Toward a Cultural, Literary and Natural History of the Ibero–American Coyote in the 16th–19th Centuries
Keywords:coyote, Animal Studies, Ibero-America, fables, natural history
The research discussed in this article takes a preliminary approach to the literary and zoological history of the Ibero-American coyote. As an important mythical figure since pre-Hispanic times, the Ibero-American coyote has commonly played the role of trickster in tales and legends throughout Latin America. As a biological species, it has demonstrated extraordinary adaptability in its expansion throughout the American territories in recent years. While the cultural role of the coyote has been variously considered in previous studies, especially its role in North American literature, this historical sketch focuses specifically on the Ibero-American coyote. The research takes an Animal Studies approach, in that it analyzes the relationships between humans and this species of canid in the texts discussed. It is also interdisciplinary in combining various sources and genres (natural histories, Indian Chronicles, geography books, a hunting treatise, fables...), covering a period of nearly four centuries (from the 16th to the 19th). The intention is to read, where possible, the behaviour, meanings and habits given to the coyote in these documents from a point of view that takes into account zoological knowledge about the species, and not just its symbolism or anthropomorphic attributions. This approach to studying animals—and in the case that concerns us, the coyote—allows us to see what these creatures have meant to us, how we have used them in our cultures and societies, and how we have treated them throughout history.
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