" The Spanish incursion into the New World, with its brutal destruction of indigenous peoples and their cultures and its material exploitation of much of two continents, reverberates in our history down to the present century. So contends prize-winning writer Barry Lopez in this beautifully written book. "The quest for personal possessions," he observes, "was to be, from the outset, a series of raids, irresponsible and criminal, a spree, in which an end to it was never visible... in which an end to it had no meaning." In this luminous essay, written five hundred years after the Spanish conquest, Lopez reexamines the attitudes that informed that event and that have underlain the entire European settlement of America. "The assumption of an imperial right conferred by God, sanctioned by the state, and enforced by the militia, the assumption that one is due wealth in North America," he writes, is apparent in the journals of people on the Oregon Trail, in the pronouncements of nineteenth-century industrialists, and in the political rhetoric of our own day. But, for Lopez, coming to grips with this terrible legacy opens new possibilities. "This violent corruption needn't define us. We can take the measure of the horror and assert that we will not be bound by it." We can "rediscover" our continent -- not as a source of income but as a home, a place in which we are to find our strength and character, and in which certain moral courtesies and obligations obtain. We can develop a philosophy of place will enable us, finally, to take up a true residence in our homeland. Here is a voice for our time.
About the Author
Barry Lopez's (1945-2020) books include Light Action in the Caribbean (stories), About This Life (essays and memoir), the novella-length fable Crow and Weasel, and Arctic Dreams (nonfiction), for which he received the National Book Award. He traveled extensively in remote regions of the world, and his work has been widely translated and anthologized. He was a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim, Lannan, and National Science foundations; the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the John Burroughs and John Hay medals; and other honors.
"Eloquently proffers a philosophy of limits that we cannot afford to ignore in this era of global warning and overpopulation." -- Los Angeles Times
"An eloquent, deep-reaching little book on the subject. But he goes far beyond the inquiry into Columbus' character, motives, and legacy. He also uses the occasion to turn our thoughts to hope: the hope that comes with both a frank acceptance of our past and a resolution to break ways with its shameful legacy." -- Bloomsbury Review
"Assets that we must go beyond an obsession with the material wealth of the continent that began with Columbus and begin to appreciate North America for its spiritual wealth if we are ever to feel at home here." -- Commonweal