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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
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities


The information for each author includes biographical and contextual materials and activities.

Gloria Anzaldúa (b. 1942)
Gloria Anzaldúa's work is fundamentally concerned with articulating what she calls a "new mestiza consciousness," an identity characterized by hybridity, flexibility, and plurality and focused on the experiences of Chicanas (Mexican American women) and particularly mestizas (Chicana and Mexican women who have mixed Native American and Spanish heritage)... Go

Bartolomé de las Casas (c. 1474-1566)
Sometimes celebrated as the "conscience" of Spanish colonization, Bartolomé de las Casas was one of the first Europeans to recognize and protest the cruel treatment of Native Americans at the hands of their conquerors. By drawing on his considerable political, legal, and ecclesiastical connections, he became a powerful and eloquent --if ultimately unsuccessful--force in agitating... Go

Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1492-1584)
Bernal Díaz del Castillo was born in the Castile region of Spain in 1492, the same year that Christopher Columbus landed in the West Indies and declared himself "discoverer" of the New World. Coming of age in the exciting era of Spanish exploration and colonization, Díaz took advantage of an early opportunity to leave Europe for the Americas and joined an expedition bound... Go

Samuel de Champlain (c. 1570-1635)
Often called the "Father of New France," Samuel de Champlain was a leader in exploring and claiming vast areas of North America for France. Born in the town of Brouage on the Atlantic coast of France, Champlain learned the arts of seafaring, navigation, and cartography early in his life. Because he was passionately interested in, as he put it, "obtain[ing] a knowledge of different... Go

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)
In his 1828 biography of Christopher Columbus, American author Washington Irving styled Columbus as the archetypal American hero. Walt Whitman similarly lauded Columbus as an early mystic and religious seeker in his poem "Prayer of Columbus." Other authors and thinkers have not always agreed with these nineteenth-century hagiographies. In fact, Columbus has inspired controversy... Go

Adriaen Van der Donck (1620-1655)
Adriaen Van der Donck began his professional life studying law at the University of Leyden in the Netherlands. Then, in 1641, he changed the course of his career by accepting a commission to travel to the Dutch commercial colony in America (present-day New York) to administer the estate of the wealthy patron Kiliaen Van Rennselaer. Van der Donck's assignment--to stifle the fur trade ... Go

Americo Paredes (c. 1915-1999)
Born in the town of Brownsville on the border between south Texas and Mexico, Americo Paredes became an eloquent interpreter of the complicated, bicultural society that had grown out of the conflicts and tensions of this region. As the title of his second volume of poetry indicates, he found his identity Between Two Worlds. Paredes's pioneering work recording and elucidating... Go

John Smith (c. 1580-1631)
A consummate self-promoter, John Smith would be delighted with the privileged position that his adventures in Virginia have assumed within American mythology. The subject of a Disney animated film and popular legend, as well as scholarly inquiry, Smith and his writings have come to be regarded as representative of the colonial Virginia experience... Go

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1490-1558)
Often called the first culturally Chicano or mestizo writer, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca composed his Relation to narrate his extraordinary experience as a Spaniard who became integrated into Native American culture in the New World. Part hagiography, part captivity narrative, and part adventure story, the text ... Go

Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616)
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... Go

Suggested Author Pairings
... Go

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An online collection of 3000 artifacts for classroom use. Go

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