Last week I had a student from Mexico in my class so I have been thinking about the history of Mexico.
When I looked at the calendar and saw that tomorrow was March 4th, I thought about a book that I read eight years ago.
The book was set in New Spain in 1540.
The King’s Fifth by Scott O’Dell is a Newbery Honor book and was part of my Newbery Challenge.
You may recognize the author’s name. O’Dell is the author of Island of the Blue Dolphins which won a Newbery Medal and he also wrote two other Newbery Honor books.
In this book the main character, Estaban, is a young cartographer who is part of the Coronado expedition. Estaban is part of a group that breaks from Coronado’s expedition and goes in a different direction. They are the first to see the Grand Canyon. The group finds gold and the story details how it affected them.
There was a group that was sent out by Coronado that found the Grand Canyon, but they did not find gold. This story is partly based on fact, but has the fantastic story of discovering gold weaved into what is true.
Estaban and a young native guide Zia are the only two that make it back from the expedition. However, Estaban comes back without the gold that they found.
The story is told by Estaban who is jailed since he has not given the King the fifth of the treasure that is due him. Estaban is manipulated by several powerful men to see who can find out where the treasure is hidden and mount an expedition to recover it.
The book is very interesting as it gives a glance into the culture of the Conquistadors. There was a lot of competition between the different men who were in power. They truly did March Forth and Conquer, even if it was to conquer one another.
Our office in Mexico City is in the picturesque area of the city known as Coyoacan.
Coyoacan, is one of the oldest areas of the city and was the first capital of New Spain from 1521-1523. The name Coyoacan means the place of the Coyotes. I have not yet heard any coyotes howling though :-).
I remember reading a lot about Coyoacan in The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico by Bernal Diaz de Castillo. It was a very interesting book to read.
The plaque above shows where one of the Conquistadors lived in Coyoacan. The area around Coyoacan is steeped with history as it was the first capital of New Spain from 1521 – 1523.
Here is a picture of a church building in Santa Catarina. The original chapel building on this site was built in the 1520’s and was one of the first that the Spanish built in Mexico. There was also a priest on the expedition described in the story. I can imagine the priest having been sent out from this area to help save the native population.
Lots of memories and history are wandering through my mind.
Will you March Forth and Conquer today?