Another kind of "First Contact"


For years Esteban's biography author Dennis Herrick has collected science fiction novels and short stories about the "First Contact" by extraterrestrial aliens from another planet with the people of Earth. In writing the nonfiction biography, Esteban: The African Slave Who Explored America, it occurred to him how Esteban's appearance with Zuni Puebloans in the spring of 1539 was a kind of "First Contact" for the Zunis, who had never seen a Black man before and also had not imagined another world across the sea.
     Traders had told them about pale, bearded Spaniards who had conquered the Aztecs and enslaved many Native peoples all through Mexico's land of ever-lasting summer. They might even have told Zunis about dark-skinned people who lived among Spaniards. But the Zunis had never seen a non-Indian before, and some must have thought the tales of White people and Black people to be somewhat fanciful.
     Then their runners told them they'd spotted a Black man among a group of about 300 Mexican Indians coming toward the Zuni homeland and its southwestern-most village of Hawikku.
     Their excitement, surprise, and wonder at seeing their first African at Hawikku must have been similar to what we would experience in our time if a green or blue extraterrestrial walked into an American town today. A "First Contact" with an unimaginable being.
     Herrick's collection of about 200 First Contact books has been donated to the extensive science fiction collection at Eastern New Mexico University.



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