Conquistador Voices, a two-volume work intended for the general reader, presents the Spanish Conquest of the Americas principally through the voices of those who participated in that historic event. Its goal is to present the full spectrum of the Conquest in very digestible form, with actual first-person narrative as its centerpiece.
The story is told in five parts, each part featuring a principal actor. In Volume I are described the four voyages of Christopher Columbus and the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés, some details of which come to us through native accounts. Volume II opens with the voyages to Peru of Francisco Pizarro and his brothers, their seizure of the Inca empire, and the long, bloody, and self-destructive sequel to this Spanish campaign. This is followed by an account of the remarkable, years-long sojourn of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca through the deserts of North America, as well as his subsequent mission to Paraguay. The final section of Volume II tells the tale of Hernando de Soto's ill-starred expedition to North America, an expedition in which Soto himself lost his life. The sweep of the drama is roughly from 1490 to 1550, with the action moving from the West Indies to Mexico, then to Peru, today's southeastern US, Mexico again, Paraguay, and back to the US—and containing accounts of two desperate escapes by sea.
Somewhat in the manner of a film documentary, the story is told by the conquistadors themselves or the men who accompanied them in “sound bites,” with background and connecting narrative supplied by the author in whatever amount necessary to ensure an engaging and readable tale. Most of the original material is from eyewitness and participant sources, with some material “as told to” a later chronicler. An effort has been made to avoid moralizing on these events, but to report them—with all due filtering of wheat from chaff—as we have been told that they occurred. Seventeen maps accompany the text. An index and brief bibliography are also included in each volume.