Columbus Meets Pocahontas in the American South

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Columbus Meets Pocahontas in the American South

by Theda Perdue
Southern Cultures, Vol. 3, No. 1: Spring 1997

"The author uses two legendary figures to explore sex, culture, and power in the conquest of the South."

As icons of the European colonization of the Americas, Columbus and Pocahontas represent opposite sides of the experience—European and Native, invader and defender, man and woman. Biographies and other scholarly writings document their lives and deeds, but these feats pale in comparison to the encounter these two legendary figures symbolize. Columbus embodies European discovery, invasion, and conquest while Pocahontas has become the “mother of us all,” a nurturing, beckoning, seductive symbol of New World hospitality and opportunity. The two never actually met in the American South, of course, except metaphorically, but this symbolic encounter involved a sexual dynamic that was inherent to the whole process of European colonization, particularly that of the American South.