Balboa Essay

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“Balboa” a short story by Sabina Murray AS YOU READ Pay special attention to descriptions of Balboa's relations with the Indians and the Spaniards. Write down any questions you generate during reading. Vasco Núñez de Balboa ascends the mountain alone. His one thousand Indians and two hundred Spaniards wait at the foot of the mountain, as if they are the Israelites and Balboa alone is off to speak with God. Balboa knows that from this peak he will be able to see the western water, what he has already decided to name the South Sea. He takes a musket with him. The Spaniards have been warned that if they follow, he will use it, because discovery is a tricky matter and he wants no competition. The day is September 25, 1513. Balboa ascends slowly. His musket is heavy and he would have gladly left it down below, but he doesn’t trust his countrymen any more than he trusts the sullen Indians. So he bears the weight. But the musket is nothing. He is dragging the mantle[1] of civilization up the pristine slopes, over the mud, over the leaves that cast as much shade as a parasol[2] but with none of the charm. Balboa is that divining line[3] between the modern and the primitive. As he moves, the shadow of Spain moves with him. Balboa steps cautiously into a muddy stream and watches with fascination as his boot sinks and sinks. He will have to find another way. Upstream he sees an outcropping of rock. Maybe he can cross there. He tells himself that there is no hurry, but years of staying just ahead of trouble have left him anxiety-ridden. He would like to think of himself as a lion. Balboa the Lion! But no, he is more of a rat, and all of his accomplishments have been made with speed and stealth. Balboa places his hand on a branch and pulls himself up. He sees the tail of a snake disappearing just past his reach. The subtle crush of greenery confirms his discovery

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