata/Asuncin (todays Paraguay)
But since neither my counsel nor diligence prevailed in order that the endeavor upon which we were embarked be completed as service to Your Majesty, and since no expedition of as many as have gone to those lands ever saw itself in such grave dangers or had such a wretched and disastrous end as that which God permitted us to suffer on account of our sins, I had no opportunity to perform greater service than this, which is to bring to Your Majesty an account of all that I was able to observe and learn in the nine years that I walked lost
and naked through many and very strange lands, as much regarding the locations of the lands and provinces and the distances among them, as with respect to the foodstuffs and animals that are produced in them, and the diverse customs of many and very barbarous peoples with whom I conversed and lived, plus all the other particularities that I could come to know and understand, so that in some manner Your Majesty may be served. Because although the hope that I had of coming out from among them was always very little, ma care and effort to remember everything in detail was always very
great. This account will be counsel of no little use to those who, in your name, may go to conquer those territories, and collectively, bring them knowledge of the true faith and true lord ... For this I have written with great surety so that even though one will read about many new things that many people will find hard to believe, they should be able to
believe them without hesitation. But since the governor carried the healthiest and most robust men among us, in no way were we able to follow or keep up with him. Having seen this, I asked him if he would allow me to attach my raft to his so that I might be able to keep up with him, and he responded that they themselves would have to expend no little effort if they alone were to reach land that night. I told him that since I saw the small possibility we had to be able to follow him and do what he had commanded, he
should tell me what it was that he ordered me to do. He answered me that it was no longer time for one man to rule another, that each one should do whatever seemed best to him in order to save his own life, and that he intended so to do it. And saying this he veered away with his raft. These four Christians having departed, a few days later the weather turned so cold and there were such great storms that the Indians could not pull up the roots. And from the waterways where they fished there was no yield
whatsoever. And as the houses were so unprotected, the people began to die. And five men who were in Xamho on the coast came to such dire need that they ate one another until only one remained, who because he was alone, had no one to eat him. The names of these men were: Sierra, Diego Lpez, Corral, Palacios, Gonzalo Ruiz. The Indians became very upset because of this and it produced such a great scandal among them that without a doubt, if at the start they had seen it, they would have killed them, and all of us would have been in grave danger.
And the land is so rugged and impassable that many times when we gathered firewood in the dense thickets, when we finished taking it out we were bleeding in many places from the thorns and brambles that we encountered, for wherever they ensnared us they broke our skin. Sometimes it happened to me that, after shedding much blood in gathering wood, I could not haul it out, either on my back or by dragging it. I did not have, when I saw myself in these difficulties, any other remedy or consolation but to think about the Passion of our Redeemer Jesus Christ
and the blood he shed for me, and to consider how much greater had been the torment that he suffered from the thorns, than that which I had to endure at that time. I traded with these Indians by making combs for them, and with bows and arrows and nets. We made mats, which are objects of which they have great need. In this Province are many maize fields; and the houses are scattered as are those of the Gelves. There are deer of three kinds, rabbits, hares, bears, lions and other wild beasts. Among them we saw an
animal with a pocket on its belly, in which it carries its young until they know how to seek food; and if it happen that they should be out feeding and any one come near, the mother will not run until she has gathered them in together. The country is very cold. It has fine pastures for herds. Birds are of various kinds. Geese in great numbers. Ducks, mallards, royal-ducks, fly-catchers, night-herons and partridges abound. We saw many falcons, gerfalcons, sparrowhawks, merlins, and numerous other fowl.
Two hours after our arrival at Apalachen, the Indians who had fled from there came in peace to us, asking for their women and children whom we released; but the detention of a cacique by the Governor produced great excitement, in consequence of which they returned for battle early the next day (June 26), and attacked us with such promptness and alacrity that they succeeded in setting fire to the houses in which we were. As we sallied they fled to the lakes near by, because of which and the large maize fields, we could do them
no injury, save in the single instance of one Indian, whom we killed. The day follwing, others came against us from a town on the opposite side of the lake, and attacked us as the first had done, escaping in the same way, except one who was also slain. In view of the poverty of the land, the unfavorable accounts of the population and of everything else we heard, the Indians making continual war upon us, wounding our people and horses at the
places where they went to drink, shooting from the lakes with such safety to themselves that we could not retaliate, killing a lord of Tescuco, named Don Pedro, whom the Commissary brought with him, we determined to leave that place and go in quest of the sea, and the town of Aute of which we were told. ... The Indians we had so far seen in Florida 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 will discharge at two hundred paces with so great precision that they miss nothing. We passed through many territories and found them all vacant: their inhabitants wandered fleeing among the mountains, without daring to have houses or till the earth for fear of Christians. The sight was one of infinite pain to us, a land very fertile and beautiful, abounding
in springs and streams, the hamlets deserted and burned, the people thin and weak, all fleeing or in concealment. As they did not plant, they appeased their keen hunger by eating roots, and the bark of trees. We bore a share in the famine along the whole way; for poorly could these unfortunates provide for us, themselves being so reduced they looked as though they would willingly die. We found them so alarmed they dared not remain anywhere. They
would not, nor could they till the earth; but preferred to die rather than live in dread of such cruel usage as they received. Although these showed themselves greatly delighted with us, we feared that on our arrival among those who held the frontier and fought against the Christians, they would treat us badly, and revenge upon us the conduct of their enemies; but when God our Lord was pleased to bring us there, they began to dread and respect us as the others had done, and even somewhat more, at which we no little
wondered. Thence it may at once be seen, that to bring all these people to be Christians and to the obedience of the Imperial Majesty, they must be won by kindness, which is a way certain, and no other is. May God our Lord in his infinite mercy grant, in all the days of Your Majesty and under your authority and dominion, that these people come and be truly and with complete devotion subject to the true Lord who created and redeemed them. And we
hold it for certain that it will be so, and that Your Majesty will be the one who is to put this into effect, that it will not be so difficult to do, because in the two thousand leagues that we traveled by land and through the sea on the rafts and another ten months that we went through the land without stopping once we were no longer captives, we found neither sacrifices nor idolatry. In this period we crossed from one sea to the other, and by the information that with very great effort we acquired, we came to understand that from one coast to the other at its widest point, the distance may be two hundred leagues. And we came to know that on the coast of the South Sea
there are pearls and many riches and that all the best and richest things are near it. Conclusion: First Contact: discovery & conquest; naming & claiming; observation & description: nature, resources, people; first interactions: fear, curiosity, exchange of goods/trade; purpose: Christianization and economic exploitation. Early New World Encounters: violence, war and enslavement for
native populations; transformation of the colonizers to New World inhabitants: acculturation to survive, learn new social codes and languages, become hybrid New World man American Literary History: hemispheric perspective, pluri-cultural and multi-lingual, must start from Spanish colonial records La relacin (1542): part of the American canon, first document of intense engagement, transformation to New World Man, complex encounters of colonizers and native Americans are central to the
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