Posted by: | 19th Oct, 2008


The texts that we have read so far show an interesting progression of literature on Latin America; who its authors are, who they write for, what their narrative tactics are, how they conceptualize Latin America, and what the goals of their writing are. Both Cabeza de Vaca and de las Casas addressed their work to the Spanish King. Cabeza de Vaca arguably wrote for the selfish reason of proving his worth to the King by showing his successful evangelization of indigenous people and acquisition of knowledge about the Americas, and his text was successful in that he was commissioned by the King to go on further voyages. De las Casas was deeply disturbed by the treatment of indigenous people by the Spaniards and, risking being considered a traitor to his country, publicly exposed these abuses and appealed to the King to intervene. I am not sure to what extent Spanish colonial policy may have changed as a result of his works. Garcilaso de la Vega wrote to preserve the history of his people, being half indigenous, as well as to provide an account of Spanish corruption in Peru. Only is the latter author conscious of what others have said before him, citing them and praising their work, he is not a groundbreaker but a contributor to a growing body of knowledge on Latin America that was open to all learned people.

I think the most interesting way to compare these authors is through their relationship with imperialism; none of them are military men, government officials, or businessmen looking how to strategically oppress, govern, and extract wealth from the Americas, nor are they detached anthropologists with no political agenda. This is where the concept of hegemony comes in that we talked about in class. These men all sought to govern Latin America through words not arms. Cabeza de Vaca and de Las Casas were proponents of evangelization and that the indigenous people submit themselves willingly to Spanish rule, they wanted to learn the indigenous languages and build churches, and Garcilaso de la Vega praises the Inca government as the model of a civilizing empire, all while attempting to replace the Inca oral tradition with the European written one.

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