Week 2

Posted by in Week 2


In reading The Voyage of Christopher Columbus and The First New Chronicle and Good Government the reader is given a glimpse into the initial European perspectives on indigenous societies and the American continent. Glaringly evident is the discrepancy in represented voices, exacerbated by the flagrant contrasting juxtaposition of the two cultures at first contact. It is regrettable that no complementary accounts could grant modern readers an indigenous perspective on this historical meeting of cultures.

In both Columbus and Poma’s accounts, a focal point is placed on a duality of primary interests of the writers: gold and religion. From the very first sentences, a value is assessed of the indigenous lands and populations’ potential for exploitation on those two axes. Clearly, a primordial, even existential need of these spanish ‘explorers’ is to legitimize the large amount of resources invested into their transatlantic enterprise. The Spanish Crown, here the main supporter of these voyages, demands a return in mineral or spiritual capital in order to maintain an interest in Columbus and Poma’s expeditions.

These primary documents shed light onto the early perceptions of the ‘new world,’ underlining an important feature of the colonial interests being those of gold and religious expansion. Though these are not new additions to contemporary discussions, they serve as an important reminder of how latin america was, from the beginning of its contact with European colonizers, constructed as a source of wealth. This commodification reduces indigenous peoples and their traditional lands to resources to be exploited. The account of Colombus’ and Poma’s remain today, in contrast with the absence of indigenous voices, having important consequences on the dominant narratives told about the region as a whole. To a large extent, these dominant narratives have replicated themselves, since their initial accounts analyzed here, into contemporary stories and perceptions of the region and its people. This monolithic and monoperspective narrative has nevertheless been challenged, and continues to do so through efforts of decolonizing our discussions of Latin America, and subsequently granting it auto-determination in its regional identity.