Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Mythologizing Greed and Betrayal in the Strait of Magellan in Juan de Miramontes' Armas antárticas

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2013), 90, (6), 665–678.

Abstract

Taking as a starting point Antonio Sánchez Jiménez's recent work on the myth of Jason in Lope de Vega's El Vellocino de Oro, this article examines the myths of Jason and Leander in Juan de Miramontes Zuázola's epic, Armas antárticas (1608-1609). After exploring the explicit allusions to the myths in the epic, I analyse an implicit reference to Leander in the portrayal of Tomé Hernández, the only survivor of the failed sixteenth-century Spanish settlements in the Strait of Magellan. As it turns out, Hernández was rescued by the English pirate, Thomas Cavendish. In evoking the myth of Leander on the southern coast of Chile, Armas antárticas recalls Alonso de Ercilla's self-description in La Araucana (1569, 78, 89) as analysed by Ricardo Padrón. However, I contend that the representation of Hernández is best understood in comparison to Juan Boscán's Leandro (1543), the fullest and most widely disseminated Spanish version of the tale in the sixteenth century. Appealing to the Leander myth allows Armas antárticas to turn away from a focus on the role of greed in colonization. Yet shadows of Jason still lurk behind the portrayal of Hernández, which raise other serious ethical questions for the Spanish Empire concerning piracy and loyalty as these play out in the Strait of Magellan. This essay shows that the poetic portrayal of Hernández and Cavendish ends up exhibiting the same ambiguities associated with piracy as analysed by Daniel Heller-Roazen.

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McCloskey, Jason