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AP Spanish Literature Views Colonial Artifacts During Visit to the Newberry Library

On Wednesday, March 6, students in AP Spanish Literature & Culture course participated in a unique field trip to the Newberry Library in downtown Chicago for a chance to explore primary documents from the 1500-1700s as part of the unit "Testimonios from the Exploration of the New World," in which students compare and contrast indigenous perspectives with those of the Spaniards through course readings.
Housed in the vaults of the Newberry Library is an original letter and map written in 1523 by Hernan Cortes to King Charles V. This is the crown jewel of the library since it is one of only two in the world and the map is widely studied in the field of persuasive cartography. Students also studied an original 1542 edition of Dominican Fray Bartolome de las Casas' "Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies," which they had previously learned about in their AP U.S. History course. Additionally, students explored texts authored by Spanish priests, such as the Franciscan monk Bernardino de Sahagun, who were both evangelists and biologists. This allowed students to see how God was sought in all things. They viewed maps and other legal documents created by Indigenous communities to settle land disputes, and they learned about how communion was explained in Indigenous languages. Students particularly appreciated the ability to turn the pages of such highly studied and sacred texts and were interested in learning more about the printing process.

Many thanks to our guide Ms. Nora Epstein who expertly informed our students about paleography, the study of penmanship, and the topic of text repatriation. Special thanks to field trip chaperones Spanish Teacher Ms. Erica Nathan-Gamauf and Language Department Chair Ms. Tina Melstrom. 

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