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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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2. Exploring Borders   

2. Exploring

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Gloria
- Bartolomé
de las Casas
- Bernal Díaz
del Castillo
- Samuel
de Champlain
- Christopher
- Adriaen
Van der Donck
- Americo
- John Smith
- Álvar Núñez
Cabeza de Vaca
- Garcilaso
de la Vega
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Authors: Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616)

Cortés and Hernando de Soto in the Camp of the Inca at Caxamalca
[7329] C. Colin, Ferdinand Cortés and Hernando de Soto in the Camp of the Inca at Caxamalca. The Order of His Court and the Reverence with Which His Subjects Approached His Person, Astonished the Spaniards (c. 1902), courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-USZ62-104362].

Garcilaso de la Vega Activities
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One of the first American writers of mixed ethnic heritage, Garcilaso de la Vega signaled his mestizo identity by proudly appending the title "El Inca" to his name. He was descended from the Inca royal family through his mother, the princess Chimpu Ocllo, who was the granddaughter of one of the last Incan emperors. After the Spanish conquered the Incan dynasty in Peru, Chimpu Ocllo converted to Catholicism, assumed the name Isabel Suarez, and married Sebastian Garcilaso de la Vega, one of the Spanish conquistadors. Growing up as the child of this interracial marriage, Garcilaso de la Vega became fluent in both Spanish and the Inca language Quechua and acquired a detailed knowledge of Incan imperial history as well as the history of the Conquest.

After the death of his father in 1560, de la Vega journeyed to Spain to claim his inheritance. While he was never officially recognized as the son of a conquistador, he gained prestige by fighting in the wars of the Alpujarras. He eventually settled in Cordoba, where he studied Christianity and devoted himself to the pursuit of religion and literature. Most of his writings are historical narratives of the New World, including two volumes on Incan culture entitled Commentarios Reales, or Royal Commentaries, which draw on stories he learned from his mother and her relatives. Recuperating Indian traditions in the language of the colonizer, de la Vega's Incan histories are extraordinary testaments to the sophistication and civilization of pre-Conquest Peru. De la Vega's other work, The Florida of the Inca (1605), is a romanticized and fictionalized account of the de Soto expedition and of native life in Florida at the time of contact. (Importantly, de la Vega himself never went to Florida, so he compiled his account by synthesizing and drawing on other explorers' oral and written narratives.) De la Vega's mestizo background provided him with a unique perspective on the history of Europeans in the New World, and, like his other writings, The Florida of the Inca reflects his commitment to mediating between two different cultures.

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