The first source is Carlos Jáuregui and Mark Smith-Soto’s bilingual publication on the “The Conquest on Trial”, originally published by Luis Hurtado de Toledo in 1557 (Jáuregui 2). As a narrative, the play is told through the eyes of a band of indigenous Americans. The principle concern of the source is the brutality of the conquistadors. Through the court drama that ensues, themes regarding the grounds for conquest, the purpose of evangelizing and abusing the natives, the legitimacy of converts in the New World, oppression, and the role of empire are all explored (2). In this way, the play signifies an anthology of the time period’s most lively debates revolving around colonialism. The play ultimately concludes that the reasons for the conquest are economic rather than evangelical, and that the only gospel the Spaniards are concerned with is the “gospel of desire”, whether that be gold, labor, or fame (1). Thus, the play ends without resolving the petition of the indigenous who had filed the complaint, and justice is relegated for the afterlife (1).
Though the original author(s) of this piece are uncertain (it is believed that Miguel de Carvajal contributed in some form), it nonetheless represents a scarce artform of the 16th century, one whose sociopolitical significance cannot be understated. Even as a sensationalized artform, the play involves the likes of Bartolomé de las Casas, engaging with the priest’s beliefs (22). The rich cast of characters, including Death, Flesh, World, Satan, Martin Luther, various Saints, bandits, Spanish Jews, Moors, chieftains, and so forth ensure that the whole intricacy and diversity of colonial life is not only represented but played out through interaction, allegory, and symbolism (3). For the purposes of the video assignment, this source’s lack of objectivity and fantastical elements are among its greatest strengths. By dramatizing what are otherwise real qualms and experiences, the play gives a unique insight into the life of colonization, but one which is still situated in the tradition of “Danza de la Muerte” (4). The existence of this tradition itself is explicated by the source and can be informative for the purposes of the video. For example, the figures of speech used by the indigenous in the play are often related to pestilence and illness, almost certainly referring to one of the deadliest plagues in history, killing 80% of Mexico’s population, not long before the play’s conception (5). In totality, the dynamics of the play’s genre, its characters and theme, and its relation to other sources are incredibly relevant and distinct to the colonial period. Carlos Jáuregui, as an Associate Professor of Latin American Literature and Anthropology, puts his expertise to use in the analysis of this primary source.
The second source is “Afro-Latino Voices: Translations of Early Modern Ibero-Atlantic Narratives”. By merging primary sources written by Afro-Latinos and the knowledge of authorities on the subject, this book enlarges overlooked aspects of colonialism and recognizes the complexities of the period. The book itself is categorized into four thematic topics: “Politics and War”, “Families and Communities”, “Religious Beliefs and Practices”, and “Claiming and Defending Rights”. All of these represent different stages and distinctions to the African people’s experience. The first-hand sources in particular grant an emic perspective to the topic. Within the video assignment, these records will contribute meaningfully to the actualities of the African diaspora by uniting otherwise isolated narratives of African people’s experiences, and in intimate detail. This is especially true considering the resources offers perspectives from those fully subjugated under the hierarchies of colonization as well as those who reside in more exceptional social positions. By encompassing the lives of African people who were enslaved, free, or slave owning, writing everywhere from Kongo to New Spain, and regarding many different subjects, the book is comprehensive in its task to give Afro-Latino voices attention. This source is bolstered by its relevant time-frame, fitting for the topic of colonialism because it covers the three stages of the colonial era: “exploration/conquest, mid-colonial society, and the late colonial age of reform” (Location No. 288). The fact that the source also includes the original documents in Spanish and Portuguese alongside their English translations speaks to the authenticity of the scholarship.
However, there also limitations and blind spots with the source. Most of the African people’s voices in this source have been “recorded” by European scribes, and this all too often can lead to an ideological interpretation and distortion on the part of the European or elsewise foreign authors. Another limitation is that though the primary sources originate from several regions within South America, Europe, Africa, and North America, many Afro-Latino voices are still predictably omitted. This source mostly captures the narratives told from the bureaucratic system of the colonial world, whilst many voices are excluded due to the nature of oral transmission or a lack of literacy nor scribe. This is often the nature of historical investigation. Thus, though the documents are mediated and not always written for Afro-Latino communities, it is important to read between the lines and understand the nuances of the genre conventions of colonial administrative writing, of which there are many. Luckily, the authors of the book oblige. Unlike my other source, “Afro-Latino Voices: Translations of Early Modern Ibero-Atlantic Narratives” works towards a standard of objectivity. Although the primary sources have undergone revision or arbitration, the book offers the interpretive and analytical framework to work through these, and therefore the voices of Afro-Latinos can still be recovered in this thorough collection of primary sources, literary analysis, and historical research.
Jáuregui, Carlos. The Conquest on Trial: Carvajal’s Complaint of the Indians in the Court of Death . Penn State University Press, 2008. 1-22. file:///C:/Users/DAVID/Downloads/The_Conquest_on_Trial_Carvajal_s_Complai%20(1).pdf
McKnight, Kathryn J, Garofalo, Leo J. Afro-Latino Voices: Narratives from the Early Modern Ibero-Atlantic World, 1550-1812. Hackett, 2009. [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.ca