The Rediscovery of North AmericaBook - 1990
" 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.