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Constructing the Twentieth-Century Child: Postcolonial Retellings of Estevanico from Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación

Cristina Rhodes

Abstract


Sparked by the racially divisive socio-cultural environment of the United States in the post-war period, children’s literature saw a rise in the publication of children’s books that reimagined colonial texts such as Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación. By highlighting the country’s colonial origins, many such texts reinforced the ideals of white American nationalism. This trend is illustrated in retellings of La Relación, which complicate race relations through an emphasis on Estevanico, the Moorish slave, whose relationships with the child characters in books like Frank G. Slaughter’s Apalachee Gold, Betty Baker’s Walk the World’s Rim, and Jeanette Mirsky’s The Gentle Conquistadors ultimately reveal twentieth- century America’s reluctance to accept minorities. Estevanico’s childish relationships and infantilization represent emergent ideologies of children and childhood that promote colonial/white children’s power over the Other. 


Keywords


twentieth century; race; colonialism; childhood; friendship

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