The Daring Flight of My Pen
Cultural Politics and Gaspar Pérez de Villagrά's Historia de la Nueva Mexico, 1610
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
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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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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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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�rez de Villagr�, a criollo born in Puebla de los �ngeles, Mexico, aspires to join the ranks of other soldiers who have turned to the pen to win fame and wealth.
1: Fables of la nueva M�xico
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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.
2: La Colonia: The Unsettled First Settlement
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Espa�ola is a city of some ninety-eight hundred people situated at the confluence of the Rio Grande and the Chama rivers in northern New Mexico, twenty-five miles north of Santa Fe and a few miles south of Ohkay Owingeh, which in 1598 had what must have been an otherworldly name bestowed, or rather forced, upon it: San Juan de los Caballeros. Four hundred years later, a confluence of names, memories, opposing histories, and realities surfaces every July when those gathered for the Espa�ola Fiesta celebrate the first Spanish colonial settlement in what is now the United States.
3: Acoma: El Pe�ol Ensangrado
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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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Let me close with an imagined narrative exchange between Esperanza L�pez, or Hope, as my mother was renamed in grade school by los americanos, and Simon J. Ortiz, or Hihdruutsi, which is how the famous poet is known in Acoma.
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Page Count: 167
Illustrations: 2 halftones
Publication Year: 2010
Series Title: Pasá½¹ Por AquÃ Series in the Nuevomexicano Literary Heritage