Kirkus Star


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In recreating the tenor of life and the psychology of the conquistadores Jensen penetrates both heroic and revisionist cliches. His is the New Spain where lice crawled under the gold-plated armor and where the Zuni of Cibola, when confronted by a stranger who announced that they now belonged to his king, very sensibly dropped rocks on his head. In this same New Spain the governors lived in opulence only twenty years after the arrival of Cortes and were encouraged by the natural miracles of the continent to believe that the legendary Cibola must surely be over the next hill. In the desert Coronado expected to find wealthy savages, but he and his men were incapable of comprehending what they did find, especially the civilized, spiritual but gold-poor Hopi. And, incapacitated by an accident, Coronado chose to turn his back on rich farmland that could have made all of Spain's landless sons into gentlemen. Jensen makes plausible his sympathetic portrait of Coronado as an essentially decent man driven to torture and murder by frustrated ambition. And the contrast between contemporary Spanish prints and a collection of 1879 photos (which give an approximate idea of what the 16th century pueblos may have been like) allows us an unusual view of Spanish dreams and American reality.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1974
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: Franklin Watts