Tag Archives: Homework

Research Interests- The Columbian Exchange, and The History of Gods and Colonization- in Latin America

The History of gods in Latin America and their impact on the Spanish colonial machine.

I have possible interests in conducting research on the topic of the evolution of religion in Latin America. I would specifically want to explore the history of deities worshipped before colonisation of latin America took place: the origin stories of the Native Americans, their gods and deities. I would like to then superimpose these stories in order to better understand how the native Americans must have interpreted their first interactions with the Spanish and other colonial powers. Which of their deities did they identify them as? Why? Was it how they dressed? I would like to then briefly analyse how these beliefs must have evolved as the Native American interactions with the colonial powers progressed. Did they adopt the new gods the French brought with them across the ocean? How readily? What happened to their own gods and beliefs? Did a fusion of cultures take place? A “creolization” of religious beliefs and cultures where the traits of their different religions and gods fused and formed a new god. These are the questions I would like to explore in my research.

Specific information on the origins of the deities in existence in Latin America exists but is limited on Wikipedia. This article for example on the deity Abira has only one line that does very little to explain the Native American people’s attitudes and beliefs in Abira. Credo has articles around the deities in general, but none on the deity Abira- “the creator God of the people of Colombia”- Wikipedia.

Diseases for Resources- an analysis of the true nature of colonial trade in Latin America

A second topic I would very interested in exploring is the health repercussions the Native American society’s interactions with Europeans had on their populations. I would like to explore the death tolls from the various diseases that overtook these communities that had not up until interacted with dysentery and the myriad diseases the Spanish brought with them from Spanish cities. I would like to explore what impact this unprecedented biological pathogenic explosion must have had on the Spanish colonial machine. How much more effective was the Spanish conquest because of the emergence of disease as a factor in the colonisation of Latin America? Was it intentional? What was the impact on the genetic diversity of the population? What was the impact on their culture and their ability to resist colonisation? I would like to explore these questions in my research.

Wikipedia has information on this as do many other scholarly sources in what they term “The Columbian Exchange” It has been classified as a Level 4 vital article of importance on Wikipedia, and rated as a C-class article. There has been little activity on the topic’s talk page with the most recent activity being from 2009. On Credo, this topic has multiple articles and sources on it, however a distinct analysis of the impact of these diseases on the colonisation process seems missing. Perhaps this is because of lack of accurate record keeping in the period this phenomenon transpired. Notwithstanding, an impact analysis seems lacking and this remains a possible research topic of great interest.

“As they travelled, the castaways continued to burnish their reputation as healers.”

Andre Resendes in “Following the Corn Trail,” describes Cabeza de Vaca, Castillo, Dorantes, and Estebenico’s journey across the continent and their interactions with the many native peoples they meet. The focus of Resendes’ narration is on the peaceful and now respectful if not revered interactions that now take place between the four survivors and the native populations. Resendes attributes this new reverence the natives show towards the group of survivors to their adopting this new “healer” persona. Resendes stating that, “As they travelled, the castaways continued to burnish their reputation as healers.” explains that Cabeza de Vaca and his party continued to call themselves healers as they interacted with various native communities. This is significant because the natives in turn accorded Resendes and his group great respect, and accompanied them safely on their journey, from one settlement to another, gifting them with offerings, and gathering food and supplies for them. Without this guidance and assistance, Cabeza de Vaca and his party might never have survived this journey.

Cabeza de Vaca leverages his surgical knowledge from Spain and Resendes makes reference to an account given when Cabeza healed a man who had been pierced by an arrow. Cabeza then made an incision, before removing the arrowhead and helping the man to recover. Acts like these earned his party great respect from all the native American tribes. Without this respect, they might have been assaulted or treated with hostility. The loyalty, attention and praise they garner as they seem to pray for people and treat illness earn them great respect and almost turn them into an incredible community shared and traded by many different native communities. The leaders of these native communities according to Resendes propagate tales of the feats and acts performed by Cabeza and his group and this only further spurns the groups notoriety and popularity. This is epitomised by the willingness of entire groups to forego food until it is offered and given by the four survivors now, “healers.”


Cabeza and his group are touted as healers, and “Children of the sun,” incarnations of divinity who give and take blessings at will. Through their advertised “power,” they create a new kind of raiding culture where one native community raids the next, as an offering before passing them on. This new raiding culture although exploiting the native people, enables Cabeza and his group to continue on their group, and so they act oblivious to it, and benefit by it. As the Indians began to fall ill, the explorers, now healers seemed to fall prey to their own deceptions, and began to believe they really could call upon the power of God. The Indians in a very real sense became enslaved to the four healers, in a way that seemed to fulfill life coming full circle.


Ultimately, it was this brandishing of their “healers,” title that enabled them safe passage in their travels, and although the action negligible in its morality, Cabeza de Vaca and the three other survivors manage to interact with the Indians amicably as a result of their commitment to this acquired title.


Critiquing Wikipedia Entries- Cabeza de Vaca

Source: Wikipedia” https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/2c/Cabeza_de_Vaca_Portrait.jpg/220px-Cabeza_de_Vaca_Portrait.jpg

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.

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.


“They say” or “I say,” Which is it?

          In the article, “Only Connect…”, the author, William Cronon, discusses how the modern day liberal arts education has been skewed from its direct interpretation of liberty or human freedom. Essentially, a liberal arts education is meant to provide individuals with the capability to relate as well as diversify their interests, knowledge, and human connections. Cronon mentions how the liberal education has improved since its conception, but often requires students to complete a list of required courses, and jump through other hoops in order to be considered sufficiently educated in their area of study. Cronon also describes how a “liberal education nurtures human freedom in the service of human community, which is to say that in the end it celebrates love,” (Cronon). To expand on the author’s thoughts, a liberally educated human being is capable of a larger understanding of the world than those without the same level of education. Their deeper understanding of the world and the people around them arms them with a moral obligation to give back to the community that gave so much to them, whether that community is a small town or the human race.


          Although the author attempts to convey a strong message to its reader, he fails to reach his maximum potential through his disorganized text. Cronan spends far too much time describing either the “they say” or the “I say” side of the argument without intermixing them. When he should bring the conversation back to his point or the opposition’s, he simply continues on in the same direction, allowing the audience to easily forget the connection both sides of the discussion. In order to better convey his message, Cronon needs to illustrate and compare his ideas to the subject matter with a sense of urgency. Otherwise, the reader may misinterpret the author’s feelings towards institutionalized liberal education, and may even confuse his definition of liberal education with what a modern liberal education looks like in reality.