Writing from the Edge of the World
The Memoirs of Darien, 1514-1527
232 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.60 in, 5 maps
- Published: August 2006
A stirring account of Spain’s incursion into the New World
Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo is the 16th-century author of Historia general y natural de las Indias, a general and natural history of the peoples and places he encountered in his travels to Spanish America. Oviedo was educated at the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and held several early appointments to the royal household, first as page to their son, John. In 1513, he accepted the appointment as warden of the gold mines of Castilla de Oro on the Isthmus of Panama in Darién, the first viable Spanish settlement on the American mainland. His first year at the very edge of the known world converted Oviedo into a lifelong resident of America and, more importantly, marked the beginning of his campaign to appropriate the topic of the Indies and become its interpreter to Europe.
As G. F. Dille points out in his introduction, this work earned Oviedo the title of many firsts—first historian, first enthographer, first naturalist, first anthropologist, and first sociologist of the New World. Dille adds to that list first autobiographer and first novelist of the Americas.
This annotated translation contains the section of Oviedo’s work that recounts his experience in the New World during his service in Panama. Dille includes a brief introduction to Oviedo and provides general information on the political background of Spain and on the Spanish colonial system, the printing history of the text, a description of the reception of Oviedo’s work, and notes on the translation.
"The translation reads beautifully. . . . G. F. Dille focuses on a central but little studied section of the enormous history: Oviedo’s firsthand account of his experience in the conquest and settlement of Spain’s first colonies on the Main Land (known today as Panama), some two dozen years after Columbus’s first landfall in America.”
—Kathleen Ann Myers, author of Word from New Spain: The Spiritual Autobiography of María de San José