By Patrick Gonneau
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On one side are those who argue that the epic is pro-Spanish but aesthetically flawed by the absence of a champion for the Habsburg cause. In this spirit, Morínigo and Lerner— who are not necessarily champions of this position—remind us that critics have always complained about the Araucana’s missing hero. On the other side are the critics who consider Ercilla’s poem a pro-Araucanian “epic of the defeated,” which either lacks a dominant hero, or offers as its most important heroic figure Caupolicán.
And so in the midst of weapons and in the short space that they gave me to do so, I wrote this book, so that you may take it under your protection, which is what will make it flourish. May our Lord keep the Sacred Catholic Royal person of your Majesty, with increase of greater kingdoms and domains. In Madrid on the 2 of March, 1569. Sacred Catholic Royal Majesty. Your Majesty’s servant, who kisses your royal hands. Don Alonso de Ercilla work of Mariscal for my understanding of competing discourses and fractured subjects in early modern Spain.
Did they belong to a faction that did not enjoy favor at the time? Had they been tantalized by stories of easily acquired wealth in Peru? These questions have no answer. What is immediately important is that in this passage, Ercilla establishes his own figure in the text as polyvalent: he is both ordinary (one soldier among many in the royal troops), and exceptional (former page and member of the king’s retinue), a circumstance that allows him to invoke proximity to or distance from his comrades-in-arms on the Araucanian campaign.
¡Analiza ! by Patrick Gonneau