Author Archives: Tanaka

Warfare & Combat in “A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca,” by Andre Resendes

A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca, by Andres Resendez. tells the story of  a mission set out from Spain to colonize Florida. The expedition went ominously wrong: Shipwrecked by a hurricane, knocked off course by a colossal error of navigation, and eventually doomed by the decision to separate the men from their ships, the mission quickly became a desperate journey of survival.  Throughout this journey, Andres Resendez describes the challenges that Cabeza de Vaca and his party faced, their interactions with the native people, the hurricane, their challenges with navigation, and their quest to spread Roman catholicism across the New World.

The general opinion is that the central theme this book explores is the history that unfolds in the meeting of these two cultures. While the interactions between Cabeza de Vaca’s group and the native people, and their eventual enslavement, captivity, and eventual freedom are fascinating, the effect Cabeza’s time in enslavement have a very interesting effect on Cabeza. While I agree that the Spanish party venturing into The New World does so engaging into conflict with the native people, Cabeza de Vaca returns to Spain to be a proponent of the importance of peaceful interaction and contact as a policy for encounters of the Spanish with native peoples. His arduous journey alters his perception of the native people and allows him to help influence war and combat with native peoples towards a more peaceful direction.

While they engaged in conflict with the Indian populations they encountered, who bore inferior and unfamiliar weapons ( bows and arrows) to theirs, and unfamiliar methods of warfare too, and lost many men to these conflicts, it is important to understand and focus on the longer term evolution of this conflict and its progression into enslavement, and finally integration as healers. Cabeza de Vaca and the three surviving members of his party survive these conflicts and Cabeza comes to influence a pacifist approach to the Spanish interaction with these native people.

Critiquing Wikipedia Entries- Cabeza de Vaca

Source: Wikipedia”

The Wiki is structured such as to allow the reader to easily trace the story of Alva Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and after gaining and understanding of the synopsis of his life, to gain an appreciation of his heritage, his upbringing, his actions, and the way various forms of media have framed his story and recorded his actions. While the article is neutral in tone and does not adopt a view that praises Cabeza de Vaca or his actions, it fails to completely qualify all the information and facts it provides in telling his account.

The Wiki article frequently mentions ” some sources” without specifically citing which exact sources which implies to the reader an absence of the said sources. Terms and words that may be unclear to the reader as well are not explained or cited such as the “Muslim Moors,” “conquistador, ” and other terms used throughout the passage.  Additionally, the citation to “Capoques” links to a dead page.


The article’s consideration of a film drama about Cabeza de Vaca demonstrates the Wikipedia entry’s exhaustive detail. Its coverage of books about him as well further emphasize this. The article does not come across as biased, instead adapting a very objective tone and citing both Cabeza de Vaca’s triumphs, and his failures. It validates its assertions with facts from various independent sources which it links back to, although one of the links does not work. The use of images, as well as portrait of Cabeza de Vaca also helps the article in its detail, although a description of the origins of the portrait and other images used in the article would benefit the overall article.


The article appears to be part of various WikiProjects of varying activity and from various times. It discusses Cabeza de Vaca and his journey differently than we do in class because it does so very objectively, without the biases that we assume when we discuss it. The article has been written to and moderated by a variety of writers, including Professor Katherine Holt, with the contributors engaging in generally constructive and polite discourse on the talk page- a key feature of Wikipedia that differentiates it from other encyclopedias and journals. Finally, the article cites the facts and information it utilizes while our in-class discussions focus only on the content itself and we sparingly refer to a wide range of other sources.

They Say, I Say, A Land So Strange, and Creolization in the Americas

Cathy Birkenstein and Gerald Graff, authors of They Say/ I say, propose that there most people who argue fall to 2 extremes: those who summarise too much- that they fail to give their own opinion about in a discussion, and those who summarise too little- giving only their opinion and no fact from the source material itself. Buissert summarizes intellectual opinions and sentiment on the use of the terms “creolization” and “assimilation” to describe the melding of cultures between multiple societies.

Buissert’s argument about Creolisation having been a significant phenomenon follows the directions of Cathy Birkenstein and Gerald Graff that a writer must give his readers enough information about his subject material to enable them to make a sufficiently informed judgement of their own- independent of the writers’ own opinion. Buissert plays “the believing game” very well- almost to a fault. He with great detail, describes and cites many striking examples of creolization taking place in the Americas- in Canada between the French and the indians, in Cuba between the Spanish and the natives, in America between the indians and the british, and in Cuba, and Mexico, between the Spanish and the natives. In each case, Buissert cites the various ways in which this creolization of cultures was observable- in the evolutions of architecture- in diet and in the cultures and languages people used to communicate.

He so clearly presents the original authors’ arguments as their own that in some parts, it is difficult to hear his own voice and opinions through his writing. Paradoxically, this setting your own view aside, is a characteristic of a well written, objective summary, however, Buissert’s own opinion should retain a subtle influence in his writing. It is a fine line, and for the most part, Buissert walks it well. While I find his argument persuasive, especially his concluding saying perhaps creolization extends beyond diet, architecture, and language, but into the flora and fauna, into the ecosystem and environment itself- I fail to clearly hear his authentic voice and opinions about creolization as a phenomenon between different cultures interacting. His argument and summarisation is very objective but lacking in its being so devoid of his own clearly put personal feelings.

Cathy Birkenstein and Gerald Graff, in They Say/ I say the writer needs to align their summarisation of a given piece of a writing, with their own opinions about it. They say the summarised ‘ “they say” needs to be in line with the writer’s “I say.” Buissert does this well to a limited extent in referencing the interactions between different cultures, but falling short in his inability to sufficiently explain his own opinions about the matter.

What is the goal of a liberal education?

What is the purpose of a liberal arts education

They say the liberal arts were developed to grant people freedom to allow them to grow. William Cron disagrees, saying the liberal arts were developed to enable people to gain freedom as individuals, and to function well as part of their larger communities. Most people do not actually know what this freedom means.

William Cron argues that most people do not actually know what the proposed “freedom,” means. He cites how politicized and over marketed the term now is. He speaks to us, the readers asking with what purpose the liberal arts education was designed, the evolution it has experienced since its conception in Greek universities and the changes it has undergone to come to be as politically loaded as it is today. He examines all the progress that has been made in the design of a curriculum, but also how processes and its structure remain the same taking the form of lists. He describes how although our knowledge has advanced greatly over the years, the true definition of freedom and its price is still ambiguous.

Although the spectrum of people served by liberal arts education has expanded greatly and accommodates more diverse people than it initially did- women and other segregated and minority groups, we still do not clearly understand the goals of such an education. William Cron goes onto to answer his first question of “What is the goal of a liberal arts education?” by suggesting that the goal should be measured by the individual the education produces stating among other traits that such an individual must be able to listen, read, empathize, speak persuasively and solve puzzles and problems and be humble and tolerant.

All ten of these qualities describe an individual. However, no freedom serves the individual and his community. Freedom is only sustainable in a community. Therefore, the individual must be one who can connect, with himself, his environment, and his community, and leave each of those three things better than he found them.

Communication, as both Cathy Birkenstein and Gerald Graff- authors of They Say/ I say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, and William Cronon, is one of the most central traits of a person educated in the liberal arts. A proficiency in communicating enables the individual to exercise their freedom and build and support the society and community they are a part of. I find this argument particularly persuasive. This effective communication is dependent on a person’s being able to quickly and clearly assert the purpose of his communication. This enables the conversation to be clear and constructive and for the other party in the conversation to appreciate the subject matter better. This kind of conversation is what creates connection- in William Cron’s view, the true goal of an education in the liberal arts.

Communication and its efficiency depends entirely on our ability to listen. A good conversation is only therefore possible when people listen to each other and respond to each other ideas rather than the ideas they already hold in their heads and project onto everyone else. It is such conversation that defines true freedom and a liberal art educated individual- their ability to function as part of a community and to interact with the said community efficiently. This is only possible when we take the time to actually listen to each other speak.


Asking Big questions


My name is Tanaka and I think art is the most beautiful thing there is. I think creation is the most beautiful act we are capable of performing, and everything we do is in an attempt to express ourselves and our desire to create, through some medium: art, music, writing, and every other human discipline. Even science. Perhaps especially science. Science goes a step further to examine how we create. Philosophy asks why. It is an act of creation to understand creation itself.

I hope you can tell I like to ask big questions, and attempt to answer them. I fail too, spectacularly- but failing is fine. No good journey is smooth. All boring journeys are though. I could argue that I like asking big questions, especially when I already have the answers and know I have them. Even more so when I do not know the answers I have. It is possible to have something and not know you have it. Do you know what you have? Who you are? Why you are who you are? I want to ask those questions about everything. This semester, in this class, about latin America and the journeys that brought it to today.

This is why I came to Wooster, to find out the answers I already have, and to learn to ask bigger, deeper questions- their nature, and how to answer them- this last one, more than the answers themselves. The answers do not really matter. The journey to a place matters infinitely more than the destination itself. There are many destinations.

I chose Wooster because of the academic curiosity it creates in its students, and the environment that nurtures this curiosity and matures it into questions that matter. Questions that define us and shape our thoughts, fears, actions, lives, and legacies. Wooster chose me. I hope, for reasons similar to mine for choosing it: because there was a choice and there was no choice. It was meant to happen and it was not. But it happened anyway, like the rest of life, and I delight in this fact. That everything I ever hoped for, and ever feared, everything I ever dreamed, and dreaded, is happening at once. And it is oh, so beautiful. Wooster is amazing.

My goal this semester is to grow. In one small way, every single day.

To branch out of my peer group every week, and maintain a relationship with someone familiar, to write an article, (one better than this one I hope.) to read one chapter of that book I never find time for, and to give more than I take.


If you do not live in the moment, where do you live?