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Latin American Culture and the Limits of the Human$
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Lucy Bollington and Paul Merchant

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781683401490

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9781683401490.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

Invasive Specie

Invasive Specie

Rabbits, Conquistadors, and Capital in the Historia de las Indias (1527–1561) by Bartolomé de Las Casas (1484–1566)

(p.127) 5 Invasive Specie
Latin American Culture and the Limits of the Human

Nicole D. Legnani

University Press of Florida

This chapter traces a narrative archipelago from Madeira to Hispaniola through the metonymy of wood and the trajectory of Christopher Columbus, as allegorized by an anecdote about the reproductive destruction of an invasive species on a deserted island off the coast of West Africa in the Historia de las Indias by Bartolomé de Las Casas. It reflects on the connections afforded by the polysemy of naturaleza in sixteenth-century Spanish and made by Las Casas in his anecdotes about colonial capitalism on Hispaniola and Madeira in both Historia de las Indias and his edition of Christopher Columbus’s Diario a Bordo.As islands have always served as schematic shorthand for categories and indigeneity, an anecdote about a plague of rabbits on the Madeira islands in the early fifteenth century blurs the limits between state and enterprise, animal and human, native and nature (naturaland naturaleza), and the natural and unnatural (naturaand contra natura). What seems like a digression into the Madeira rabbits from Las Casas’s larger narrative about the conquest of America serves instead as a self-reflexive allegory for the paradoxical project of narrating origins in historical processes, especially destructive ones that nonetheless reproduce on a global scale.

Keywords:   Christopher Columbus, Diario a Bordo, rabbits, colonial capitalism, Madeira islands, contra natura

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