The Hernando de Soto Expedition: History, Historiography, and "Discovery" in the Southeast

By Patricia Galloway | Go to book overview

José Rabasa


The Representation of Violence in the Soto Narratives

She--Courage is strength--and you are vigilant, sagacious, firm besides. But I am beautiful--as "a cane box, called petaca, full of unbored pearls." I am beautiful: a city greater than Cuzco; rocks loaded with gold as a comb with honey. Believe it. You will not dare to cease following me--at Apalachi, at Cutifachiqui, at Mabila, turning from the sea, facing inland. And in the end you shall receive of me, nothing--save one long caress as of a great river passing forever upon your sweet corse. Balboa lost his eyes on the smile of the Chinese ocean; Cabeça de Vaca lived hard and saw much; Pizarro, Cortez, Coronado--but you, Hernando de Soto, keeping the lead four years in a savage country, against odds, "without fortress or support of any kind," you are mine, Black Jasmine, mine.

William Carlos Williams, In the American Grain

On the next day, Tuesday, 30 September, they arrived at Agile, subject to Apalache, and some women were captured; they are of such stuff that one Indian woman took a bachiller called Herrera, who had remained alone with her, behind his companions, and grabbed him by his genitals and had him so worn out and weakened that if other Christians had not come by and rescued him, the Indian woman would have killed him, since he did not desire her sexually, but rather she wanted to get free and run away. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, Historia general y natural de las Indias

A recent special issue of Archaeology dedicated to Hernando de Soto's expedition to Florida published a series of articles documenting the extremely violent nature of this tentative conquest.1 In a later issue of this magazine, a letter by a Hispanic woman (she makes reference to her "Spanish ancestors") denounced the documentation of the violence as one more repetition of the Black Legend by "Anglos."2 There is no question that the editors of Archaeology committed a gross impropriety when they decided to illustrate the article by using the same images that William R. Hearst used to promote the war against Spain in 1898, especially since they made no attempt to analyze them or even identify their source. The outraged reader also reminds us that "Anglos" have shed no less Indian blood. We should not forget, however, that

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