Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Questioning the Canon: Francesco Pareja - PJ Carter

PJ Carter
ENG 226
Professor Coronado
Questioning the Canon
Francisco Pareja’s “Confessionario” details the experiences of 11 priests and the Native Americans they encounter in the early 1600s, published in 1632. This glimpse inside the minds of these religious fundamentalist settlers who laid the foundations of our society offers insight into the mindsets that shaped what we are as a country, as well as a better understanding of the whos and whys of our history. We can see the origins of lessons we’ve learned as a country, as well as lessons we failed to learn, and the consequences of those actions. Among these are the establishment of the separation of church and state, the often forgotten history of non-English colonial settlements, as well as the views of pre-American settlers and their tolerance of other belief systems.
Preceding the valuable notion of the Separation of Church and State, our country’s earliest origins are religious in nature. Many of the early settlers were priests and pilgrims, separatists and puritans. However, rather than contradicting our origins, this ideal can actually be explained by our origins. The fledgling government recognized the poisonous mixture of politics and religion, and this realization comes from the past mistakes of the early colonists. The actual language comes from a letter Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State,” (Jefferson). This is an important turn of events given the state of the settlers in Pareja’s time. Many of the colonies founded in the Americas were religious in nature. In his non-fiction novel “Of Plymouth Plantation,” William Bradford writes of his life while establishing the Plymouth colony in North America, “They … set up a May-pole, drinking and dancing about it many days together, inviting the Indian women, for their consorts, dancing and frisking together (like so many fairies, or furies rather) and worse practices. As if they had anew revived & celebrated the feasts of ye Roman Goddess Flora, or ye beastly practices of ye mad Bacchanalians” (Bradford, 127). This passage shows the extent to which the pilgrims lashed out at anything they perceived as conflicting with their Christian ideals. As is fictionalized in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The May-Pole of Merry Mount,” The Plymouth colonists later raided the Merry Mount settlement, using firearms to impose their will on their neighbors, judging it a righteous reaction to the blasphemy of the other settlement. The religious persecution suffered by the pilgrims, and in turn inflicted by them onto others is one of the situations the United States sought to prevent when constructing their constitution.
This text is also a valuable example of non-English settlement in North America. The Spanish friars demonstrate that pre-American settlements were founded by people of a multitude of nationalities. As explained by Professors Mintz & McNeil , a major factor that separated the Spanish colonies from the more successful English settlements was the balance of gender that allowed the English to expand their population much faster than the nearly or all male Spanish colonies could ever hope to. This all male population was indicative of settlements like Pareja’s, which were missionary in purpose, meaning they would be staffed by monks. English colonies were founded largely by groups fleeing religious persecution seeking to establish permanent settlements, while many Spanish settlements were intended as missions or military occupations. This, along with Spain’s extremely restricting limitations on trade, served to smother their New World economy.
Much can be learned about the values of pre-American settlers through this document, and the shaping of American values and attitudes became rather evident by the rules and guidelines offered by Pareja. Pareja asks such questions as: “Have you defeated someone by stealth? Have you lied in games?” and “Are you a doctor? …Have you produced a new fire or made a fire apart to cure someone? Have you believed that with these prayers and superstitions a person can be cured?” (Pareja). This and other questions reveal how preoccupied these men were with discounting the occult for its blasphemous attributes with disregard for the inherent value of the aboriginal culture, leading to its complete erasure. The difference in culture and level of tolerance for those differences are very apparent in Pareja’s work. Editor Mikaela Perron states that “Pareja uses the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins… as a guide to help [the] Timucuans change some of their cultural practices and to show them how to practice confession, a prerequisite for communion,” (Pareja). Statements like, “Leave that evil prayer because it is perverse, cure only with medicine,” (Pareja). And questions like “The new maize or other new fruits, have you said that it will not be eaten until the sorcerer tastes it first? Have you arranged that someone be married according to the Indian ways without first giving notice to the parish priests? Have you consented that your slaves sleep together?” (Pareja) all show the cultural superiority Europeans felt towards native cultures. The text displays the mentality necessary to the ideals of a missionary; belief in the superiority of one’s own faith over that of others, with little concern or interest in the knowledge and richness of the Timucuan way of life. This was made evident in their classification of the Timucuan culture as something to be confessed as a sin, because it conflicted with aspects of the European Christian culture the monks brought with them. This view of Native Americans has influenced the United States well into the 20th century and beyond. The cycle of cultural oppression and abuse carried through in the form of Indian Boarding Schools. Reminiscent of pre-American treatment of Native Americans, though on a grand, institutionalized scale, the government forcibly abducted hundreds of thousands of Native american children and imprisoned them in schools where they were forbidden to speak their native languages or use their birth names.
Even in just the isolated, though well-documented case of Francisco Pareja and his fellow priests, it can be seen how events built off of these simple building blocks set by  the earliest settlers and their interactions with the native people. In many ways, things could never have played out much differently given the cultures of the native people and the European interlopers. Much of the basic history of our country was set in motion not by pure luck and chance, but by the nature of the peoples involved. Though Pareja’s work is centuries old, it offers insight into the perspective of many early colonists. A perspective of civilized, godly folk descending into a barbaric land among heathen natives. Though some Europeans focused on converting native populations to Christianity and others made war with them, the sentiment of hostility and low regard for Native American culture is carried through to the 20th century.

Works Cited
Pareja, Francisco. "Francisco Pareja, Confessionario." Early Visions of Florida.
    N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Oct. 2012. <http://earlyfloridalit.net/?page_id=94>.
Kanellos, Nicolás. "Education." Hispanic Firsts: 500 Years Of Extraordinary Achievement (1997): 40-56. History Reference Center. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.
Jefferson, Thomas. "Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists." loc.gov. June 1998. US National Archives. 17 Nov. 2012.
Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647. New York: Random House, 1981.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Selected Tales and Sketches. Stilwell: Digireads.com, 2007.
Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. (2012). European Colonization North of Mexico. Digital History. 19 Nov. 2012.
Mintz, S., & McNeil, S. (2012). Spanish Colonization. Digital History. 19 Nov. 2012.


  1. PJ,

    This is a well-researched piece that contains valuable information for its given audience. You are well on your way to an informative piece of work (and a good grade). In your revision process, however, I encourage you to simplify your sentences a bit. You tend to fill them to the gills with information, so I found myself confused here and there.

    For example, this sentence required multiple readings:

    "English colonies were founded largely by groups fleeing religious persecution seeking to establish permanent settlements, while many Spanish settlements were intended as missions or military occupations."

    Break that sentence and others like it into two seperate thoughts. Furthermore, watch for extraneous words like "that," "were." and "be." They clog up your prose when excessive.

    All in all, you have a lot of good information, but rework your sentence structure, because your writing is clearest when it is most concrete.

    Good Job!

  2. Hey PJ!

    So, this intro is interesting, but I felt like it wasn't so interesting as to grab my attention right away. It felt like it slowly occurred as you kept writing onwards. Maybe that's something to consider? I think that I really good hook may help catch the reader's interest and encouraging them to want to read more.

    Along those lines, there were a few awkward moments when I had to stop and reread the sentence because I was unsure on what you were trying to say, for example around the second paragraph you wrote, "However, rather than contradicting our origins, this ideal can be explained by our origins." I got what you were trying to say after rereading it three times, but if you could find a new way to phrase it so it doesn't feel so awkward that would help a lot.

    You also wrote, "The fledgling government recognized the poisonous mixture of politics and religion, and this realization comes from past mistakes" I think that you should explain just what the "past mistakes" were and how that influenced them in their decision. Also, don't be afraid to separate paragraphs. In the second you had a lot of great information, but I felt like it was coming in too fast and too much, so if you could just point and say, "This is how so and so viewed it" and explain the quote and how it worked and attach back to your thesis, and then the next paragraph, you can say, "But so and so saw this instead" Because when you focus on so many text at once you never give one text the full attention that it needs and later on you can add a paragraph to hook them up. Or not, but that's just one advice I would give to help spread out the info.

    There's a lot here and you picked a really interesting topic and I like the way you gave the information, but I think your sentences need to be worked on in order to smooth away the rough edges. As well as organizing the information and the way you connect it back to your thesis, which I think you did well on (connecting back to thesis that is)

    Awesome work!

  3. PJ'
    This introduction is well written and does make a good argument on why it should be included in the cannon. Your thesis is well thought out and you connect it throughout the piece. You use strong textual evidence to support your claims as well. There are some awkward sentence structures in a couple of places that could easily be reworded with another read over. Nice work, PJ.

  4. You have a lot of great information, but there are a few things that I think would make the introduction easier to read. Like Marybeth said, there were times where I had to reread the sentence a couple times to really understand what you were trying to say. There was some awkward phrasing in some sentences such as, "This all male population was indicative of settlements like Pareja’s, which were missionary in purpose, which would be staffed by monks." Saying "which" twice in the same sentence seems unnecessary and cluttered.

    Another thing to consider is having more of a lead-in to your quotes. I felt like some were just dumped there at first. While you explained more after the quote, I think it would be better and easier to connect if you had some sort of lead-in.


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