Monday, October 27, 2008


In Repuesta a Sor Filotea de la Cruz, Sor Juana shows a lot of strength and confidence; “Que solo con la confianza de favorecida y con los valimientos de honrada me puedo atrever a hablar con vuestra grandeza.” Her strength is evident in her rhetoric and her fearlessness to make powerful references. Footnote 14 reads “Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” I found this reference to be a direct yet underlying sarcastic mockery of the bishop. She also shows strength in her thirst for knowledge. Her “deseo” was so strong that she even planned to attend university dressed as a boy. Sor Juana believed that you cannot understand something without the knowledge of many other things. She saw tremendous importance in being well rounded intellectually. This meant studying vigorously in many different fields and taking them all seriously. She sought to live a divine life and took knowledge and intelligence to a higher level beyond any scholastic teaching. On page 8 she writes, it is necessary to purge your mind before you can have a true understanding of higher intelligence, but to know everything “que ya se ve que no es fácil, ni aun posible.”

Sor Juana uses heavy religious rhetoric with many references to the bible. She believes that the bible and god are the center of the universe, they see no boundaries and everything else revolves around this center. I found it really interesting that she often repeated the same words. The ones I found she repeated the most were: disgust, temptation, sacred/holy and connect/connection. I am not sure if anyone else noticed this or if it is even worth mentioning but it is just something I observed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

span 364

It has been very interesting reading the three very different but still very much connected books. They all represent different point of views but have similarities on a broader scale. Each author in their own individual way preserved a part of history with their encounters. Regardless, if readers agree or disagree with their perspectives, the authors allowed their audience (past or present) to enter a world that was full of conquest, exploration, evangelization, transculturation, attempts at preservation, exploitation of human life, material goods (gold etc.)and much more.

Cabeza de Vaca was writing a letter to the king of Spain wanting to explain his reasons for the failure of his journey. However, it is within this chronicle that the audience can read between the lines and truly discover some wonderful knowledge of the indigenous way of life and culture, how unfairly they were treated by the Europeans and the challenges the Spanish had with the newly encountered environment. As modern day readers we are also able to see how Spain, at this time, viewed the indigenous people, their traditions and everyday life.

Las Casas also wrote a letter to the king of Spain, but took a very different point of view than Cabeza de Vaca. Although both authors are from Spain, they did not see the conquest or treatment of the indigenous people the same way. Las Casas was not against converting the indigenous people, but he did disagree strongly with the manner in which the Spanish were treating the indigenous.

I found Garcilaso de la Vega’s point of view the most interesting because it is a rare perception on the events which took place. The indigenous culture was one of oral traditions and in comparison to the European documentation of the Spanish/New World encounters there is very little written documentation from an indigenous point-of-view.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


The second part of this book was very unlike the first. I felt like I was reading a different book altogether. The tone, the narrative as well as the focus all seemed to change abruptly after page 87. The first part of this book felt like a dedication, a celebration and preservation of the Incan traditions and culture. It was a wonderful and new look into the Incan way of life from a rare point of view. Something that really stuck out for me in this book was towards the end of the first part. Garcilaso de la Vega provided his readers with the different labels that were given to the different “mezclados”. These labels also came with a predetermined hierarchy. It was interesting to see that these ‘labels’ became very elaborate as the ethnic mixing became ever more intricate. Through Garcilaso de la Vega’s work it becomes apparent that the further you look down this complicated hierarchy and its classifications the cruder the labels became: “Al hijo de negro y de India o de indio y de negra, dicen mulato y mulata. A los hijos de éstos llaman cholo…quiere decir perro.” (pg. 86) The more ‘mixed’ that you were suggested the lower you found yourself within the hierarchy.

For me this book being divided into two parts the way it is really exemplifies the change of the Incan culture before and throughout the conquest/evangelization. Garcilaso de la Vega could not maintain the same tone as he did in the first half because the Incan culture and traditions had drastically changed: “Dándole gracias por la merced que les había hecho en traerlos a su verdadero conocimiento; también rendían gracias a los españoles sacerdotes y seculars, por haberles enseñado la doctrina critiana.” (pg. 114)

Monday, September 29, 2008


The second part of this chronicle is just as interesting and at times difficult to read as the first. De Las Casas continues the tone of the first half by descriptively explaining the violence and torture endured by the indigenous peoples. Also his writing style similarly continues throughout the second half of the book with extensive repetition. One of the many points which he repeated was, “Desta dejó perdida y asolada y despoblada una provincial riquísima de gente y oro que tiene un valle de cuarenta leguas, y en ella quemó pueblo que tenía mil casas” (64). He continuously commented on how wonderful the people and land were. In my opinion this would only further encourage the king of Spain to continue the conquest of the ‘New World’. Nonetheless, this chronicle is very unusual for this time period. I greatly enjoyed reading work from a different perspective and even though it was written from a European’s point of view it went against the typical mindset of its time. De Las Casas described this time as a cruel, unjust and intolerable conquest rather than a much needed and celebrated European discovery.

Monday, September 22, 2008


In the first half of Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias it is apparent that De Las Casas is writing for a cause. I do not see any selfish intentions within his writing. Although he is not against colonization and evangelization he does not seem to seek any personal gains from his chronicle. He genuinely is seeking aid for the people of the Americas. De Las Casas uses strong rhetoric to get his point across to his intended reader. The indigenous people are being tortured and the Spanish are not acting like good Christians; “…que en todas las partes de las Indias donde han ido y pasado cristianos, siempre hicieron en los indios todas las crueldades susodichas …en aquellas inocentes gentes.” (pg. 24)

Among all the justifiably used vocabulary to describe the actions of the Spanish, there was one quote that stood out especially. It describes the despair the Indigenous people faced and allows the reader to feel their hopelessness; “Aquellos son los caminos por donde íbamos a servir a los cristianos y, aunque trabajábamos mucho, en fin volvíamonos a cabo de algún tiempo a nuestras casas y a nuestras mujeres y hijos; pero agora vamos sin esperanza de nunca jamás volver ni verlos ni de tener más vida.” (pg. 31)

Monday, September 15, 2008


The second part of the chronicle was very different from that of the first. One of the things that stood out the most is that Cabeza de Vaca reached/portrayed himself as a ‘god-like’ figure. He now also was a healer, peacemaker and an evangelizer. As a healer Cabeza de Vaca was not only able to cure the sick but also revive the dead; “A la noche se volvieron a sus casas, y dijeron que aquel que estaba muerto…se había levantado bueno y se había paseado, y comido, y hablado con ellos.” (p. 158) I wonder, did Cabeza de Vaca’s healing abilities continue to work when he returned to Europe?

Cabeza de Vaca mentions that at times the indigenous people would cry for him when he left to continue in his travels. Does this show that he truly had a strong and positive relationship with the community? Or is Cabeza de Vaca only trying to further advance his image to the reader?

Another interesting element to this part of Naufragios was how Cabeza de Vaca wrote about his attempts at evangelization. It seemed evident that evangelization was to be a big part of his exploration but I found the process seemed rushed in Cabeza de Vaca’s writing and his voyage. The entire issue of evangelization was cramped into a small few chapters towards the end and touched on only sporadically on a few pages throughout. The way Cabeza de Vaca wrote about evangelization in chapters XXXV and XXXVI it seemed as though he had left this issue too late into his voyage and now had to rush the topic before leaving.

Monday, September 8, 2008


After reading the first half of this novel it is apparent through its rhetoric that Cabeza de Vaca wanted his accounts to be taken seriously. He wanted these records to be seen as true accounts of what happened during his journeys and voyages. It seems credible because he writes to, ‘Vuestra Majestad’ and trusts in the protection and the better good of, ‘Dios’. He also spends a lot of time pumping himself up and making himself sound as immaculate as possible. Cabeza de Vaca’s accounts are similar to many other historical sources which I have read where the voyager documents his journeys in a very detailed and repetitive manner which lacks fictional appeal. This narrative is very drawn out and rhetorically lacks excitement. However, after reading the introduction of this book I realized that most likely very much of this narrative was fictional or at least greatly exaggerated. Cabeza de Vaca comes across as slightly arrogant and heroic.

Cabeza de Vaca had intended for his work to be regarded as truthful and educational. Whether or not it is believed that these accounts are fictional or not, this novel can still be very useful as a primary source. However, after realizing that he exaggerated and altered many different aspects to his written accounts I prefer to read this novel as a very well researched fiction. For example, both Cabeza de Vaca and Garcilaso de la Vega separately describe the province of Apalache so differently; “…se llegará a la conclusion que se están describiendo dos tierras completamente diferentes.” (60) I believe that Cabeza de Vaca gives a stereotypical account of his first encounters only to further his novel and name among an audience that has an already pre-determined notion of what they want to hear regarding the new world.