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 Cornell scholar Barreiro's first novel focuses on the early history of Spanish conquest in the Caribbean, as told by a native serving as interpreter and intermediary during those years--a witness to the genocide against his people. Descended himself from the indigenous Ta°no whose sad fate he details, the author makes use of a shadowy historical figure, Columbus's adopted Indian son Diego, as both a narrator and a participant in the events described. Fascinated by the Spanish when they first appeared, the boy Diego (``Guaik†n'') stowed away on the flagship to learn all he could about them. Taken back to Spain with other, captured natives, he alone survived to return home, but was by then sickened by all that he had seen of the Europeans and their cruel, avaricious ways. Forty years later, charged by his European friend BartolomÇ de Las Casas--the Spanish champion of Indian rights--to record his experiences so that posterity would know what happened to the Ta°no, he writes what is in his heart. But his account is upsetting to Las Casas because of its relentlessly negative view of the Spaniards, who allowed Diego to live as a free man only to take his wife and sons from him in their greed, and who reduced a once thriving, peaceful culture to dwindling numbers of spiritless slaves and pockets of desperate freedom fighters. While busy with the memoir, Diego intercedes on behalf of the freedom fighters, using his contacts to trick Las Casas and ensure that peace is negotiated, although bitterness keeps him from a more direct role in the parley. A poignant debut about a pivotal moment in history--in which the rich native tradition receives vivid, sympathetic treatment.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-55885-067-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Arte Público
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1993