Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage - Vol. 2

By Erlinda Gonzales-Berry; Chuck Tatum | Go to book overview

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Having the Last Word: Recording the Cost of
Conquest in Los Comanches

Sandra Dahlberg

Los Comanches, written in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the late eighteenthcentury, dramatizes the conflicts between the Comanche Indians and Spanish military forces on the New Mexican Northern Frontier during the last quarter of that century.1 It is a work in which both parties, Spanish/New Mexican and Comanche, initially represent themselves as conquerors intending to eradicate the other's presence from the region, a move which effectively confuses the designations of conquering and conquered parties. This drama deviates from the traditional dramatic conventions of the era by complicating the Spanish/New Mexican "victory" with associations of sin, and by burying in the rhetorical debates a multi-vocal dialogue which, at its center, represents the human and cultural costs of conquest rather than justifying the actions or glorifying the outcome with religious conversion. Los Comanches is also important because through this drama we are introduced to a distinctly New Mexican identity that embraced regional rather than viceroyal loyalties and provided a prototype for a genre that greatly influenced American culture, the western.

One complication associated with Los Comanches is the inability to substantiate authorship, although there is much evidence to suggest that the author may have been Pedro Bautista de Pino of Santa Fe.2 Pino was born in Santa Fe during the mid-eighteenth century to a family whose ties to New Mexico dated back to 1692. As a New Mexican Pino was required to serve in the militia which he described as the most successful provincial militia at maintaining the "span of land within "New Mexico's" old boundaries" (Carroll 67). However, Pino also criticized the economic impositions the militia system imposed upon the New Mexicans who were required to furnish their own arms, ammunitions, supplies and horses for campaigns that often kept them away from home for two to three months. This in an agricultural region that had a barter-based economy. In his Exposición to the Spanish Cortes in

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