- Report on the Island and Diocese of Puerto Rico (1647)
Don Diego de Torres y Vargas, a canon of the San Juan Cathedral in the middle of the seventeenth century, was asked by Don Juan de la Calle, royal Spanish chronicler of the Indies, to write a history of Puerto Rico as part of a major work on the history of the Spanish colonies. Don Diego's final work is important, since it is the first history of the island written by a criollo, or son of Spaniards born in America.
This book is important because it is the first translation of Don Diego's seventeenth-century Spanish text into the English language. It also is significant because of the essays that accompany the translation. The author [End Page 871] of these essays, Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, provides useful information that can help resolve many doubts of readers regarding how this history came into existence and the background in which it took place. Through these essays, we learn about Don Diego's lineage, education, and social position as well as how this background influenced his ability to gather the official governmental, ecclesiastical, and private documents that he used to write his history.
For those who are already acquainted with the original Spanish edition of Don Diego, Stevens-Arroyo's essays may be the most important part of this edition. However, for those who have not read the text in the original language, the book provides a good opportunity to understand the history of a colonial Spanish Caribbean island and its development from 1493, the year of its discovery by Columbus during his second voyage, to 1647, when Don Diego finished his work on the text.
This book helps clarify some aspects of Don Diego's text as well as uses sidebars instead of footnotes. The translator, Jaime R.Vidal, created the latter to provide further explanation on aspects of the text. The language used throughout the text in the Spanish edition corresponds to that spoken by an illustrious clergyman of the seventeenth century. Therefore, the section "Glossary Items" at the end of the book assists readers in understanding many words and concepts no longer in use. Likewise, the essays provide clarity on aspects from Don Diego's time that were common knowledge then but now have lost most of their original meaning for the modern reader.
For English-speaking historians, the work of Vidal and Stevens-Arroyo has shed new light on the development of a small Spanish colony in the Caribbean from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. For the Spanish-speaking historians who already know Don Diego's history, the tools provided by the authors are very useful in better understanding that time.