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La Florida del Inca and the Struggle for Social Equality in Colonial Spanish America

Written by Jonathan D. Steigman

Publication Year: 2005

A cross-disciplinary view of an important De Soto chronicle.

Among the early Spanish chroniclers who contributed to popular images of the New World was the Amerindian-Spanish (mestizo) historian and literary writer, El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616).  He authored several works, of which La Florida del Inca (1605) stands out as the best because of its unique Amerindian and European perspectives on the De Soto expedition (1539-1543).  As the child of an Indian mother and a Spanish father, Garcilaso lived in both worlds--and saw value in each. Hailed throughout Europe for his excellent contemporary Renaissance writing style, his work was characterized as literary art. Garcilaso revealed the emotions, struggles, and conflicts experienced by those who participated in the historic and grandiose adventure in La Florida. Although criticized for some lapses in accuracy in his attempts to paint both the Spaniards and the Amerindians as noble participants in a world-changing event, his work remains the most accessible of all the chronicles.

In this volume, Jonathan Steigman explores El Inca’s rationale and motivations in writing his chronicle. He suggests that El Inca was trying to influence events by influencing discourse; that he sought to create a discourse of tolerance and agrarianism, rather than the dominant European discourse of intolerance, persecution, and lust for wealth. Although El Inca's purposes went well beyond detailing the facts of De Soto’s entrada, his skill as a writer and his dual understanding of the backgrounds of the participants enabled him to paint a more complete picture than most--putting a sympathetic human face on explorers and natives alike.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-ix

Among the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish chroniclers who contributed significantly to popular images about the New World was the world’s original Amerindian-Spanish (mestizo1) historian and literary writer, El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1539–1616) (Castanien v). He authored several works, of which La Florida del Inca (1605) stands out because of its unique Amerindian and European perspectives on the de Soto expedition (1539–1543). Since 2005...

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1. Prelude

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pp. 1-31

Columbus’s sea voyage west in 1492 to establish a new trade route to India for Spain that would avoid challenging Portugal’s claims to the eastern trade route to India and his consequential accidental landing at Española gave Spain hegemony over New World explorations until the mid-sixteenth century. This colonization experience was called “the conquest” by the Spaniards. The narrative...

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2. Purpose, Style, and Themes of La Florida del Inca

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pp. 32-60

Primary concentration in this chapter is upon El Inca’s concerns about his writings. An overview about the style in which he writes and why he began to write will be given, also. El Inca’s balancing act between his two cultures—Native American and European—will, again, become obvious as he selects and records historical accounts about the de Soto expedition into...

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3. El Inca’s Native Americans

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pp. 61-96

Passing years and geographical space create a separation between El Inca and Peru that is permanent by the time El Inca begins to write La Florida. Saddened and embittered by the rejection he receives from the Spanish society into which he had hoped to be accepted, he finds his Native American identity to be a source of solace. His emotional ties to the Peruvian Amerindian culture to...

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4. La Florida’s Ideal Conquerors

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pp. 97-110

The way in which El Inca depicts the Spaniards and their misadventures in North America provides the reader with a view into the mestizo author’s European perspective. As he states in his prologue, one purpose in writing La Florida is to record the hazañas (heroic acts) of de Soto and his soldier-explorers and to recount the hardships they suffered for the honor and fame of the Spanish...

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El Inca’s Prophetic Voice

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pp. 111-116

El Inca is an interpreter of reality, as well as a historian. He interprets what was, what is, and what is possible. He recognizes the implicit imperfection in human nature that causes people to ignore the ideal of that which is possible and to pursue instead the shortsighted objective of short-term gain. He highlights how the attitude of avoiding a dialogue on the essential questions creates a social...

Works Cited

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pp. 117-120


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pp. 121-125

E-ISBN-13: 9780817384326
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817352578

Page Count: 137
Publication Year: 2005