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

By Patricia Galloway | Go to book overview

Lee Dowling


La Florida del Inca: Garcilaso's Literary Sources

". . . the oldest chairs of history in Europe were created in the sixteenth century when the chairs of letters at the universities of Göttingen and Leiden were split into two different chairs, reflecting and instituting the perceived differences between letters and history."

Arnoldo Momigliano, quote in José Antonio Maravall, Culture of the Baroque

"Literature is a function of intellectual preservation and tradition and therefore brings its hidden history into every age."

Hans Georg Gadamer, quoted in William J. Kennedy, Rhetorical Norms of Renaissance Literature.

"To make literature out of the brief accounts left by de Soto's followers was no mean achievement."

D. A. Brading, in "The Incas and the Renaissance: The Royal Commentaries of Inca Garcilaso," Journal of Latin American Studies

La Florida del Inca ( 1605) has for many years been an accepted classic of early Latin American literature--the very first such classic according to its translators the Varners.1 The reasons why it is thus regarded go well beyond its recognition as the best written, and certainly the most beguiling, of all of the Inca Garcilaso's works.2 They extend, in fact, to extremely complex issues like the still vexing question of the truth value of history as opposed to fiction, and to possibly more vital ones like the foundations of Latin American cultural discourse and Latin American identity3. It is natural but probably mistaken to assume that La Florida is more than superficially about the Soto expedition of 1538-43.

Garcilaso employ in La Florida several literary models that were seen as archaic even in his own lifetime, and he also uses literary rhetoric, in part a as cover to allow him to encode unorthodox ideas about Amerindians that he could not state outright.4 Thus it is easy for even the well-educated twentieth-century reader, in vain pursuit of the kind of data a Fray Bernardino de Sahagύn or even a Bernal Díaz del Castillo might have left us, to overlook

-98-

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