What do you do if you’re a failed conquistador, but still want to get royal funding for future explorations? Find out in La Relación.
Questions to consider:
- Based on what we’ve read so far, including The Relation, how might you characterize this colonial period: as a period of discovery, contact, or conquest?
- How do the echoes of Genesis in La Relacion compare to the cultural assumptions we discussed in Columbus and Harriot?
- Where does Cabeza de Vaca allude to Exodus 3 and Numbers 13:17-33? What reasons might he have for doing this? What other connections do you see between La Relacion and the Bible?
- As you’ll read in the biographical sketch, some scholars see Vaca’s Relación as the first “American” narrative, in that his identity is transformed into something new by the end of his journey. In what ways does he seem to be changing in this first excerpt?
- What makes Cabeza de Vaca a reliable or unreliable narrator? Where might we read against the grain of this narrative, the way we did with Columbus and Harriot by considering how their audiences (and/or transcribers) influenced the text?
- Scholars have described this narrative variously as an immigrant tale, a captivity narrative, a mestizo text, a history, and a saint’s memoir (see hagiography and beatification and canonization). What do you think the appropriate literary classification for The Relation should be? Why?
This History Channel dramatization of texts like La Relacion is a helpful companion to the reading:
See also National Geographic’s adaptation of Guns, Germs, and Steel: