Review by Choice Review
This is a reasonably well written, engaging, fast-paced biography of a fascinating figure in the 16th-century Spanish conquest of America. The subject matter is likely to find an eager audience because of the perpetual interest in the dramatic events and actors of that period. Aguirre emerged as the leader of a faction that overthrew the commander of the Ursua expedition to the Amazon Basin in 1560 from Peru and initiated a seditious declaration of independence from Spain. In Balkan's retelling, Aguirre is cast as an early American "revolutionary," an anachronistic characterization that is more journalistic and sensational than historically accurate. Aguirre was not the forerunner of Simon Bolivar and an independent Latin American identity, as Balkan asserts. Neither is the author correct when he suggests a link between Aguirre and modern-day Basque nationalism. However, Balkan is on surer ground when he describes Aguirre's brutal behavior and the paranoid and violent atmosphere that accompanied the early conquering expeditions. The book is not a critical academic biography arising from archival sources, but rather a serviceable account written for general audiences, based on several published colonial chronicles and assorted secondary sources in both English and Spanish. Summing Up: Recommended. General collections/public libraries. K. L. Racine University of Guelph
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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