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The Daring Flight of My Pen

Cultural Politics and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrά's Historia de la Nueva Mexico, 1610

Genaro M. Padilla

Publication Year: 2010

In this engaging study Genaro Padilla enters into Villagrá’s epic poem of the Oñate expedition to reveal that the soldier was no mere chronicler but that his writing offers a subtle critique of the empire whose expansion he seems to be celebrating. A close reading of the rhetorical subtleties in the poem, Padilla argues, reveals that Villagrá surreptitiously parodies the King and Viceroy for their failures of vision and effectively dismantles Oñate as the iconic figure he has become today. Padilla’s study is not simply a close reading of this challenging work; it is also a lucid critique of our modern engagement with foundational documents, cultural celebrations, and our awareness of our relationship with New Mexico’s complicated multicultural legacies.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

I am delighted to write the foreword for Genaro Padilla’s new book aptly titled The Daring Flight of My Pen: Cultural Politics and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá’s Historia de la Nueva Mexico, 1610. In this intellectually engrossing new study of the soldier-poet Gaspar Pérez de Villagrá’s epic poem, Padilla does a magnificent job of skillfully analyzing and offering a counterreading of the Historia de la Nueva Mexico (1610).

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pp. xiii-xiv

As with any book project, my study owes a thankful debt to many people who encouraged me, asked difficult questions, read portions, and, in some cases, all of the manuscript, offered commentary and criticism, and in many ways made my work better, I believe, for the challenges they posed.

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pp. 1-10

One of the soldiers who explored and helped colonize the first Spanish settlement in the far northern reaches of empire is scratching out the final stanzas of an epic poem about his exploits that will be published in April under the title Historia de la Nueva Mexico. Gaspar P

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1: Fables of la nueva M

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pp. 11-42

Not long ago, I gazed incredulously at the bronze statuary commemorating the Spanish colonial settlement of la nueva México in 1598 that stands outside the Albuquerque Museum. Placed in the museum’s sculpture garden in 2005, the life-size metal figures of soldiers, women, and children dominate the landscape. Some are cast on horseback. Others are represented riding in carretas or walking with the livestock. Trudging north, these Spanish settlers had journeyed a thousand miles through rough terrain to insist themselves upon the native people who had inhabited this high-desert world for centuries.

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2: La Colonia: The Unsettled First Settlement

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pp. 43-82


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3: Acoma: El Pe

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pp. 83-123

One day not long ago, I visited the Sky City Cultural Center & Haakú Museum at Acoma and was amazed by an exhibition— The Matriarchs—that tells the story of four master potters whose loving designs recapture the pueblo’s spiritual and aesthetic legacy. I looked closely at the hand-coiled clay jars there, which exemplify a history of how women pass down knowledge, belief systems, and cultural practice from mothers to daughters to granddaughters in this matrilineal society.

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pp. 125-130

Let me close with an imagined narrative exchange between Esperanza L


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pp. 131-144


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pp. 145-150


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pp. 151-153

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826349729
E-ISBN-10: 0826349722
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826349705
Print-ISBN-10: 0826349706

Page Count: 167
Illustrations: 2 halftones
Publication Year: 2010