Juan Rodríguez Freyle was born in Santafé de Bogotà in 1566 and died there in 1640. He was the son of Juan Freyle, a soldier from Ursúa, born in Alcalá de Henares, and Catalina Rodríguez. He was educated in a seminary and a cleric in minor orders. He spent 6 years in Spain, then on his return to the New World, went seeking for treasure; he married and then spent some time as a soldier; then he became a farmer and was involved in a series of disputes over his land which carried on even after he himself had died. He knew Jiménez de Quesada and one of his sources was Don Juan, mayor and lord of Guatavitá, a nephew of the namesake whom the conquistadors came upon when they arrived in the kingdom.
Magical realism dates back to the 17th century. This becomes obvious when we read "The Sheep", an historical chronicle which is also a witch's breviary, an anthology of picaresque tales, and a misogynistic diatribe written by an unenlightened shepherd in an unenlightened city in the Andes, called Santafé de Bogotà. Juan Rodriguez Freyle shows how it is possible to see the adulterous escapades of straying husbands in a crock of water, and how a priest who had committed murder saw the host turn to red in his hands at the moment of elevation.
But the true magic of this book lies not in the wonders of mestizo culture, with its indigenous black and Spanish ancestors, but in the way in which the author uses a vibrant if anachronistic language to recreate a world which is in a continuous state of adventure, fusion and change.
It was the search for El Dorado which spurred on the conquistadors, but this charming and witty shepherd, after many frustrated adventures, reached his promised land in the pages of a book which today, so many centuries later, is still yielding up its treasures, and seems full of new arid vigorous unforeseen surprises.
We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "El Carnero (The Sheep). Conquest and discovery of the Kingdom of New Granada": El Carnero. Conquista y descubrimiento de el Nuevo Reino de Granada facsimile edition, published by Testimonio Compañía Editorial, 1994