Summer SAVY 2016 (Session 4PM, Day 7) – Fact and Fiction: The New World
We started today by asking a simple questions: What is a conquistador? Our recent readings have been showing that a simple picture of conquistadors is not adequate: they may have been brave, adventurous, cruel, and greedy, but many were also poor, opportunistic, frightened, and vulnerable. Many were not even European, like we saw yesterday. Today, we learned of a conquistador who was unsuccessful in founding a colony, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, who, with a surviving crew of 4 straggled across present-day Texas and Mexico and interacted with various indigenous groups, adopting some of their more advanced practices. This conquistador also moves us into the territory of what is now the United States, and the next few days will be focused on the interaction of the Spanish conquest with American history. We first did an activity where we mapped out prior North American voyages and settlements that pre-dated Jamestown or any other English colonies. The oldest surviving European settlement in the US is actually St. Augustine, Florida! Just as our idea of the conquistador has broadened, our idea of the impact of the Spanish conquest must broaden to include the stories and history of the United States. We then learned about Cahokia, a powerful North American city-state with pyramids near modern-day St. Louis. Though it was mostly abandoned by the time Europeans arrived, it speaks to the advanced nature of indigenous societies in the United States. Finally, we prepared for tomorrow’s field trip by talking about the purpose of maps. I invited students to draw a map of the important features of their house, and the important features to a pet. As we continue mapping the Spanish conquest in the United States and beyond, the perspective maps take becomes ever more important.