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

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Bulletin of Hispanic Studies





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Taking as a starting point Antonio Sanchez Jimenez'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 Zuazola's epic, Armas antarticas (1608-1609). After exploring the explicit allusions to the myths in the epic, I analyse an implicit reference to Leander in the portrayal of Tome Hernandez, the only survivor of the failed sixteenth-century Spanish settlements in the Strait of Magellan. As it turns out, Hernandez was rescued by the English pirate, Thomas Cavendish. In evoking the myth of Leander on the southern coast of Chile, Armas antarticas recalls Alonso de Ercilla's self-description in La Araucana (1569, 78, 89) as analysed by Ricardo Padron. However, I contend that the representation of Hernandez is best understood in comparison to Juan Boscan'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 antarticas to turn away from a focus on the role of greed in colonization. Yet shadows of Jason still lurk behind the portrayal of Hernandez, 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 Hernandez and Cavendish ends up exhibiting the same ambiguities associated with piracy as analysed by Daniel Heller-Roazen.

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