Everything that could go wrong from the beginning came out: revenge, incapacity, envy, lack of preparation and, the worst and most painful, an unconfirmed goal that shone insistently in the minds of the members of the expedition, wealth. Relive it and make the reader feel difficult, so the author, Ignacio del Valle (Oviedo, 48 years old), turns a real character – in this case Fray Tomás de Urquiza – a rapporteur for the incredible and unfortunate adventure of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, the conqueror who led the Spanish expedition in 1540 that allowed Europeans to see dozens of dozens of thousands of stampeding bison, to discover the Grand Canyon of the Colorado or that they came into direct contact with the fearsome Apaches.
One of the great differences of these expeditions of the 16th century of the Crown of Castile with which Hollywood offers and which star in the Seventh Cavalry or the cheerful gold prospectors of the Far West, in addition to their temporary location, is the technology used. Yes Buffalo Bill riddled the giant horned with his Winchester As a repetition, the Spaniards carried to feed on the vast plains of the interior of the present United States swords, arcabuces and spears. If the Americans approached their destination on steaming trains, the conquerors did so on foot or on exhausted rides for months of continuous march. “We ate breakfast, ate and ate fried bison meat. There were times when we advanced among thousands of them, with their eyes reddened by clouds of orange and yellow dust and their mouths covered by handkerchiefs, half drowned, taking care that none of those beasts would decapitate us ”. And so, thousands of kilometers, by tens of thousands. From Mexico to California, Texas, Oklahoma and even Arkansas. And return. Two years of infinite march.
Crowned (Edhasa, 2019) It is a stark, cruel, unfiltered book that tells a dream: the search for Cíbola, the city of the golden domes that never existed. Its protagonists are second-class nobles, desperate peasants, brisk young people who have never entered into battle, friars fleeing Castile because they denied the Holy office, Soldiers of fortune who had committed everything they had to equip themselves, women in love dragged into a cause in which few believed and all desired. Fray Marcos de Nice would guide you, he had seen the seven golden cities a year earlier. Now we just had to do the path I remembered again and conquer them. Yes Cortes found Tenochtitlan, they would find Cíbola or Quivira, what else did it matter. Something. Fray Marcos could not let them down. But he did. There was nothing there. Why didn’t they kill him when they discovered the hoax? No forces left. There was no going back. They would continue, then, through inhospitable lands, immense deserts, seas of grass, forests without soul. The continuous struggle between life and death.
They were conquerors who left Indian women and children free before the assault on the Zuñí village to avoid their death, even risking their own lives, but who did not hesitate to throw hungry dogs at the prisoners to confess where the city they were looking without faith stood. . “We were the only animal who cared about his name and his fame,” says Fray Tomás de Urquiza trying to justify what his mortified soul rejected.
Just over 300 Spaniards and 800 Mexican Indians lost in the middle of nowhere. Miserable towns of proud indigenous people who preferred to die fighting rather than bowing down before those invaders who shouted at them, before loading the arcabuces, a speech from His Majesty where they were required to surrender and from which they did not understand a single word. Sorcerers who opened the minds of friars eager to understand the meaning of life. And of death. Loves and hatred between conquerors and conquered. Two years lost, dividing forces to cover as much ground as possible. For not finding, they could not find the sea. “I considered that the company was doomed, but it would not be fair if I forgot a hint of hope, because if you had taken them back around the unknown areas, what other wonders were stored?” Urquiza thought. But they only took that from their adventure, being the first to distinguish what no European ever saw before.
Then came Kevin Costner in 1990, in Dancing with Wolves, and explained to us that the Siux expelled the Spaniards from those lands and that they left an abandoned morrion in their flight. And we believe it and pay for it, without remembering Coronado, Hernández de Alvarado, Tristán de Luna, the Indians Turkish Y German or the beautiful Iyali, the one who taught Fray Tomás to love.
Crowned. Ignacio del Valle, Edhasa Publishing House, 2019. 473 pages. 22 euros