This is a rather indirect way of connecting Childress to Franco-German archaeologist Pierre Honoré, whose 1964 book In Quest of the White God I came across in researching Childress this week. Childress republished the book in 2007 as In Search of Quetzalcoatl. I assume he actually paid for permission this time. In the book, Honoré made some startling claims about “white” (Caucasian) people in the pre-Columbian Americas that have been repeated in every alternative author from Childress to Neo-Nazis, all reproducing the exact same words of the 1964 translation of Quest. He rests his case on just two quotations from Spanish sources. But his quotations appear to be distortions.
First, Honoré claims that Christopher Columbus reported “often” seeing Indians “nearly as white as Spaniards,” but he does not provide a source for his alleged quotation. There’s a good reason for that. This isn’t exactly what Columbus said. On his first voyage, there was a report (secondhand) that some of his sailors had seen two women with pale, white skin among the natives, all of whom they considered (against modern views) to have skins of varying shades of white since their skin color was roughly the same as the "swarthy" (brownish) Spaniards. On his second voyage, near Cuba, Columbus noted that his lookout in the crow’s nest reported briefly glimpsing just three native people (all in one group) wearing white garments, including “a man clad in a white coat or vest down to his knees, and two that carried him had them down to their feet, all three as white as Spaniards.” They vanished before anyone else saw them, and the “whiteness” seems to be more a result of sunlight reflecting off their clothes, or white makeup or paint (worn by many native groups, as Columbus himself noted in his journals) than any Caucasian skin. This, therefore, is not quite the same as saying that there was a vast population of Caucasians in the Indies, and Honoré is dishonest in claiming otherwise.
Honoré’s second quotation is still more problematic. Attributed to Pedro Pizarro, the cousin of the conquistador, it alleges that Pizarro recorded the presence of white men in Peru deemed the children of the gods. I have written about this quotation before, but I was mistaken in believing that Pizarro never said it; instead the trouble is that Honoré distorted the quotation so much that I wasn’t able to find it because of the significant differences.
Here is how Honoré gives the quotation:
The ruling class in the kingdom of Peru was fair-skinned with fair hair about the color of ripe wheat. Most of the great lords and ladies looked like white Spaniards. In that country I met an Indian woman with her child, both so fair-skinned that they were hardly distinguishable from fair, white men. Their fellow countrymen called them 'children of the gods'.
(In Search of Quetzalcoatl, p. 19)
Las indias guancas y chachapoyas y cañares eran las comunes: las mas hermosas y pulidas. El demas mugeriego comun deste reino eran espesas, no hermosas ni feas sino de un mediano parescer. Esta gente deste reino del Perú era blanca, de color trigueño, y entre los señores y señoras eran mas blancos como españoles. Yo vide en esta tierra una muger india y un niño que de blancos y rubios casi no vian. Estos decian ellos que eran hijos de los ídolos.
(in Colección de documentos inéditos para la historia de España, vol. 5, p. 380)
The Indian women of the Guancas and Chachapoyas and Cañares were the common women, most of them being beautiful. The rest of the womanhood of this kingdom were thick, neither beautiful nor ugly, but of medium good-looks. The people of this kingdom of Peru were white, swarthy in colour, and among them the Lords and Ladies were whiter than Spaniards. I saw in this land an Indian woman and a child who would not stand out among white blonds. These people [of the upper class] say that they were the children of the idols.
(trans. Philip Ainsworth Means, 1921, p. 430)
What interests me is the way Honoré has falsified Pizarro’s quotation to emphasize the paleness and to add imaginary blond hair, and thus unfairly give the impression that Pizarro (a) recognized Caucasians in the ruling class of Peru and (b) attributed them to white “gods.” In fact, Pizarro reported that everyone in this region was lighter in skin than the coastal peoples (true in most places around the world) and that the upper class claimed a divine right to rule through fictive divine kinship (also true of elites around the world, including no lesser “white” heroes than Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar).
Honoré fabricates Pizarro’s “claim” that the Peruvians “looked like” Spaniards, when he rather claimed that the native rulers’ skin was paler than Spaniards. (Does this make Spaniards non-white to Honoré?) In short, Honoré has subtly but perceptibly altered the quotation to force it to conform to his thesis about a far-flung race of white civilizing heroes.