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Robbo spent most of his child-free Saturday perusing Tony Horwitz’s A Voyage Long and Strange, a sort of travelogue-cum-history lesson about the European exploration and settlement of the Americas from the voyages of Columbus at the end of the 15th Century, up through the English colonization of the early 17th Century. (Horwitz claims to have hit on the idea of writing the book when it occurred to him that he had no clue as to what happened between Columbus landing in the Bahamas in 1492 and the Pilgrims hitting Plymoth in 1620.)

I don’t have much to say about the political slant of the book.  It was, after all, written in the early 21st Century.  In fairness to Horwitz, I will say that he seems to make something of an effort himself not to get too caught up in political correctness.  On the other hand, based on some of the interviews he relates, it is safe to say that the calibration of ethnic sensitivities and the fanning of 500 year old grievances are both alive and well in this so-called melting pot of ours.

No, what I really wanted to mention was two factoids about which I am currently, well, geeking out.  The first has to do with the Conquistador Francisco Vasques de Coronado.   I have always associated his name with the Spanish exploration of northern Mexico and the American Southwest, and rightly so.  But what I didn’t know about him was that his journeys took him as far as the middle of Kansas, of all places (in search of a supposedly wealthy civilization known as Quivira).

The other was the fact that the Conquistador Hernando de Soto not only wandered all over Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, he even made it into the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee.

As Ted “Theodore” Logan would say, “Whoa.”

“Tom,” you’re no doubt saying to yourselves, “Who cares if the Spanish explored the Great Plains and the Appalachians?”

Well, I do.

UPDATE: Finished the book.  Curiously enough, aside from a story about a Huguenot settlement in what is now Jacksonville, Florida that got wiped out by the Spanish coming up from St. Augustine (and yes, there are people who still have grievances about that), there is practically no mention of French exploration whatsoever.  No Samuel de Champlain? No René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle? I’m not normally much of a Francophile, but it seems to me that somebody was robbed here.)

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