Anything besides death and destruction?

When I was a kid, the Conquistadors were heroes. Glamorous in their shiny armor adorned with bright feathers and ladies’ lacy tokens, they were handsome lads intent on furthering the kingdoms of God and of Spain. Then, I got a little older and realized that, hey, these guys were invaders! They weren’t heroes to the people they conquered!

Well, did the Conquistadors bring anything besides death and destruction? Why, yes they did! You can hardly blame the Europeans for all the diseases they brought, as devastating as they were to the native peoples. They didn’t know they were bringing diseases, so I don’t put that in the deviltry category. The religious coercion, one could argue, was sincerely meant, now and then, to save the heathens, as repugnant as that kind of hegemony is to us now. Other destructive influences are well known — conquer, usurp, use, exploit, and so on.

Now for the positives, and there are a few. When the conquistadors came to what is now the Santa Fe region in 1598 (about 60 years after Coronado), they brought wives and children and meant to stay. They also brought seeds for fruit trees the Puebloans had never seen. New kinds of seed corn. Sheep (wool! meat!), horses, cattle. All kinds of metal and the means to work it into tools like plows and hammers. Wood working skill to make wagons and wheels and furniture and barns. And a culture of difference. Any time two great cultures collide, there are sparks, difficulties, conflict. There are also new stimuli and new occasions to invent and adapt.

I’m sure any Puebloan of the time wished the Spanish would all just go away, and they suffered greatly at the harsh might of the conquerors. But it’s complicated, of course it is. Not every Spaniard who invaded the area had meanness in his heart, and no human ever had only one side to his character, good or bad.

My novel, Crimson Sky, is about that fateful year when the Spanish came to settle in what we call New Mexico. The book is now in re-issue with a gorgeous new cover, ready to draw you into the ancient world of the Puebloans.


About glcraig

Gretchen Craig’s lush, sweeping tales deliver edgy, compelling characters who test the boundaries of integrity, strength, and love. Told with sensitivity, the novels realistically portray the raw suffering of people in times of great upheaval. Gretchen was born and raised in Florida. She’s lived in climates and terrain as diverse as the white beaches of the Gulf Coast, the rocky shores of Maine, and the dusty plains of Texas. Her awareness of place imbues every page with the smell of the bayous of Louisiana, the taste of gumbo in New Orleans, or the grit of a desert storm. Rich in compelling characters and historical detail, Always and Forever is a sweeping saga of Josie and Cleo, mistress and slave. Amid Cajuns and Creoles, the bonds between these two remarkable women are tested by prejudice, tragedy, and passion for one extraordinary man. Gretchen’s first novel won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence for Mainstream with Romantic Elements and was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in the Historical Novel Society reviews. Ever My Love, winner of the Booksellers Best Award from the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, continues the story of Cleo and Josie’s families, of their struggle for principle, justice, and love in a world where the underpinnings of the plantation culture are crumbling. Crimson Sky, inspired by the pueblos, mountains, and deserts of New Mexico, evokes the lives of people facing neighboring marauders and drought. Now the march of Spanish Conquistadors up the Rio Grande threatens their homeland, their culture, and their entire belief system.
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