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Tracing The American Identity The Evolution Thereof.

1067 words - 4 pages

The American Identity could be considered and oxymoron in and of itself. Fromthe very inception of explorers to the "New Land" to American culture today, Americansstill don't have a firm grasp of whom they really are. In any event, I will attempt to tracethe evolution of the American identity using time honored literary figures such asColumbus, de Vaca, Smith, Rowlandson, and others.Sent on a conquest to find new trade routes, Christopher Columbus, pummeledinto a land, America that signaled the birthing of a new culture. In Columbus' Journal hedescribes the Native Americans response, "They signified their admiration and reverenceof the strangers by touching them, kissing their hands and feet, and making signs ofwonder. They imagined them come from heaven, and signified as much to them. Theywere feasted with such food as the natives had to offer" (113). As you can imagine, thisawe and wonder presented to one of the first Americans inflated egos and impressed theidea that the Native Americans were inherently beneath them.However, all newcomers were not entrenched with admiration as is shown inCabeza de Vaca's travels. De Vaca and his men were not shown the kindness Columbusenjoyed, alternately they were killed and de Vaca himself taken captive. In the excerpt"In view of the poverty of the land, the unfavorable accounts of the population and ofeverything else we heard, the Indians making continual war upon us, wounding ourpeople and horses at the places where they went to drink, shooting from the lakes withsuch safety to themselves that we could not retaliate, killing a lord of Tescuco, namedDon Pedro, whom the commissary brought with him, we determined to leave that placeand go in quest of the sea, and the town of Aute of which we were told.." it is clearlyshown that there was also great turmoil involved when approaching the indigenouspeople of America (121).Explorers came from Spain, France, and England. All of which were in conquestof new lands, fauna, riches, and the conversion of the Native Americans to theirrespective religious beliefs. It was a general consensus among the devours of this newland that in order to settle the land peacefully the Native Americans needed to embracetheir religion which was of course right, truthful, and life saving. Using this approach to"Americanize" the Indians caused the term American to be further diluted. An exampleof this domination of culture is indicated in this excerpt: "Herein is told, in all truth, howby a great miracle the illustrious Virgin, Blessed Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady,appeared anew in the place known as Tepeyacac"(166). This quote was derived from the"History of the Miraculous Apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe", and was an ingenioussuccess of the Spanish to convert indigenous people of Mexico, and throughout, toCatholicism. This Virgin of Guadalupe was a story of the Virgin Mary, knownthroughout Catholicism, divinely making herself known to a commoner of Tepevacac.However this version of...

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