Print in Motion: The Expansion of Publishing and Reading in the United States, 1880-1940

By Carl F. Kaestle; Janice A. Radway | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 16
Exiles, Immigrants, and Natives
Hispanic Print Culture in What Became
the Mainland of the United States

Nicolás Kanellos

.  .  .

Histories of the United States rarely describe Hispanic people’s initial introduction of Western culture to lands that would eventually become the United States. Yet the integration of the Hispanic contribution into the history of the United States is long overdue. Its absence or minimization is even more regrettable because many allegedly Anglo-American institutions and values were first introduced and used by Hispanic people—Spaniards, Hispanicized Africans and Amerindians, mestizos, and mulattoes. For better or worse, Spain was the first country to disseminate Western culture in the New World.1

With his Florida travel diaries of 1513 Juan Ponce de León first introduced written European language into the area that would become the mainland United States. Ponce de León’s exploration marked the beginning of keeping civil, military, and ecclesiastical records that became commonplace in Hispanic America. Written culture not only facilitated record keeping, correspondence, and the development of commerce but also fostered the first written studies of the flora and fauna of these uncharted lands. Print made possible the writing of laws for governance and commercial exploitation as well as the maintenance of official written history of Hispanic culture in these lands.

Numerous other explorers, missionaries, and colonists followed, including Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the first anthropologist and ethnographer of the New World. He documented his eight years of observations and experiences among the Indians in his book, La Relación (The Account), published in Spain in 1542, the first book of “American” literature written in a European language.2 Other chroniclers, memoirists, playwrights, and poets subsequently came to Florida and the area that would become the southwestern United States.

Books were imported soon thereafter, first authorized for Mexico in 1525. Juan Pablos (Giovanni Paoli) introduced the printing press in Mexico City in 1539, and began publishing newspapers there in 1541. By the end of the sixteenth century, nine presses were functioning in the capital of New Spain. Liter

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