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Transforming the Enemy in Spanish Culture: The Conquest through the Lens of Textual a ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Transforming the Enemy in Spanish Culture:


Reading the Conquest of the Americas

The Implications of Multiplicity

The identification and characterization of Spain’s enemies is a complex endeavor, not only because there have been many over the centuries but also because this set of enemies implies a set of protagonists, empires, wars, territories, incursions, and frameworks to organize them all into historical narratives. Furthermore, these narrative components cross time and space when the ninth-century Santiago, who decimated the Moorish army after appearing, spectral, in the midst of battle, became transubstantiated as Spain’s savior in its American military conflicts.1 Similarly, when Theodore de Bry positioned two naked Native Americans standing beneath the Tree of Life in his late sixteenth-century depiction of an Edenic Virginia,2 complex narrative combinations emerged.

Qualities of Easternness and Islam also color medieval European representations of enemy forces as well as the encroachment of the unknown in text and image. In penetrating these early representations, the contemporary scholar risks propagating the same Western- or Eurocentricities that helped to construct a series of stereotypes and exaggerations