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  • Indios en escena: La representación del amerindio en el teatro del Siglo de Oro
  • Jorge Coronado
Moisés R. Castillo . Indios en escena: La representación del amerindio en el teatro del Siglo de Oro. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue UP, 2009. ix + 365 pp.

Moisés R. Castillo's Indios en escena: La representación del amerindio en el teatro del Siglo de Oro constitutes an important contribution to the study of the representation of Latin American's indigenous peoples in Spanish-language letters, particularly in the theatrical production of the Spanish Golden Age. Castillo is concerned primarily with a constitutive contradiction at the core of these works, which on the whole communicate a vision of America's indigenous peoples as simultaneously honorable and barbarous. Castillo contends that this apparently mutually exclusive characterization must persist within this body of works in order to justify in ideological terms the necessity of the Conquest. According to his review of the scholarly literature, Castillo departs from the usual reading of the contradiction between honor and barbarity by understanding them under the rubric of the Spanish state. In so doing, Castillo is able to argue handily and convincingly that a colonial ideology of the time had to by necessity attribute both qualities to the America's indigenous people, precisely because it needed to justify the Conquest not merely as a way to provide wealth to the Spanish state, but also a means to creating new citizens for the empire.

Barbarity thus becomes a condition into which indigenous peoples have fallen, a passing state as lamentable as it is correctable, while their honor represents an essential quality that can, under the tutelage of an imperial Christian state, serve as the foundation upon which new citizens are formed. A great richness of the book is that Castillo backs up this contention with a textured and informed view of the contemporaneous debates and intellectual commentary on the status of America's indigenous peoples, focusing on figures such as Bartolomé de las Casas, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, and Francisco de [End Page 416] Vitoria. On the whole, the book provides a compelling view of both dramatic production and philosophical debates about indigenous people as a key intellectual milieu of the time.

While the book bases its observations on a corpus of thirteen plays that the author terms "comedias de indios" following an established critical tradition, the study's erudition and its clear, communicative style make it significant for diverse areas of study, from research on the imagining of alterity in Peninsular culture of the period and after, to scholarship that focuses on the interpretation of indigenous peoples within dominant national and regional literary and cultural traditions, such as in the cases of indianismo and indigenismo in Latin American lettered production. As such, the study is transatlantic in approach and impact if not necessarily in the materials it analyzes, although that argument could certainly be made.

Indios en escena is organized into five chapters with a separate Introduction and Conclusion. The Introduction will surely be useful for scholars and students, as well as general readers, interested in the various debates and peculiarities of the representation of the indigenous in the seventeenth century. Three of the five central chapters, two, three and four, are organized under the rubric of particular Peninsular military interventions in the Americas, namely the conquest of Chile and the reconquest of Brazil, the conquest of Peru, and the conquest of Mexico, with which the plays studied are concerned. The authors range from towering figures such as Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, and Calderón de la Barca to other playwrights like Ricardo de Turia, Luis Vélez de Guevara, and Fernando de Zárate y Castronuovo. In all cases, Castillo takes special care to contextualize the ways in which the theatrical representation of American indigenous peoples was inflected by the parameters of Golden Age theatre, especially by its various forms, such as the honor play, hagiographical drama, the exaltation of heroes, and literary codes, such as mythology.

If an exclusively textual approach may be a limitation in similar studies of drama, then Castillo is well aware of it. He notes...


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pp. 416-418
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