It becomes obvious, in reading the slave narrative of Juan Francisco Manzano, that he greatly values his childhood upbringing. The first several pages of his autobiography go into great detail about his place of origin, as well as how and by whom he was raised. For example, in the very first paragraph, Manzano describes the kindness of his first master, Dona Beatriz de Justiz, and explains that she took it upon herself to educate her slaves, and even go as far as to grant some of them their freedom. He then points out that his mother was one of Dona Beatriz’s favorite slaves, and that she was “singled out” for training and education. The phrase “singled out” implies that she was chosen, and was therefore better than other slaves at that time. This part of the text is the first of many instances in which Manzano separates himself from other slaves. At a later point in his life, Manzano describes a situation in which Dona Joaquina, on of his many masters, took it upon herself to make sure that he did not “mix with the other black children.” The fact that he noted this implies that Manzano saw himself not as a part of the black race or the slave community, but above it. This in part, is due to his posh upbringing in the house of Dona Beatriz de Justiz, and his attending of plays, memorization of poems and Bible passages, etc. It is apparent that Manzano not only values the things that he learned as a child, but also views himself as superior because of them.

According to the paper written by Turner, the American Frontier, on a variety of different levels, is a paradox. It represents American development and a “return to primitive conditions” all at the same time. The interest in the frontier meant that America was advancing, and growing beyond the means of the East Coast. The attention of the colonists was no longer “limited to the Atlantic Coast.” Just as the first colonists set their attention toward the West (toward America), these new Americans set their attention to the West Coast. American society, at this point, was so developed that the inhabitants were able to turn their attention westward.
Where this expansion is seen as a cultural advancement, it can also be seen as a sort of “return to the basics.” As Turner put it, “American social development” was “beginning over again on the frontier.” The Americans that decided to move toward the West were forced to pick everything up and leave their homes. They were forced to begin anew. With nothing but raw materials and their fellow family members and settlers, these migrants settled the West, and made it into a society somewhat comparable to the one they just left on the East Coast. In settling the West, the settlers found themselves more like the Native Americans than the colonists they had just left. Being on the frontier “puts him (the settler) in the log cabin of the Cherokee and Iroquois and runs an Indian palisade around him…”
The American frontier was indeed a paradox. As Turner put so aptly, it was “the meeting point between savagery and civilization.” It is often difficult to distinguish between the two, when focusing on the American frontier.

In completing the reading for this week, I have found that there were many factors that played a major role in defining the Spanish colonists, in a time when there was a great air of uncertainty regarding their identity. During this time there were many perceptions as to who these Spanish colonists really were. Were they Spanish, or were they Americans, or a combination of the two? The Pagden article claimed that these colonists still thought that they possessed the qualities that had previously defined them in the past, and in Spain. For example, they still insisted upon “the enduring worth of the old aristocratic values by which the first conquistadores had lived.” They also continued to view other colonists in America as foreigners. Each colony saw itself as an extension of their mother country. These colonies’ self-image was very different from what their true identity was, however. Although they saw themselves as “primarily feudal aristocracy living by tribute and arms,” they became completely different, over time. They may have been “Spanish” upon arrival to America, however the physical conditions shortly changed that. The land played a major role in defining these new colonists. As Pagden said, “their culture drew its coherence and its appeal from an attachment to the land.” Over time, conquest was dismissed as a characteristic of these people and was soon replaced. Upon marrying, and settling down, and creating generations of people who would become “Americans,” the Spanish colonists created for themselves a new set of defining values. Time, distance, and nature were all involved in helping to create these values which ultimately created the colonists’ American identity.

Next Page »