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Relatos y relaciones de Hispanoamérica colonial University of Texas Press, 2004 Editado por Otto Olivera

Otto Olivera's Relatos y relaciones de Hispanoamérica colonial is an anthology that almost wholly focuses upon the chronicles of the "discovery period." The chronicles included are arranged in 19 sections, one for each author, except for Garcilaso de la Vega who is granted two sections. Each section begins with a succinct introduction about the writer that gives an overview of his general works and occasionally provides background information for the chronicle excerpts included.

Olivera also includes a three-part introduction to the book. He begins by emphasizing how the chronicles of the New World impacted the European mindset of the XVI and XVII centuries, and how this is reflected in the literature, [End Page 308] philosophy, and science of the era. Olivera points out that Greco-Roman, Medieval and Christian myths, as well as ancient travel books influenced many chroniclers, such as Columbus (though his writings are not included here), and thus, their descriptions of the New World often mirrored the aforementioned myths and travel books.

A substantial portion of Olivera's introduction is devoted to the importance of myths, whether they are European, such as the Amazon Women, or local, such as El Dorado. In addition he mentions that there were writers, such as Pedro Mártir, whose skepticism of myths made them critical of the chronicles. Although Olivera dedicates three full pages to describe the writings of Mártir, he only includes two, minute excerpts of his works in the introduction, which may be disappointing to the reader.

In the second part of the introduction, entitled "Conquista y colonización del Nuevo Mundo," Olivera offers a panoramic view, from 1492 to 1616, of the Spanish expansion into the New World. The final part of the introduction, "Organización colonial," focuses on the allocation of political and religious power in the New World, and touches on the negative impact that the monopolization of goods, the exploitation of indigenous peoples, and the encomiendas had on the colonies. He also mentions the monarchs' unsuccessful attempts to institute the Nuevas Leyes, which aimed to protect the right of autochthonous populations.

Olivera makes the chronicles accessible to undergraduate students and laymen by including a glossary and modernizing the spelling, grammar and lexicon. Olivera also abridges some of the texts by omitting information he considers peripheral to the stories. Furthermore, he simplifies some of the chapter titles, changing, for example, "De cómo el rey Nezahualcoyotzin se casó con Azcalxochitzin, hija del infante Temictzin su tío, y del extraño modo con que se consiguió este matrimonio" to "El amor criminal de un rey". These revisions may pose problems, since Olivera does not document them in his book; only by comparing his book to the sources noted in the bibliography, can one detect the numerous omissions and significant modernization that the documents have undergone. However, by modernizing the language and eliminating information believed by the author to be unnecessary for story development, Olivera offers a book that can be used as an undergraduate introduction to the chronicles.

Judith Caballero
The University of Arizona

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