Spanish Chronicles of the Indies: Sixteenth Century
That the departure of Columbus from Spain to the New World in 1492 was the agent of colossal change - both creative and destructive - in the Western hemisphere is self-evident. That it was also the literary agent to a host of writings chronicling that first voyage and the many Spanish explorations that followed over the next century is much less known. As a stream of explorers, men of arms, missionaries, and government functionaries made their way to the Indies, they recorded their experiences in letters, diaries, journals, and travelogues. Together these writings constitute a rich legacy of Spain's Golden Age, documenting through eyewitness accounts the adventures and tragedies incurred during the course of discovery, conquest, and colonization.
Once of interest only to a small circle of historians, the Spanish chronicles have since the 500th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage come into vogue. Of the studies now available in the field, James Murray's is unique in offering a survey of both the chronicles themselves and the extant scholarship. It provides students of Spanish and Spanish American literature and history with a clear and comprehensive introduction to an eclectic area of study.
Murray focuses on the chronicles long accepted as the most significant. These include the writings of Columbus and of his son Ferdinand on the navigation, discovery, and exploration of the Indies; of Corte's on his conquest of Mexico; of Cabeza de Vaca on the exploration of Florida; of Oviedo on the voyage to and natural history of the Indies; of the Franciscan monk Motolinia on the origins and culture of Mexico's Indians.
The content and tone of each chronicle depended to a large extent on the practical concerns of the chronicler: the need of the explorer to convince those backing the expedition of the riches offered by the New World, of the missionary to justify work with the Indians, of the government emissary to validate the drive to colonize. With few exceptions, Murray writes, "the chronicles presented the conquerors' perspective of events and contributed to the hegemony of European values throughout the colonial period."
In his review of the scholarship, Murray details the efforts to glean from the chronicles the impact of the conquest from the perspective of the "other" - of the indigenous population and of women, both Indian and Spanish. Contemporary scholars are also breaking ground in recognizing the cultural and linguistic complexity of colonial discourse, assessing the aesthetic and literary qualities of the texts, and examining transcriptions of oral tales.
The Spanish chronicles of the Indies of the sixteenth century have both literary and historical value, Murray concludes, and belong to both Spain and Spanish America. The influence of the accounts as narrative can be traced to such acclaimed writers as Pablo Neruda and Gabriel Garcia Marquez; their contribution to the Western world's understanding of its social, political, cultural, and economic history, already inestimable, has yet to be completely disclosed.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Acosta Alonso Alvar America Aztecs Bartolome Bernal Diaz Bernardino de Sahagún Biblioteca Cabeza de Vaca Cartas Casas Casas's Castilian chapter Christian Christopher Columbus Cieza cited in text claims colonial Columbus Columbus's conquista conquistadors Cortes Cortes's crónicas culture Cuneo Decade Diary Diaz del Castillo Diego Velazquez discovered Dominican edition emperor encomienda English translation Estebanico Esteve Barba evangelization eve Barba expedition exploration Ferdinand Fernandez Franciscans Francisco Francisco Pizarro G6mara gold Gonzalo hereafter cited Hernan Cortes Hernando Hispanic Hispaniola historiography Incas Indians Indies indigenous islands Juan king lands language Latin letter literary Madrid Mignolo missionaries monarchs Motolinia's Nahuatl narrative natives natural history Naufragios Nueva España official chronicle Oviedo Pedro Martir Peru Pizarro Plata Portuguese Press prologue readers region relacidn Sahagun Seville sixteenth century sovereigns Spain Spaniards Spanish American literature Tenochtitlan third voyage tion trans University Vaca's Vespucci vols women World writing written wrote Yucatan