Cervantes' imagination fired by Conquistadors

18th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

18 February 2005, PUEBLA, MEXICO-Miguel de Cervantes was at partly inspired by chronicles of Spanish conquistadors of the Americas in bringing Don Quixote to life on the page, according to experts.

18 February 2005

PUEBLA, MEXICO-Miguel de Cervantes was at partly inspired by chronicles of Spanish conquistadors of the Americas in bringing Don Quixote to life on the page, according to experts.

At a meeting in Mexico to mark the four hundredth anniversary since the book's publication, experts said the adventures of the Conquistadors may have played a part in the inspiration for the book.

Cervantes, who fought in Italy, was taken prisoner in Algeria and never visited the West Indies, "drank from many sources to write Quixote and one of them was the historiography of the Americas," U.S. Cervantes scholar Mary Gaylord, a professor of romance languages at Harvard University, told EFE.

"The main source that nourished the father of Spanish letters was the chivalric tradition, with Amadis of Gaul as a reference point for all knight errantry, but there's no question that he read the chronicles of the Indies of (Christopher) Columbus and (Hernan) Cortes to give life to his character," Gaylord said.

Gaylord, who is taking part in the symposium entitled "Quixote from America" organized by Puebla's Benemerita Universidad Autonoma, said that "the idea of Don Quixote, his figure and manner of speech were fuelled, in part, by the West Indies source."

Before writing his seminal work, Cervantes "was familiar with the debate that arose in his time about the legitimacy of the conquest of the Americas, and he (wrote it) as any thinker of that time interested in Spanish history's trans-Atlantic chapter," she said.

"In that context, we can confirm that the historiography of the Americas rubbed off on and enriched Cervantes' work, although he only explicitly mentioned the Americas on 13 occasions in the more than 1,000 pages of the work," Gaylord said.

The Cervantes expert said that in the novel there exists "a concept of resonance that indicates that the rivalries that emerged in the conquered Americas are expressed in Quixote."

Gaylord also said that the author of Quixote was familiar with the works of Bernal Diaz del Castillo, the chronicler of the Mexican conquest who accompanied Cortes on his expeditions.

Diaz del Castillo was born in 1495 in Medina del Campo, Spain, and died in 1584 before the first part of Cervantes' work was published.

"It's known that when Cervantes presented a story or a person in a certain manner, the reader of his time was supposed to associate them with the figures, books or events in the Americas," Gaylord said.

Another Cervantes scholar present at the Puebla symposium, Mexican Margarita Peña, agreed with Gaylord that "there are many features" of the so-called New World in Quixote.

Peña, of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, spoke at the symposium on testing the theory that the situation in the New World enriched Cervantes' work.

The symposium, which ends on Friday, is part of the events surrounding the 400th anniversary of the publication of the first part of the masterwork.

Also attending the conference are Cervantes scholars from Argentina, Brazil and other Western Hemisphere countries, as well as students, academics and young Mexican writers.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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