Long have I waited to read the diaries of Columbus and Cortes. Though there is much other research that is need to be investigated before I can have legitimate opinion about the transcripts and events, I go into this reading with a state of enmity and conflict. I think a lot of Latinos feel the same. On one had, the reading of our ancestors being so easily beguiled by the Spaniards is cause for natural resentment; on the other, due to that natural resentment I conceive a internal conflict since my cultural base is revolved around the Spanish inheritance. Thus is the historical and relative crossroad of an emotional and intellectual experience.
Upon reading Columbus’s diary, I could not help and feel that my sentiments romanticized that virginity of the naked aboriginals and their innocent curiosity. Though that sentiment appeared in fleeting waves of description, the narrative was clear with bigotry and exploitation. Though I had already entered the reading with my own and additional context due to the watching of the week two video, I could understand the that Cortes was a man with a mandate and with reputation to improve on. The human condition, which we all endure, was shown in this descriptions. He attempted to comprehend what was incomprehensible. He tried to factionalize the fictional with hypothesis and blind faith. All of which is rational and I believe it is safe to say that it would of been committed almost in the same way by anyone in that position.
I think what struck me the most of Columbus’s diary is the fact that the words can bring me to that moment and because of that, I feel like I would have to read it a few time so I could have a better intellectual understanding rather an emotional. One thing that I am always interested in is the religious factor. I left the Catholic church over ten years ago and one of the main reasons was because I could believe in a system that abolished something that my ancestors believed in because they were practicing the word of God, and saving souls from damnation. One of Columbus’s first idiosyncrasies upon seeing the aboriginals was that they would convert and make good Christians. It is interesting to think that that was one of his first conceptions and then in comparison to think about Nietzsche’s 19th century claim that God is dead.
It make’s me wonder if everything the Spanish did was all in vain in regards to saving the damned? Did they kill God by conquering the Americas? Are we saved by separating from our historical inheritance?
I understand the feeling you referenced in your post. I agree that it is an emotionally complex feeling of resentment toward the process of colonization but also in a sense identification (for lack of a better word) because of the languages we have come to speak and some of the cultural practices. I think that this bittersweet feeling is one that we will always have to grapple with. For instance, I love the Brazilian Portuguese language but I also have to remind myself of the reasons why I came to speak this language and how it all took place. As a white Latina, I find it extremely important to consider how my Italian grandfather and European ancestors contributed or took advantage of the systems of oppression that they created and are still in place.
In terms of your discussion questions regarding the use of the Christian faith and religion by the Spanish, I think that faith was just one of the justification that they found to perpetuate brutality and be able to live with it. Moreover, I don’t think we are saved or we will ever be. I know for a matter of fact that in Brazil religion continues to be used as a source of coercion/ manipulation largely influencing the decisions made by the government and targeting the most vulnerable.
I agree with what you said about understanding a piece of literature intellectually, rather than emotionally. This is an issue that plagues not only education, but our lives outside of learning. For instance, in politics, it’s so easy to feel such strong emotions to a policy, article, or person, but remaining objective is much more difficult. Going into an experience with a predetermined mindset affects how we react to certain situations, and tends to make us more stubborn about our beliefs. Our emotions impact everything that we do, meaning that learning about colonialism can be so conflicting. While reading, I tried to remain impartial but everything from language to content, was deeply disturbing.
I think that the ambivalence that you express about Columbus is understandable, and not atypical. More generally, I think that the Spanish (and Portuguese) legacy as a whole often gives rise to a similar ambivalence throughout Latin America.
One more thing: you have the right to a “legitimate opinion” even without further reading. Even if your opinions may change if you read (and learn) more, this doesn’t mean that your first thoughts are somehow illegitimate.