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Dialectics of travel: reading the journey in Antonio de Montezinos's Relacion (1644).


The Relation of Antonio de Montezinos (1644) recounts one of the few direct encounters between a Jew and the New World during the formative period of European expansion and colonization of the Americas. Montezinos's narrative of his encounter with the lost tribe of Reuben in the Northern Andes is of obvious relevance to the history of early modern messianisms as well as the proto-anthropological question of the origin of the Native Americans. However, in this essay I look at the Relation as a uniquely Jewish American narrative of spiritual transformation; Montezinos's experience in the Americas inspires a radical reassessment of his life and religious commitments. This transformation is fueled by the journeys he embarks upon and the texts--both oral and written--which he encounters along the way; both text and travel dialectically inform his process of self-discovery. By focusing on this one angle we can see how Montezinos's Relation participates in the wider discourse of the European encounter with the Americas, and how, at the same time, it is integral to Jewish literature, to the writings of individual Jews as they attempt to make sense of the New World.


From the outset of the European encounter with the "New World," the political and military subjugation of the Americas has been intimately related to the textual conceptualization of its territory and peoples. Columbus's journals and letters, the scholarly works of natural history and ethnography, as well as the plethora of reports (relaciones) penned by the explorers and conquerors all reflect a desire to grasp the new reality of the Americas, to try to fix its unstable otherness, to comprehend the New Word both geo-politically and intellectually. Just as the project of conquest and colonization inscribed Spanish and then later Portuguese, English, French, and Dutch power into the physical landscape--the building of fortresses, towns, roads, ports--so too the land, its flora and fauna as well as its varied societies were textually rendered and reconceived through the relaciones and other texts. (1) In many cases, even the most dry factual reports of miles walked and indigenous peoples encountered are marked by the more intimate traces of the author's own experience--or at least the way the author chose to craft that experience--with its attending psychological, epistemic, and ethical dynamics.

While there is ample evidence of the presence of Conversos, crypto-Jews, and open Sephardic Jews traveling throughout the East and West Indies, they have left almost no textual record of their experiences. (2) From the letters penned by exasperated priests in Santo Domingo or Potosi decrying the brazenness of the Portuguese Conversos passing through these New World centers and barely hiding their Judaism, to the trial records of accused crypto-Jews in the tribunals of Mexico, Cartagena and Lima, and in the Synagogues, gravestones, and ritual baths (mikvaot) of the open Jewish communities of the Caribbean--all point to the active presence of Jews and Conversos of varying Jewish affiliations throughout the Atlantic world. (3) There are traces of their presence but very few contemporaneous textual records of their impressions of the "New World" and of their encounter with the Native Americans, and even fewer accounts of how their Judaism mediated and transformed their experiences.

One of these rare accounts emerged in 1644, when Antonio de Montezinos stood before the eminences of the Amsterdam Sephardic community and recounted his experiences in the northern Andes with a group of indigenous Americans who, he claimed, presented themselves as the lost Israelite tribe of Reuben. Montezinos came to Amsterdam to share the good tidings of this discovery and to relay the Reubenites' message of messianic stirrings to the Jews of the Diaspora. The written version of this oral account--gaining its greatest notoriety when printed as part of Menasseh Ben Israels Esperanza de Israel (Amsterdam, 1650)--became known as the Relacion de Aharon HaLevi, alias Antonio de Montezinos. This short relacion is the first example we have of a text written by a Jew recording a Jewishly inflected encounter with the Americas. (4) Montezinos's relacion shows how the travelers American journey became essential to his embrace of his Jewish heritage, how the Native Americans he encounters form an essential part of his own Jewish reawakening, and how his experiences in the Americas issue in a new understanding of Jewish history and a hoped for messianic future.

Other Jews wrote about the Americas, but they did so without ever leaving Europe. These works were mediated through the accounts of other travelers and the scientific works of other European scholars, who likewise never made the transatlantic journey. (5) Montezinos's account is not only important because of what it can tell us about the state of European intellectual history, or what it might reveal about the indigenous peoples of the Americas. By reading the text as a relacion, we can see that embedded in the factual account of Montezinos's experience is a narrative arc of religious, ethical, and epistemic awakening. (6) He is transformed through his experience; at the end of the journey, he does not merely have the information he seeks, he is a different person, as it were, an American Jew.

In this essay I will focus on the epistemic element of Montezinos's narrative, the dynamics of his search for the truth. He begins his narrative with an enigma whose meaning slowly becomes clearer and clearer. I contend that his discovery is the product of an intimate dialectic between textuality and travel which animates the entire Relacion. By focusing on this one angle, we can see how Montezinos's Relacion participates in the wider discourse of the European encounter and intellectual assimilation of the Americas, and how, at the same time, it is integral to Jewish literature, to the writings of individual Jews as they attempt to make sense of the New World.


In his Relacion the Portuguese crypto-Jew Antonio de Montezinos narrates the story of his travels in Nueva Granada, in present-day Colombia, and his encounter with the lost tribe of Reuben living in the Andes, bringing their message of hope to their Israelite brothers in the Diaspora. (7) Originally reported before a council of eminent leaders of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1644, the extraordinary, even bizarre story created quite a stir, particularly among some of the Christian millenarians living in Amsterdam at the time. It circulated orally for a few years and was first published in 1650 in Iewes in America, a treatise by the British theologian Thomas Thorowgood espousing the Israelite origin of the American Indian. (8) It gained its greatest notoriety, however, when included later that year in Menasseh ben Israel's Miqveh Israel, esto es Esperanza de Israel, which was reprinted and translated into Latin, English, Dutch, and Hebrew and proved to be of interest to a wide range of people outside the narrow confines of the author's Dutch Sephardic community. (9)

Montezinos's narrative is an integral part of the Esperanza. Menasseh puts the Relacion within its biblical context and analyzes it in terms of contemporary geographical and anthropological discourses. He clarifies what he sees as the true meaning of the narrative, its connection to the anthropological origins of the Native Americans, and most importantly, its eschatological intimations of the messianic age. But while the Esperanza has continued to attract scholarly interest in modern times, the Relacion itself has not drawn serious attention, being seen as a curiosity, a work of delusion or deception. Cecil Roth, ever careful to portray the Jews of Amsterdam as cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and rational, dismissed Montezinos's account as the "ravings of a wild eyed marrano." (10) Some historians have analyzed the text in terms of its role in Menasseh ben Israel's ecumenical dialogues with Protestant millenarians. Others have focused on its place within the early modern debates regarding the origin of the Americans, which in many cases mark the beginning of European interest in ethnography and cultural anthropology. Rarely, however, is Montezinos's text appreciated on its own terms or as separate from Mensasseh's project. (11)

I want to argue here that while the Relation is deeply intertwined with the Esperanza and its reception, it also deserves to be read independently as a relation, one of the myriad reports written in the Iberian colonial context by conquerors and explorers giving an official accounting of their discoveries to the relevant authorities. It is a relation of a particular sort: like other American relationes, it attempts to textualize an encounter with the marvelous, to turn individual experience with the exotic and strange, with that which is difficult to distill, into a narrative that is intelligible and registers with an audience. (12) Read as an autobiographical record of the author's travels in the Americas, Montezinos's text reflects the psychological and epistemological confusion of the encounter between old and new worlds. The European voyages of exploration and conquest of the Americas effected a deep unhinging of ancient epistemic and ontological constructs. As Anthony Grafton explains in his New Worlds, Ancient Texts, European intellectuals at first attempted to reconcile the new with the old through intricate hermeneutics, but in time they built new epistemologies to help them navigate the new world they suddenly inhabited.

Montezinos's text is a fascinating example of this European encounter with the disorienting otherness of the Americas. Through a dialectic of travel and textuality, Montezinos makes sense of the terra incognita of his experience. His journey is driven by a desire to decipher a story whose lines he intuits but cannot clearly read. That story, however, is generated by his journey itself. Each new leg of the journey reveals a clue that drives Montezinos onward, until the lines of the story are clearly laid out. This dialectical cycle of travel and textuality is at the core of Montezinos's account and is central to his own rediscovery of Judaism. In the analysis that follows I will look at the text as an engagement with an unfolding epistemology, a narrative of discovery and self-knowledge whereby text and terrain must be deciphered and navigated.


As Michel Butor suggests, there is a phenomenological circularity between reading, writing and travel. "To travel, at least in a certain manner," he writes, "is to write (first of all because to travel is to read), and to write is to travel." (13) Traveling is like reading, which, in turn, is like writing because text stands at the center of all three activities. For Butor, the distance between words on a page collapses into the distance between train stops; reading involves the "path of the eye from sign to sign, like all sorts of itineraries which can often, but not always, be grossly simplified as the progression along a line from a point of departure to a point of arrival" (70). The text becomes a terrain to be traversed from word to word just as the points along the route are shaped by the traveler into a text to be read and inscribed through the journey. Further, as Michel de Certeau argues, narrativity is inherent in all movement through space, and all narration has a spatial quality. Indeed, Certeau writes that "narrative structures have the status of spatial syntaxes" (115). The meanderings through a city, the decisions to turn left or right at an intersection, constitute a spatial "composition"; the city is seen as an "immense texturalogy" (92). The walker transforms the textual arrangement of the city as the reader transforms the lines of a book. Certeau furthers the conceptual identification between space and text when he defines the written text as "a place constituted by a system of signs" (117). (14) The reader, like the traveler, navigates/reads/ composes that system of signs, sometimes "correctly" and sometimes "incorrectly."

Butor's and Certeau's analyses uncover an unnoticed, subterranean network of relationships ("enchainments") informing "everyday" practices. While based for the most part on analysis of modern travel phenomena--trains, metropolitan strolls, Club Med vacations--their insights point toward certain elemental phenomenological links between writing and travel exhibited by many early modern texts.

For Montezinos, travel and text are essential features of his spiritual awakening, sometimes collapsing into one another. The journey unfolds as a providentially arranged semiotics. The travelers path toward spiritual discovery/ enlightenment is marked by those instances when he has read these signs "properly." Concurrent to deciphering terrain, he encounters texts, particularly sacred texts, which also become locations of revelation and religious instruction. We will begin the analysis in the Relations second scene, set in the Inquisitorial prison in Cartagena de Indias where Montezinos is held after his arrest under suspicion of being a Judaizer.


After his travels in the Andes, the Relation tells us, Antonio de Montezinos passes through Cartagena de Indias, where he is arrested by the Inquisition under suspicion of Judaizing." Alone in his cell, he experiences a surprising, subconscious intrusion while reciting his morning prayers, uttering an idiosyncratic, noncanonical version of the traditional Jewish prayer: "Blessed are you God, our Lord, King of the Universe who has not made me an idolater":

"Blessed be the name of Adonay who has not made me an idolater, a barbarian, a Negro, or an Indian [for no hacerme indio\." Upon saying "Indian" he was overtaken by the thought that these Indians were Hebrews. He began to recite the prayer again, and once more he was seized by the same thought. He said, "Am I crazy or out of my head [juicio]? How could it be that these Indians are Hebrews?" (3) (16)

Disoriented and confused, Montezinos tries to dismiss his mysterious identification of Indians and Jews but cannot shake the intuition. While not knowing why or how, he comes to believe that his mis-utterance must have originated on a journey he had taken across the Andes a few months earlier. The following analysis will trace Montezinos's quest to understand his bizarre epiphany hilly and focus on his reading of the textual and the experiential clues he encounters on his journey.

Montezinos begins his journey and his narrative at the river port of Honda in Nueva Granada in 1641. He hires some mules and a group of Indian porters for a journey across the "Cordillera" mountains (1). As they cross a ridge, the rains and wind begin to beat down on them, eventually throwing their cargo to the ground. The Indians, Montezinos relates, worn down by their day's toil, "began to curse their fate, saying that this and much more did they deserve because of their sins" (1-2). Their leader, an Indian named Francisco, responds to their cryptic lament by consoling them, "telling them to have patience, because soon they would have a day of rest" (2). (17) But the others reject his message of hope, retorting "that it was not right that they should have it because they had treated such a saintly nation--indeed the "best of the world"--so cruelly. Furthermore, they add, all the afflictions and atrocities (inhumanidades) that the Spaniards had inflicted upon them were well deserved because of their guilt (1-2). (18) A similar allusion is uttered the following day when, as they are resting, Montezinos offers Francisco some crackers with the quip, "Take this, even if you speak ill of the Spaniards" (1-2). The Indian, presumably seeing Montezinos as part of the system of Spanish colonialism and exploitation, refuses the offer, decrying the evil of the Spaniards, calling them "a cruel, tyrannical and completely inhumane people." Francisco warns him that soon the tide would turn against the conquistadores, and that "soon enough he would see their evil punished by means of a hidden people [gente oculta]."

This string of obscure references to a secret history of persecution and a promise of imminent retribution are, at this early point in the narrative, unintelligible to Montezinos and, by his own account, he does not give this exchange much thought. Only later, praying in his Inquisition cell, blessing God for not making him "an idolater, a bar-barian, a Negro, or an Indian," does Montezinos begin to intuit that the Indians' history is intimately tied to his own. After his uncanny flash of insight in prison--brought on, no doubt, by a subconscious game of resonances and twisted allusions played out between the fixed (performative) text of his prayers and the Indian's esoteric history--Montezinos is haunted by the memory of his conversation with Francisco in the mountains and resolves that upon his release he will locate him and "find out the truth of this matter" (3).

When Montezinos is eventually released, he returns to Honda, hoping to get to the root of the matter, to find the source of the Indians' oral text and to decode it, to put the fragments in order and to reconstruct their meaning. (19) He finds Francisco, they begin to talk, and he brings up their conversation in the mountains:
   He brought to his memory the story that happened in the mountains
   [la historia de la montana] and the exchange they had had on that
   occasion. The Indian replied that he had not forgotten them. When
   Montezinos heard this he responded by saying that he had in mind to
   go on a trip with him. He responded that he was ready whenever he
   would like. (4) (20)

Montezinos asks specifically about the words that Francisco said to him--"la historia de la montana y las palabras" (4)--because they seem to hold the key to the secret history. But instead of engaging him further about the story he invites the Indian on a trip.

La historia de la montana is best discussed on a journey, away from the town. Inquisitorial evidence indicates that the journey often served as the place where crypto-Jews would feel safe enough to reveal themselves to one another or to initiate a younger family member into the family's secret faith. (21) Montezinos appears to be following this model. "They continued on their path," the narrative relates, "and while talking he revealed himself to the Indian, telling him these words: I am a Hebrew of the tribe of Levi, my god is Adonay, and everything else is a lie" (4). (22) Only as they travel does Montezinos feel safe enough to reveal his hidden Judaism and initiate a dialogue with Francisco--who turns out to be another "crypto-Jew."

Before revealing his own relationship to Judaism or embracing Montezinos as a fellow "Hebrew," Francisco needs to be sure that his companion can be trusted. (23) So he responds to Montezinos's revelation of his Judaism with a simple yet loaded question: What are your father's names? Montezinos answers with a list of the biblical patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Abraham, Ishac, y Iahacob). Yet Francisco is not satisfied. Do you not have another father? he demands. Still, Montezinos's response--the name of his actual father, Luis de Montezinos--leaves the Indian perplexed. "Some of the things you have told me have caused me joy," he says, "but others make me feel that I should not believe you." (24) This basic geneological question is actually a test of sorts, and Francisco is waiting for the right answer. Montezinos is caught off guard; thus after being told that his first "spiritual" or national formulation (the biblical patriarchs) was not sufficient, he offers a more concrete response (the name of Luis de Montezinos, his actual father). However, he is not revealing the "password" that Francisco is waiting for. Then Francisco demands outright: "Are you not a Child of Israel [hijo de Israe]?" Montezinos says "yes" (4). Relieved, yet exhausted by the intensity of the exchange, Francisco suggests that they rest and talk about this issue later. Even after they rest, however, Francisco does not return to their previous exchange; rather, he proposes a new trip. His invitation reads more like a challenge: "If you are a man of spirit, courage and endurance and you dare to come with me, you will come to know what you desire"(5). (25) Yet another journey promises to reveal what Montezinos is hungry to know: the meaning of the fragmented narrative of oppression and redemption he heard but did not understand almost two years earlier, back on an Andean ridge.

Montezinos reveals himself as a Jew to Francisco, hoping that he will respond in kind, but significantly Francisco resists. His response does indicate that he is somehow "clued into" Judaism--he demands to know the details of Montezinos's origin as a "son of Israel"--yet he does not disclose his own identity. Francisco's relationship to Judaism, like so much else, will only be clarified after the journey, at the end of the narrative. At this point, the fragmented history he alluded to in the mountains remains unelaborated and unexplained, as if words were insufficient, as if the journey alone could supply the unfinished text he began to put together many months before.

Montezinos and Francisco travel for a week, resting only on the Sabbath. They reach a wide river ("larger than the Duero"), (26) at which point Francisco tells the itinerant Levite, "Here you will see your brothers." Francisco arranges a series of signs to indicate their arrival:
   He made a flag out of two pieces of cotton that had clung to their
   bodies, with this he made a sign. After a while they saw a great
   amount of smoke, and the Indian said, "Now they know that we are
   here." And then at the same moment, they made the same sign in
   response, raising another flag, and then three men and one woman
   came out in a canoe and they came to where they where. (27)

Unlike Montezinos's fractured reading of Francisco's story, the exchange of senas between Francisco and these other Indians is seamlessly played out: each signal is reciprocated with its appropriate and mutually intelligible response.

While Francisco can easily communicate with Montezinos's "brethren," Montezinos himself must rely on his guide's interpretations and his own analysis of the signs they present to him. In the Relation Montezinos describes the scene of exchange between Francisco and the other Indians as they approach the other side of the river:
   The woman came ashore while the men stayed on in the canoe. After a
   long series of discussions [coloquios] between the woman and
   Francisco, which Montezinos could not understand, she related what
   was happening to the three men who were still in the canoe. The men
   were watching this interaction with great concern and at a certain
   point they got out of their canoes and came and embraced Francisco,
   as did the woman. As these men approached the Indian Francisco, he
   bowed down at their feet but they lifted him up with expressions of
   humanity and concern and began to speak with him. (7) (28)

Montezinos is left out of this exchange--"no pudo entender." Deprived of direct verbal communication, he is forced to study the nonverbal elements of their communication: the order in which the Indians come to shore, their embrace, and the "muestras de humanidad" with which they respond to Francisco's performance of humility.

Once contact is established between Francisco and the other members of the tribe, they turn to greet Montezinos by gathering around him and reciting the Deuteronomic credo, Shema Yisrael, expressing at once allegiance to the nation of Israel and belief in one God. By reciting it together, the Indians are at once testing his Jewish credentials--waiting to see if he indeed knows and recognizes this Jewish prayer--revealing their shared Hebraismo, and welcoming their guest into their inner circle. Their first verbal exchange with Montezinos is in the biblical tongue that they both share as a liturgical language. Their communal recitation of this prayer-text allows both Montezinos and the Indians to communicate but does not constitute an actual dialogue.

Following their shared recitation of the Shema, the Hebreo-Indians present Montezinos with a litany of historical and eschatological principles relating to their tribe. Without a shared language, both Montezinos and his "brothers" need Francisco as their interpreter. Francisco not only facilitates the translation of the Indians' message to Montezinos but also helps him understand the extra-linguistic aspect of their culture. Before they come to greet the traveler, Francisco warns him: "Do not be surprised, nor annoyed, do not imagine that these men will tell you their second point until you have fully understood the first" (7). (29) Francisco wants Montezinos to comprehend that these people have their own way of doing things, that understanding their story demands learning how to listen to their telling of it. Montezinos's desire to access the truth, to piece together the clues, and unravel the true history of the Jewish Indians is more than a question of epistemology. He must undergo an ethical transformation whereby he relinquishes the power he once wielded as part of the colonial system and learns to listen to others. Francisco is his guide in this process. He has consistently challenged Montezinos, questioning his genealogy, testing his valor through the arduous journey, and now he tries his humility and patience. He warns him that this knowledge cannot be received directly and easily. It is a trial that Montezinos almost fails.

After their embrace of Montezinos and their communal recitation of the Shema, the Reubenites begin to impart a formal nine-point message to their long-lost brother. The Relation records the convoluted mechanics of their communication with Montezinos:
   [The Reubenites] would first consult with Francisco [who acted as
   their] interpreter, learning from him how the thing was said in
   Spanish, and in Spanish they themselves would tell him the
   following message, pausing [intremetiendo] some time between one
   point [razon] to the other. (8) (30)

Francisco is the interpreter but not the one who actually relates the story to Montezinos. The Reubenites get the Spanish translation of each of their "nine points" from Francisco, and then they themselves relate it to Montezinos. The message is too important to relay through an interpreter; instead, the Reubenites relay their message directly to Montezinos using a language that is not their own.

The communication of the "nine points" in the Relation is not only verbal but also symbolic, as most of the utterances are accompanied by concurrent hand signs that illustrate the particular message. Indeed, performative sign language accompanies seven of the nine points. For instance, the Reubenites first list their ancestors: "My father is Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Israel, and then showing three fingers they named these four; and then they added Reuben, showing four fingers." (31) Similarly, to describe the tribe of Joseph's location in the third point they show two fingers close together and then, "they opened them and said 'in two parts.'" (32) It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between what is actually said and what Montezinos interprets from their signs. In the recording of the fourth point, for instance, the text of the Relation includes parenthetical stage directions; "Fourth: Then quickly (saying this very quickly) some of us will come out and see and step out, and at this time they gestured with their eyes, and stomped their feet." (33) Similarly: "Fifth: One day we will all speak, at this moment he made the following [sounds] with his mouth: ba, ba, ba, and we will come out as if the earth birthed us." (34) This cryptic prediction of universal communication is ironically dramatized by the Israelite-Indian's pantomime of speech--ba, ba, ba. To express communication the Indian performs nonsense, or at least what seems like nonsense to Montezinos's ear. (35)

The seventh point, which discusses Francisco's role in explicating the "nine points," is also a composite message: "Francisco will tell you a bit more, gesturing with his finger, a small thing [cosa poca]"(9). (36) A clear, verbally articulated message is followed by a hand sign whose interpretation is included: "cosa poca." The hand sign on its own cannot unequivocally indicate cosa poca. As noted earlier, the "text" of these "nine points" was rendered into Spanish by Francisco and then spoken (in Spanish) by the Indians to Montezinos. It would follow that Montezinos's interpretation of their symbolic language would be determined by the "text" they recite to him. Montezinos's (and our own) hermeneutics of these "composite" texts continues into the last two points as well:

Eight: We will give you space so that you can prepare yourself, and then moving his hand from one place to another, they said with their hand, "Do not tarry."

Nine: Send twelve men who can write, they all indicated "beards." (9) (37)

What exactly does it mean to "say with the mouth and hand" to "not delay"? Was this last piece of the message expressed through words and a hand sign, or was it expressed only symbolically by using both hands and mouth? Are the twelve scribes indicated by the "performed" beards, or are these "beards" merely an accompaniment to the Reubenites' verbal request for wizened scholars?

These questions point to the larger issue of Montezinos's ability to comprehend the narrative he is trying to uncover. Despite the fact that these nine points are presented in Spanish to Montezinos countless times, the simple act of "fixing the text" presents a major challenge. Not only do the "nueve cosas" require extensive elucidation to comprehend the secret history they allude to, but they also demand a careful navigation of the Reubenites' spoken and unspoken discourse.

Montezinos stands before the Reubenites' composite linguistic and symbolic "text" confused and frustrated. The Reubenites return the next day and the next "to repeat the same thing to him" (8) but refuse to answer any of Montezinos's questions. While the words they use may be comprehensible to him and their hand signs decipherable, the "nine points" conceal more than they reveal; they demand familiarity with a prehistory with which Montezinos is not yet familar. At this point, his questions are intentionally ignored. Francisco has already explained that the Reubenites would insist on presenting the information in the manner they think best, with no regard for Montezinos's preferences (7). Frustrated, Montezinos grows tired of the daily repetitions, and "annoyed that they would not respond to his questions, nor ... let him cross the river to the other side," which tempts him as the place that guards the secret he is trying to uncover. So he tries to find out the truth about this "lost tribe" on his own, approaching "slyly toward the canoe so that he could cross over to the other side" (9). (38) Frustrated by his inability to understand the text of their nine messages, Montezinos desires to discover the truth through physically uncovering it, by crossing this river and seeing for himself. Unable to penetrate the meaning of their oral text, he desires to go to their secret kingdom and interpret the contours of their world.

However, the Reubenites notice Montezinos's surreptitious attempt to cross the river and knock the canoe away from him with a pole. Montezinos (who did not know how to swim) falls into the river but is quickly pulled out by the Reubenites. "Showing their ire," they caution him not to think that he will get what he is looking for. They rebuke his mad impatience and remind him that he will "leave with what he intends to find," not "through force or madness," (39) not by physically crossing the river into their hidden kingdom and seeing the tribe for himself, but by listening to their narrative in precisely the way they present it. (40) Montezinos cannot make out the trails through the forests and mountains any better than he is able independently to discover the meaning of the bizarre history he has stumbled upon. He possesses a string of facts that point to a larger narrative arc, but at this point he cannot properly read it. Montezinos informs us that during his three-day stay with his "hermanos" approximately three hundred men shuttle back and forth across the river in their canoes, each time in groups of four, each time repeating in unison the same "nine points" (10). The repetition does little to clarify the story, and during their return trip to Honda, Montezinos turns to Francisco and presses him to elaborate: "You should be aware that my brothers told me that you would tell me a bit more, and for this reason I ask you to tell me now something of what I desire to know" (11). (41) Not able to understand fully the import or the meaning of his "brothers'" narrative, he turns to Francisco to guide him yet again. What Montezinos is looking to discover is not at all clear. His request to be told "something of what I desire to know" (algo de lo que tanto dezeo saber) echoes Franciscos earlier warning to be patient if he really wants to discover "that [lo] which he desires to know"(5). The vagueness of the neuter "lo" reflects Montezinos's intuitive yet clouded grasp of the knowledge he seeks. He had known enough to find Francisco, to reveal his own Jewishness to him and to agree to pursue the intimations of the secret history further, but his own intuition cannot take him far enough. According to Montezinos, the Reubenites themselves had expected Francisco to help the wandering Levite understand "that which he desires."

Francisco promises to share "that which he knows" (lo que supiere) with Montezinos, as long as he does not pressure him. Again, Montezinos must learn patience and humility if he desires to understand the entire story; he must give up control if he wishes to learn the truth. There is an ethical dimension to the hermeneutics. The story must be heard in its entirety, and Montezinos must pass through its different stages in order to comprehend it properly. Francisco warns Montezinos, "I will tell you that which you desire to know as long as you do not rush me, and I will refer you to the truth as I came to know it through the tradition of my fathers; and if you rush me, which I fear you will because you appear to be scheming (especulativo), you will force me to tell you lies" (11). (42) Again, this journey toward the truth is as much about ethics as it is about knowledge.

Francisco finally proceeds to recount the prehistory necessary for Montezinos to piece together and make sense of the fragmentary clues he has received:
   Your brothers, the Children of Israel, were brought to this land by
   God, performing through them great miracles, many startling
   wonders, things which if I tell you you would not believe, and this
   was told to me by my parents. We, the Indians, came to this land,
   we attacked them (the Israelites), we treated them worse than the
   Spanish now treat us. (12) (43)

Francisco explains that based on the deceptive leadership of their Mohanes, (44) their wise men, they drove the children of Israel into the depths of the jungle to subdue them completely. The armies pursued them beyond the river, but the Israelites consistently beat them back. "No matter how many would enter," Francisco says, "none would come out alive"(12). (45)

When the Indian armies had been completely decimated, Francisco continues, the Mohanes finally admit their error:
   The God of these Children of Israel is the true God, all which is
   written on their stones is true; at the end of days, they will
   become masters of the nations of the world, people will come to
   these lands who will bring many things with them and once all of
   the land is well stocked, these children of Israel will come out
   from where they are and become the rulers of the entire land, as it
   once was theirs. Those of you who desire to be fortunate, attach
   yourself to them. (12-13) (46)

Francisco and his family, along with four other Casique families, had followed the advice of the Mohanes and come to live close to the Israelites in order to try to make contact with them. At first, they had been rebuffed. But after a long period of self-imposed and militantly enforced isolation, the Israelites had agreed to allow a select group of Indians to come into their safe haven under very specific conditions:
   That five men, sons of the Chief [Casique], or their descendants,
   would come to see them [the Israelites] every seventy moons. That
   no other men should come with them, and that the man to whom this
   secret is revealed should be three hundred moons old, that none of
   this could be revealed in a populated place, rather [it should be
   revealed] only in the wilderness, and that when it is revealed the
   chiefs [Casiques] should all be together. (14) (47)

The Casiques treasure their relationship with the Israelites and zealously guard their secret, Francisco explains, "because of the great reward that we hope to receive for the great services we have done to your brothers" (14). (48) Held at seventy-month intervals, these meetings are the only contact maintained between the Israelites and the outside world. The Caciques can only come to the Israelites at these appointed times or when they should be informed of a monumental event, of which, he recounts, there have been three: "First, the arrival of the Spanish to these kingdoms; second, the arrival of ships in the Southern [Pacific] ocean; the third is your arrival. All three they have celebrated greatly because they say that with each one prophecies are fulfilled" (14-15). (49)

Since his muddled flash of insight in prison, Montezinos has been trying to make sense of a disjointed collection of clues and references. He has followed their path through jungles and across mountains, but only now do the pieces begin to come together: the Indians' lament over their guilt, Francisco's promise of vengeance against the Spaniards, his knowledge of and subservience to the Israelites, their secrecy and the meaning of their nine-point message. Montezinos's arrival in the New World, his meeting Francisco and their encounter with the hidden tribe are the finishing touches of this larger prophetic narrative. Life and text collude once again: the story Montezinos was trying to reconstruct is completed when, and only when, he finally hears its end. His new role as emissary to the Jews from their long-lost American brethren inscribes him into the very story he was trying so hard to follow.

Upon their return to Honda, Francisco introduces Montezinos to the three other children of the Caciques, "young men whose names were hidden," who, along with the guide himself, meet the Israelites every seventy moons. "With these you could certainly speak," he tells Montezinos, "because they are my comrades, of which I have so often spoken. The fifth one is old and was not able to come" (15). (50) After hearing the story in its entirety and realizing his own essential role in its unfolding, Montezinos comes face-to-face with the story's other remaining protagonists. He is able to reveal himself to them, and they embrace him as a brother. Their message to Montezinos concludes the Relation:
   One day you will see us, and you will not recognize us. We are all
   brothers; with compassion did God make us all. Do not be worried
   for this land. All of us Indians have our orders. Once we finish
   off these Spaniards we will go and take you all out of your
   captivity, if God wills it, which He does will it because his word
   can never falter. (15-16) (51)

The Indians' message of hope is not an abstract conjecture but a palpable promise to him and the other Israelites of the Old World. Not only has Montezinos discovered a new narrative of post-Columbine history and a new angle on the imminent "end of days," he has met the flesh-and-blood individuals who will be the agents of this messianic advent.

Antonio de Montezinos's journey unfolds dialectically between text and experience. In his inquisitorial prison cell, reciting the text of his morning prayers, Montezinos is gripped by a curious epiphany. At the very moment that he praises God "for not making him an Indian," he considers the unlikely possibility that the downtrodden porters he met on his Andean trip were not "indios" but Jews and resolves to find their leader, Francisco, and to discover their true identity. The journey is refracted through a text that leads back to a new journey. Freed from prison, he finds Francisco, reveals his own Jewishness to him, and follows Francisco beyond the cordillera to the tribe of Reuben. When he confronts the leaders of the "lost tribe," he again must decipher texts: first the elders present a laconic string of hand symbols representing their sacred history; once they believe Montezinos has understood these symbols, they gather around him and chant the ancient Hebrew prayer of the Shema. Montezinos's readings of these "texts" is driven by other texts; the hand symbols mean what they mean because they fit into Montezinos's wider intellectual horizons, namely the biblical accounts regarding the lost tribes and discussions within the Iberian world about the origins of the Amerindians as well as idiosyncratic messianic ideas that circulated within Converso networks, just to name a few. (52) These other texts help Montezinos make sense of the present riddle of his journey--they allow him to fill in the blanks of his "discovery," and again the journey, powered by text leads back to a text--his Relation and its subsequent impact on its reader's rereading of Scripture. This textual reorientation is part of a larger early modern European reassessment of the contours of geographic and temporal reality. The encounter with the otherness of the New World forced Europeans to reconsider the nature of what they knew and how they knew it. Montezinos's narrative offers a textual record of one individual's experience of this epistemic and ethical transformation. It offers a uniquely Jewish insight into the encounter with the Americas which resonated far beyond the confines of its original audience within the Sephardic community of Amsterdam. I believe that this travel narrative, energized by psychological, epistemic, and hermeneutical dynamics, helps expand the borders of early American Jewish literature, deepening our appreciation of the Jewish engagement with the New World.


(1.) The literature regarding the European encounter with the Americas is large and ever expanding. Major works that have informed my own thinking on the relationship between language, text, and power in the New World context include Anthony Grafton's New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); J. H. Elliott, The Old World and New, 1492-1650 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); and Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).

(2.) As Yosef Kaplan, Jonathan Israel, Miriam Bodian, and others have shown, even among the majority of Conversos whose Jewish commitments were marginal or nonexistent there remained a strong sense of ethnic identity, as being part of the "Naqao." In many cases, especially with Portuguese Conversos, there were active family connections between Conversos who were committed to Catholicism and crypto-Jews or Sephardic Jews living in open Jewish communities. The spectrum of religious affiliations among Iberian Conversos is quite broad and complex. See Jonathan I. Israel, European Jewry in the Age of Mercantilism, 1550-1750 (London: Liftman Library of Jewish Civilization, 1998); and his more recent tour de force Diasporas within a Diaspora: Jews, Crypto-Jews and the World Maritime Empires (1540-1740) (Leiden: Brill, 2002). For one excellent example of the interconnected nature of Converso and Sephardic business and social networks, see Yosef Kaplan, "The Travels of Portuguese Jews from Amsterdam to the 'Lands of Idolatry' (1644-1724)," in Jews and Conversos: Studies in Society and the Inquisition, ed. Yosef Kaplan (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1985), 197-224.

(3.) The literature on this subject is vast. See, e.g., Antonio Dominguez Ortiz, Los Judeoconversos Conversos en Espaha y America (Madrid: Ediciones Istmo, 1971); Jonathan I. Israel, "Buenos Aires, Tucuman and the River Plate Route: Portuguese Conversos and the 'Commercial Subversion of the Spanish Indies (1580-1640)," in Diasporas within a Diaspora, 125-50; Irene Silverblatt, "New Christians and New World Fears in Seventeenth-Century Peru," Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, no. 3 (July 2000): 524-46. On the open Jewish communities of the New World, see Laura Leibman's exploration of religious architecture, "Sephardic Sacred Space in Colonial America," Jewish History 25, no. 1 (Feb. 2011): 13-41. See also Rachel Frankel, "Antecedents and Remnants of Jodensavanne: The Synagogues and Cemeteries of the First Permanent Plantation Settlement of New World Jews," The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West, 1450 to 1800, ed. Paolo Bernardini and Norman Fiering (New York: Berghahn Books, 2001), 394-438.

(4.) Luis de Carvajal's spiritual autobiography is an earlier work by a crypto-Jew living in the Americas. Carvajal completed his Vida around 1595, shordy before his second arrest by the Inquisition. Carvajal's narrative is set mostly in New Spain, and while aspects of Americana enter the text--hurricanes, the presence of the nomadic Chichemeq indians, tortillas in place of matzah, etc.--the New World is more of the backdrop to Luis's spiritual odyssey. For a more complete bibliography on this unique and complex text, see my "Blood and Spirit: Paternity, Fraternity and Religious Self-Fashioning in Luis de Carvajal's Spiritual Autobiography," EIAL (Estudios Interdisciplinarios de America Latina y el Caribe) 23, no. 1 (July 2012). Two other works of travel literature--one written by a Portuguese Converso with unclear Jewish affiliations about his travels in the Middle East, Pedro Teixeira's Relacidnes del Origen, Descendencia y Sucesion de los Reyes de Persia, y de Harmuz, y de un viaje hecho por el autor dende la India hasta Italia por tierra (Relation of the origin, geneology and succession of the Kings of Persia and Hormuz and a journey undertaken by the author from India until Italy by land) (Antwerp, 1610), and the other by the Amsterdam Jewish merchant Moseh Pereyra de Paiva, Notisias dos Judios de Cochim (Report on the Jews of Cochim) (Amsterdam 1687)--point to the dearth of first-person travel writing among this very mobile group. On Pereyra de Paiva see Jonathan Schorsch's insightful analysis of this text, "Mosseh Pereyra de Paiva: An Amsterdam Portuguese Jewish Merchant Abroad in the Seventeenth Century," in The Dutch Intersection: The Jews and the Netherlands in Modern History, ed. Yosef Kaplan (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 63-86. Teixeira's Relacidnes was translated into English by the Haklayut Society publications: The Travels of Pedro Teixeira, ed. and trans. W F. Sinclair (1902), intro. D. Ferguson. See also, Kenneth R. Scholberg, "Teixeira, Pedro," in Encyclopaedia Judaica, ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 2nd ed. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2007),|978oo2866o974&v=2.i&u=nysl_me_yeshival&it=about Book&p=GVRL&sw=w. See also Jose Javier Fuente del Pilar, "Pedro Teixeira y su viaje por Mesopotamia," in Arbor 180, nos. 711-12 (Mar.-Apr. 2005): 627-43.

(5.) Limor Mintz-Manor's ambitious dissertation, "The Discourse on the New World in Early Modern Jewish Culture" (Hebrew), Hebrew University, 2011, develops an extensive analysis of a wide range of Jewish thinkers, from both Europe and the Middle East who deal with the Americas. Her bibliography is exhaustive and very useful.

(6.) The various forms of premodern autobiographical writing are often framed as texts written for a specific, required purpose: Santa Teresa de Jesus writes her classic Vida as a response to her confessor's request; Hernan Cortes writes his Cartas de Relacion to defend his actions during the conquest of Mexico before Phillip II. Montezinos presented his Relacion with the very clear objective of imparting the message he received from the Reubenites to their far-flung brethren in the diaspora. However, throughout early modern "self-writing," regardless of the purpose or the audience that the text is destined for, we find the authors inserting their personal experience into their official accounts. The textual space of the relacion or letter often allow the author to process the multivalent experiences he or she had, to re-conceive them and make sense of their details. Natalie Zemon Davis uses the term embeddedness to locate the trope of personal reflection intertwined within the exigencies of these generic practices. See her "Fame and Secrecy: Leon Modena's Life as an Early Modern Autobiography," in The Autobiography of a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi: Leon Modena's "Life of Judah" ed. and trans. Mark R. Cohen (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988), 50-72.

In Montezinos's case we have an extra layer of mediation. We do not have an actual text penned by Antonio de Montezinos, we do not even have the original document recording his oral presentation. We only have the version of his report that appears in Menasseh's work. These levels of distance from the autobiographical subject's direct hand are rather common within the early modern period. For example, when discussing Columbus's writing, Margarita Zamora suggests conceiving of them as "corporate" documents, because of the interplay between Columbus's own words and the way those words were developed, shaped and packaged during and after his lifetime. See her Reading Columbus (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 7. The Infortunios of Alonso Ramirez recounts the global misadventures of a poor Puerto Rican sailor as mediated through the pen of the Mexican polymath Carlos Siguenza y Gongorra. For an analysis of the interplay between Ramirez' experience and Siguenza's literary concerns see Kathleen Ross, "Cuestiones de genera en Infortunios de Alonso RamtrezJ Revista Iberoamericana 61 (July-Dee. 1995): 591-603. For a more extensive discussion of the mediated nature of early modern autobiographical writing see chap. 2 of my dissertation, "Marrano Autobiography in Its Transatlantic Context: Exile, Exploration and Spiritual Discovery," New York University, 2006, 52-95.

(7.) All citations are taken directly from Menasseh Ben Israel, Esperan$a de Israel (Amsterdam, 1650). For a thorough introduction to the text along with a seventeenth-century English translation of Montezinos's narrative and Menasseh's treatise, see The Hope of Israel! Menasseh ben Israel; the English translation by Moses Wall, 1652, ed. Henry Mechoulan and Gerard Nahon, trans. George Richenda (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

(8.) John Dury wrote a letter to Thorowgood in 1649 discussing Montezinos's narrative based on a French version that Menasseh sent him previously. This was included in an English translation in Thorowgood's Jews in America. We neither have the original Spanish record nor do we have this French version (Mechoulan and Nahon, The Hope of Israel, 64).

(9.) For a brief review of the textual history of the Relation, see my '"These Indians Are Jews!': Lost Tribes, Crypto-Jews and Jewish Self-Fashioning in Antonio de Montezinos' Relacion of 1644," in Atlantic Diasporas: Jews, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews in the Age of Mercantilism, 1500-1800, ed. Richard Kagan and Phillip Morgan (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 195-98. See also Jonathan Schorsch's inquiry into the authorship of the Relation in his "(Re)Reading the Old/New World in the 1640s: The Relacion of Antonio de Montezinos," in Swimming the Christian Atlantic: Judeo-Conversos, Afroiberians, and Amerindians in the Seventeenth Century (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 379-477. Schorsch adds a new dimension to the question of Montezinos's authorship of the Relation in an appendix (505-12). Schorsch tracked down a letter, said to be a direct copy of a letter penned by Montezinos to a certain Elia Perera in Venice. In this letter Montezinos elaborates on the details of his experience for this curious Italian Jew. This fascinating document seems to corroborate the basic elements of Montezinos's Relation while disclosing some interesting differences. I concur with Schorsch that it cannot definitively prove anything about the text of the Relation except the fact that its fixed nature would not preclude Montezinos himself from slightly altering his narrative in a different context.

(10.) Cecil Roth, A History of the Marranos (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, i960), 176.

(11.) Recently, however, there has been a move toward reading the Relation as a distinct text. In an earlier essay, I read Montezinos's text as an act of crypto-Jewish self-fashioning shaped by his face-to-face encounter with the Amerindian other. More recently, Jonathan Schorsch masterfully explores the wide-ranging currents of ideas and historical realities that inform the Relation in his essay, "(Re)Reading the Old/ New World in the 1640s," 379-512. Schorsch locates the text in relationship with Menasseh's larger work, especially in terms of its reception and afterlife. However, his analysis does not confine itself to the Esperanzds concerns. He analyzes Montezinos's text as reflective of its historical moment but also as a palimpsest registering and transforming multiple discourses--Jewish, Christian, and Native American. Perhaps his most important contribution to our understanding of Montezinos's text is his inquiry into the geographic and ethnographic realia of the Relations narrative. Schorsch's sensitive analysis and careful scholarship sheds much needed light on this mysterious text. While primarily focusing on the Esperanza and its author, Benjamin Schmidt pays close attention to some of the literary dynamics of Montezinos's text. See his "The Hope of the Netherlands: Menasseh ben Israel and the Dutch Idea of America," in The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West, 1450 to 1800, 86-107.

(12.) For a sustained treatment of the textualization of "wonder," see Stephen Greenblatt's Marvelous Possessions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991). One excellent example of a relation that is at once factually oriented yet deeply marked by the improbable and the fantastic is Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's Naufragios, first published in Zamora in 1542 as La relacion que dio Aluar Nunez Cabega de Vaca de lo acaescido en las Indias en la armada dondeyua porgotiemador Pa[m]philo de Narbaez, desde el aho de veyntey siete hasta el aho d[e] treyntay seys que boluio a Seuilla con tres de su compahia.

(13.) Michel Butor, "Travel and Writing," in Defining Travel: Diverse Visions, ed. Susan L. Roberson (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001), 69-87.

(14.) Certeau differentiates between a place and space. A place is a fixed arrangement of physical elements whereas a space is what is done with those fixes elements. A space constitutes the "practice" of a place; i.e. a city block with its lamps, sidewalks, storefronts etc. is a place. When an individual walks down the street, practicing the place, it becomes a space: "In short, space is a practiced arrangement of elements which only means something when it is "read." Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 117.

(15.) His prison term is one of the few aspects of his biography of which we have documentary proof. Elizabeth Levi de Montezinos--descendant of our Montezinos--wrote an article in which she compiled the documentary sources recording Montezinos's incarceration in Cartagena. There is an Inquisitorial document which refers to a certain: "Antonio de Montessinos, born at Villaflor in the Kingdom of Portugal who concealed himself and fled, was caught in this city with sequestration of goods and locked up in the secret prisons on Sept. 3, 1639, after a testimony of complicity made against a certain Montessinos accused of Judaism: he is suspected of being the same as the man who has been apprehended" (qtd. in Mechoulan and Nahon, The Hope of Israel, 73-74). His first hearing before the Inquisitors was Dec. 14, 1640, and his second was on Feb. 4, 1641. By Feb. 19, 1641, he was released due to lack of evidence connecting Antonio de Montessinos to the particular "Montezinos" accused of Judaizing.

(16.) I look at this scene in relation to questions of race and identity in "'These Indians Are Jews!,'" 204-5. Schorsch also deals extensively with the history of this blessing and its implication within Montezinos's text. Throughout this article I keep the original Spanish citation in the notes to allow for easy comparison. The translations are my own. I strive to maintain a fidelity to the reportorial style of the Relacion, even with its frequent ellipses, as well as its linguistic idiosyncrasies, while rendering it into a readable English narrative. "Bendito sea el nombre de Adonay que no me hizo idolatra, barbaro, negro, ni indio, y al decir Indio, se retrato luego diziendo, estos Indios son Hebreos:

Mas tornando en si, de Nuevo bolvio a retratarse, diciendo estoy loco, o fiiera de juicio? Como puede ser que estos Indios sean hebreos ..." (3).

(17.) "animandolos dixo, que tuviessen paciencia, que en breve tendrfan algun dia de descanso" (3).

(18.) "no era justo que le tubiessen, pues que trataron tan mal a una gente santa y la mejor del mundo, y que todos los trabajos y inhumanidades que los espanoles uzavan con ellos, tern'an bien merecidas por esta culpa" (2).

(19.) "para informarse de raiz, del sentido de las palabras que en la pasada jornada le avia dicho" (3).

(20.) "Le truxo a la memoria la historia de la montana, y las palabras que en aquella ocasion le avia dicho: y el Indio dijo que no estava olvidado dellas. Lo qual oydo por Montezinos le dixo, que el tenia en pensamiento hazer con el un viage: a lo que respondio, que estava pronto para cuando gustasse ..." (4).

(21.) For examples see David Gitlitz, Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 225; and H. P. Salomon, "The 'de Pinto' Manuscript, a 17th Century Marrano Family History," Stadia Rosenthaliana 9, no. 1 (Jan. 1975): 13.

(22.) "Siguieron su camino, en el cual yendo platicando, se descubrio con el Indio, diziendole estas palabras: Yo soy Hebreo del tribu de Levi, mi Dio es, Adonay, y todo lo demas es engano" (4).

(23.) As will be shown later in the narrative, Francisco is a go-between for the Reubenites, not a Reubenite himself. It is his job to make sure that anyone he brings into the heart of their secret refuge is trustworthy. He is not looking for genealogical information, so much as waiting to hear the correct "password." He needs to be careful to discern the "real" Jews from the impostors or even Inquisitorial infiltrators. The moment of disclosure between two crypto-Jews is extremely fraught. To misjudge the Jewish commitments of another Converso could easily lead to Inquisitorial prosecution. One prominent example of the danger implicit in the moment of disclosure is seen in the history of the Carvajal family in New Spain whereby careless proselytizing of other Conversos who were not committed crypto-Jews led directly to the family's arrest and ultimate execution at the auto-da-fe of 1596. See Martin Cohen, The Martyr: Luis de Carvajal, a Secret Jew in Sixteenth Century Mexico (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1973), 223.

(24.) "Por algunas cosas que me has dicho, me as causado contento, y por otra parte, estoy para no darte credito" (4-5).

(25.) "Si eres hombre de animo, valor, y esfuer$o, que te atrevas a yr conmigo, sabras lo que dezeas saber ..." (5).

(26.) The early Spanish explorers use old world markers to give their readers a sense of the natural and cultural phenomenon they are describing. For Columbus the breeze in Hispanola is like spring in Andalucia, Bernal Diaz and Cortes both refer to the Aztec temples as "mezquitas" (mosques).

(27.) "Haziendo vandera de dos panos de algodon que llevaban cenidos al cuepo, hizo una senal. De alii a un rato vieron grande humo, y el Indio dixo, ya saben que aqui estamos y al momento en respuesta, hizieron la misma senal, levantando otra bandera, y luego 3 hombres con una mujer se partieron en una Canoa, y se vinieron donde ellos estavan" (6).

(28.) "La mujer salio en tierra, y los hombres se quedaron en la Canoa, y esta despues de largos coloquios que tubo con Francisco, que Montezinos no pudo entender, relato lo que pasaba a los 3 hombres que estavan aun en la Canoa, los cuales aviendo estado hasta entonces, mirandole con gran atencion, saltaron della fuerra, y le abra^aron, y lo mismo hizo la mujer.... Llegandose pues estos dos hombres para el Indio Francisco, del se arrojo a sus pies, pero ellos le levantaron con muestras de humanidad y aficion, y puestos de hablar con el ..." (7)

(29.) "No te asombres, ni pertubes, ni imagines que estos hombres, te an de dezir segunda cosa hasta que ayas bien apercebido la primera" (7).

(30.) "Informandose primero en cada cosa del interprete Francisco, aprendiendo del como se dezia aquello en lengua Espanola, y en ella, misma, ellos mismos le dixeron lo siguiente, intremetiendo algun tiempo entre una razon a otra" (8).

(31.) "Mi padre es Abraham, Ishak Iahacob, Israel, y senalando 3 dedos nombravan estos quatro: y luego acrecentaron Reuben, y senalaron 4 dedos" (8).

(32.) "abriendolos, dixeron, en dos partes" (8).

(33.) "Quarta. Luego con brevedad (diziendo muy de prissa) saldremos unos pocos a ver y a pizar, y a este tiempo senalaron con los ojos, y patearon con los pies" (8).

(34.) "Quinta. Un dia hablaremos todos, haziendo en este tiempo con la boca, ba, ba, ba, y saldremos como que nos pario la tierra" (8).

(35.) Schorsch offers an excellent analysis of this message, tracing some cryptic allusions to actual historical events as well as some fascinating phenomenological analyses of these messages. See "(Re)Reading the Old/New World in the 1640s," 417-32.

(36.) "Francisco dira mas un poquito, senalando con el dedo, cosa poca" (9).

(37.) "Octava. Danos lugar para que nos apercebamos, y moviendo la mano a una y otra parte, dezian con la boca y con la mano, no te detengas mucho. Novena. Envfa 12 hombres de todos senalando barbas, que escrivan" (9).

(38.) "... enfadado Montezinos de que no le respondian a lo que les preguntava, ni consedian passar de la otra parte, se llego dissimuladamente a la Canoa para en ella passarse de la otra parte" (9).

(39.) "Mostrandose airados, le dijeron, tu no pienses que por fuer^a o locura as de salir con lo que intentas" (9-10).

(40.) This admonition does not come directly from the mouth of the Reubenites but rather from Francisco. The Relation is careful to record the mechanics of transmission: "cuyas palabras declare el Indio, mostrandolas ellos, por senas y palabras" (10). Francisco, who previously warned Montezinos to be patient and not to expect his questions to be addressed, relays their rebuke to Montezinos.

(41.) There is a hint of forcefulness in Montezinos's use of adviertote--"You should now" or "I will have you know." Montezinos again thinks that he has a right to know and that Francisco is obligated to reveal the hill story: "Dicho Iueves, despues de haber Uegado a parte donde se aloxaron aquella noche, dixo Montezinos al Indio Francisco, adviertote que me dixeron mis hermanos, que tu me dirias mas un poquito, por lo qual te pido, me digas agora algo de lo que tanto dezeo saber" (n).

(42.) "El Indio Francisco respondio, yo te dire lo que supieres sin que me apures y te rehere la verdad como la supe por tradicion de mis padres, y si me apuras que lo temo, segun te veo especulativo, as me de obligar a que te diga mentiras" (n).

(43.) "Tus hermanos los hijos de Israel, los truxo Dios a esta tierra, haziendo con ellos grandes marravillas, muchos asombros, cosas que si te las digo, no las as de creer y esto me lo dijeron assi mis padres. Venimos los indios a esta tierra, hezimos les Guerra, tratamoslos peor de lo que los Espanoles nos tartan" (n-12).

(44.) Mohanes is a term specific to this part of the Andes. See Schorsch, "(Re)Reading the Old/New World in the 1640s," 437-40.

(45.) "quantos entravan, ninguno salia bivo" (12).

(46.) "El Dios destos hijos de Israel, es el verdadero Dios, todo lo que esta escrito en sus piedras, es verdad; al cabo de los tiempos, ellos seran senores de todas las gentes del mundo, vendra a esta tierra gente que os traiga muchas cosas, y despues de estar toda la tierra abastecida, estos hijos de Israel saldran de donde estan, y se ensenorearan de toda la tierra, como era suya de antes. Algunos de vos otros que quisieredes ser venturosos, pegaos a ellos" (12-13).

(47.) "Que cinco hombres hijos de los Casique, o sus herederos, vendrian cada 70 lunas a verlos. Que no vendrian mas otros hombres, y que el hombre al qual se declarase este secrete, tendria de edad 300 lunas, y nada desto se le podria revelar en poblado, sino en el campo, y que cuando se revelasse, avian de estar los Casique juntos" (14).

(48.) "... conservamos entre nos aquel secreto por el gran premio que esperamos tener por los grandes servicios que avemos hecho a tus hermanos" (14).

(49.) "Por mi cuenta no uvo mas de 3 novedades, la primera, la venida de los Espanoles a estos reynos, la segunda, la venida de navios en la mar del Sur; la terijera, tu venida: todas tres las an festejado mucho, porque dizen se cumplen profecias" (14-15).

(50.) "Despues de aver buelto a Honda, le truxo Francisco 3 hombres Indios, hombres mancebos cuyos nombres le encubieron, y le dixo, bien puedes hablar con estos, que son mis companeros, de que tantas vezes te he hablado: el otro, que es el quinto, es Viejo, y no ha podido venir" (15).

(51.) "Algun dia nos veras, y no nos conoceras: todos somos hermanos, merced es que Dios nos hizo. Desta tierra no te de cuydado, que todos los Indios tenemos a nuestro mandado, en acabando con estos Espanoles iremos a sacarvos a vos otros del captiverio en que estays, si quisiere Dios que si querera, que su palabra, no puede faltar" (15-16).

(52.) The literature on the variety of early modern European messianisms is vast. For a basic discussion of how these streams of thought play into the Relation see my "'These Indians Are Jews!,'" 200-203. Schorsch situates the Relation into an even wider and complex web of contemporary discourses. Most notably he looks at the text's connections to indigenous eschatologies and reactions to Spanish colonialism. See "(Re) Reading the Old/New World in the 1640s," 420-32 and 439-50, for some examples.
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Author:Perelis, Ronnie
Publication:Studies in American Jewish Literature
Article Type:Critical essay
Date:Mar 22, 2014
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