Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 9: No 2) >> Home and Wilderness in Simms's Vasconselos >> Page 20

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Secondary Scholarship | 2001, 2002
Transcription tournaments in Havana after the bullfight, and the spectators praise Philip's "noble
character and perfect heroism" (244) in the tournaments. Knighthood and knight
culture are central to the world of Vasconselos.
The tournaments in Havana are proposed by Isabella de Bobadilla, De
Soto's wife who wants to test Philip's zeal as a knight. She says that the knightly
ambition is "a generous impatience of the dull paces of the common life" (20).
Chivalry means "an eager and noble appetite after conquest" (20) and it never
contradicts love. Isabella proposes the tournaments because she never doubts that
after winning the love of Olivia, Philip will surely leave her in Havanna to go out on
an expedition to Florida. Both De Soto and Philip attach much importance to
chivalry, but their zeal is differently oriented. Philip once fought with the Moors in
the Iberian Peninsula, and explored the wilderness in Florida with Cabeza de Vaca.
Simms alludes to Philip's having been an active hero in the Peru expedition, which
presents no small similarity between De Soto and Philip. However, De Soto has his
conquistador's zeal aroused by the story of Cabeza after he returns home from the
Peru expedition and cannot subjugate his desires to go out on another expedition,
leaving Isabella in Havana; while Philip chooses to stay behind in Havana or remain
home rather than to obtain the pearls, gold, Native American slaves or other
valuable things in Florida. "To me," as he puts it, "such treasures have grown
valueless in comparison with others yet more precious" (131).
Chivalry makes clear and defines conquest as the extension of Reconquista.
The so-called Romancero was the epic of prodigies of valor which praised the
Reconquista carried out by the Christians to recapture the Iberian Peninsula from the
hands of the Islamics who had occupied it for seven hundred years. Its purpose was
to defeat the enemy of Christianity as well as to recover the territory. According to
Tomoko Mimura, "In order to symbolize the union of such a cross and the sword in
Reconquista the religious order was organized. Literally, its members were pious
Christians who confronted their religious enemies in violence."14 Carlos Fuentes
describes common features and differences between Reconquista and conquest as

Machiavelli indeed was the elder brother of the conquistadors, for what is
The Prince but a manual for the new men of the Renaissance, the hominis
novi who set out to create their own destiny, through will and in spite of
providence, free from excessive obligations to inherited privilege or nobility
or birth? The prince conquers the kingdom of this world, the reign of that
which is, the negation of Utopia ... Yet we must understand that the
conquest of the New World was part of the momentum of the reconquest of
Spain from the Moors. The conquistadors were products of that drive, but
also of a modern individualism of a Machiavellian stripe, common
throughout Renaissance Europe. They were arrivistes, climbers, men on the
make. They came from all walks of life. Some were laborers; others were

14 Tomoko Mimura, Romancero as Aspects of Reconquista (Tokyo: Sairyusha, 1995), 26-27.