The Natives

In addition to the Franciscan Monks, others attempted to give voice to the native Americans. For example, Juan de Betanzos translated his Narrative of the Incas, the single most authentic document of its kind. He drew from the most authentic sources, the testimony of descendants of the Inca Kings who still remembered the oral history and traditions of their ancestors. He also used his Inca wife, Dona Angelina as a source. Careful study of Betanzos Narrative adds many insights into Inca history and traditions. For example, his narrative sheds light on the controversy over Inca chronology as well as the debate over marriage customs. The Betanzos Narrative gives many other details about rights performed at birth, weaning, puberty, marriage, and death as well as about how the Incas performed many religious festivals. Many other important passages cover Inca administration, laws, social customs, the calendar, the post system, warfare, weapons, and engineering works. Betanzos Narrative will help reshape any readers views of Inca civilization.

A similar source is entitled Letter to a King a Peruvian chief's account of life under the Incas and under Spanish rule. Like Betanzos' work, Don Felipe Huaman Poma de Ayala says in his introductory letter to king Phillip III of Spain, he sought out the oldest and most intelligent, on whom I could rely as witnesses of the truth . He tried to obtain the most truthful accounts, confirmed from various sources, which several people agreed upon as being true. He writes:

In short I determined to write this history, which describes the lineage and the famous deeds of the Kings, lords and officers who were our grandparents; the life of our Indians and their descent over many generations; the idolatrous and heretical Incas with their Queens and concubines; and the great nobles who could be compared with the Dukes, Counts and Marquisses of Spain.

Huaman Poma's account is unique because he was an Inca and because his history goes beyond pre-Columbian civilization to include the Incas under Spanish rule.

These two works are representative of the effort that many contributors from varied backgrounds put into giving a voice to the natives and recording their history. Clearly, these accounts, written in the 16th and 17th centuries, can be credited with the growth of travel literature as a genre in the 18th century. Juan de Betanzos was born in Spain but spent his adult life in the Viceroyalty of Peru. Thus he was an outsider attempting to record the history of a people with no written language. Both of these works serve as a precursor to travel writing in style. The travel writers of the 18th century would write in the form of letters or journals. Some of them would attempt to give voice to natives by creating fictional characters reacting to their encounters with foreigners as the writer imagined they would. What started as an attempt to chronicle history was aided by an insatiable desire to experience the exotic into becoming fictional travel writing.

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