Spiritual Conquest of Mexico

        I.            “We came for the glory of God and to get rich!” – Bernal Diaz

      II.            Church and state

A.      No real distinction between secular and religious life in Iberian society

B.      Spanish see Reconquista as evidence of their special role in advancing Catholicism

C.      Patronado real

1.  Spanish Crown had tight relationship with Roman Catholic Church

2. Under the patronado the Crown took on responsibility for financing Church activities in exchange for right to appoint Church personnel

3.  In effect, no distinction between Church and State, only competing interest groups within the State

4. The religious orders (regular clergy) were, however, more independent than the secular clergy (priests)

    III.            Can the Amerindians be Christians?

A.      Europeans had no basis in the Bible or in Greek and Roman texts for determining status of the Amerindians – engenders much debate

B.      Sublimus Deus (1537) – Pope declares that Amerindians are rational and have souls

C.      Charles V will agree, and declares the Amerindians to be wards of the State, thus making their conversion a State imperative

    IV.            Early missionaries

A.      Spanish Crown favored use of the regular clergy (the orders) to carry out conversion

1.  While many orders participated, it was primarily the Franciscans, Jesuits, and Dominicans who would carry out the work

2.  First formal missionary group were Franciscans, arriving with a small group in 1522 and a larger group in 1524

3. Followed by Dominicans in  1526, Augustines in 1533, and Jesuits in 1572

4. Each brought their own emphasis

a.       Franciscans focused on linguistics and ethnographics as tools to conversion

b.      Dominicans more focused on orthodoxy; worked in Oaxaca and Chiapas

c.       Augustines focused on building monasteries, churches, other institutions

d.      Jesuits focused on northern frontier, emphasized economic development, education, and Amerindian self-sufficiency

B.      What would motivate a young missionary to ship off to remote Mexico?

1.  Opportunities for more rapid advancement than in Europe

2.  Belief that the burdens were themselves glories

3. "Only men of a certain temperament are attracted to far lands. Spirits which had chafed in the cloister and energies which under the restrictions of the Old World could too easily sour into fretfulness found joyful fulfillment in the hardships artificially contrived in the Old World, but part of the texture of the days of the New; the weary distances traveled, always on foot; the strange food and stranger diseases; the exhaustion of the struggle to identify, in a flow of sound, the contours and intentions of human speech. Those burdens became their glory." - Inga Clendinnen, Ambivalent Conquests, p. 49.

4. Millenarian zeal

a.       Missionaries believed they could be in the end of days

b.      Massive death of the last people to receive the Word of God seen as sign of end times

C.      Missionaries do critical linguistic and anthropological work

1.  Most of our best sources on language and pre-Columbian society come from missionaries who sought to understand the Amerindians

2. But the ultimate goal of this work was to convert the Amerindians and extinguish their cultures, replacing them with Iberian culture

      V.            Growth (or not) of the institutional Church

A.      Rapid development of bishoprics and dioceses Mexico, much of it in place by 1570

B.      Church will provide most of the social services, particularly education, in the colonial world

    VI.            Conversion

A.      First Baptism, then conversion

1.  Initial efforts at conversion focused on outward rituals, not internal beliefs

2. Mass baptisms accompanied by giant story-telling images

3.  Converts taught to sound out the syllables of prayers (note that the Latin Mass was incomprehensible to a lot of Europeans as well)

4. Friars believed that words and rituals opened a path to God

5. For their part, Amerindians also believed that rituals opened spiritual doorways

B.      Caciques (Amerindian leaders) compelled to convert

1. Sons sent to special schools for training, conversion

2. Taught to abandon the ways of their fathers and take up Iberian culture

3. Went back to villages as schoolmasters to pass on new culture

4. Not enough to be Catholic – must also convert to Spanish cultural ways, though different missionary groups emphasized this to greater and lesser extent

C.      Nahua in Central Mexico seemed to take to conversion more readily than Maya and more distant rural groups

  VII.            Limitations of conversion

A.      Polytheistic Amerindians did not necessarily see Christianity and Amerindian beliefs as incompatible

1. Many of the saints and apparitions of Mary and Jesus would become identified with Amerindian or, later, African deities

2. Local tribal deities become linked to particular Catholic saints, which in turn become village patron saints

3. Not always clear how sincere these identification were

B.      Syncretism emerges, a mixing of religions

1. A blending of Catholic, African, Amerindian and folk European beliefs

2.  Pre-Columbian priesthood annihilated in conquest

a.       Thus high level ritual and theology disappears, such as the Mayan long count

b.      But shamanistic popular beliefs centered around daily needs and ritual survive

3. Folk Catholicism

a.       Followers identify as Catholic, but mix in elements of non-Catholic religion

b.      For example, Aztec feasts celebrating ancestors mix with elements of Catholic All Saints and All Souls days to create the rituals of the Dia de los Muertos

4. Amerindian and later African shamans found in many places, but must stay in hiding

a.       Frequently participate in Catholic ritual, sometimes as ruse, sometimes as  sincere belief in importance of Catholic ritual

b.      Often a go-to source for medical needs, charms and the like, even by Europeans

c.       Curanderos, who blended folk Catholicism and shamanism and provided medical and psychological services were sometimes able to be more open

C.      Catholic priesthood also changed

1. While Inquisition did its work, accommodation was also made

2. As they had done in Europe, Church consciously makes use of existing rituals, symbols, and sacred sites

a.       Churches often built on top of old temples

b.      Mexico City Cathedral built out of stones from Templo Mayor

D.      Virgen de Guadalupe

1.  A merger of Tonantzin, mother goddess of earth, moon, and Corn with the Virgin Mary

2.  Juan Diego claims to have vision of Mary on Dec. 9, 1531 at Tepeyac Hill (a little north of Mexico City

3. Site is associated with Tonantzin

4.  Collects roses he bundles up with his cape, upon which appears an image of Virgin Mary

5.  Some of the symbolism of this image is resembles that of mother goddess Tonantzin

6.  A shrine will be built at Tepeyac

7.  In the apparition, known formally as Our Lady of Guadalupe, becomes the patron of Mexico and her shrine the most important one in Mexico

VIII.            The case of the Yucatan, 1562

    1. Chance discovery of idols by Franciscan friars

1. Led to investigations, including a great deal of torture

2.  Investigations led to more discoveries

3. Missionaries faced with mounting evidence of widespread syncretism

    1. Response of Missionaries

1.  Work in Yucatan overseen by Diego de Landa

2.  Used savage, indiscriminate torture

3.  4500 Mayans tortured, of which 158 died.

4.  13 known suicides; many left crippled.

5.  Friars used savage punishments - up to 200 lashes; years of forced labor.

6.  All this against all Spanish law -- proper procedures not followed.

7.  Spanish settlers shocked at cruelty and dismissal of legal niceties.

    1. Why?

1.  Missionaries felt betrayed.

2.  Shocked and horrified to learn how their teachings had been received and transformed

3.  Rather than seeing Mayans as ill-taught, saw them as willingly deceitful.

    1. Mayan view

1.  Missionaries failed to understand Mayan world view

2.  Use of stones from temples to build Spanish cathedrals

a.        Seen by Maya as sign of continuity of cycles of time

b.       not as crushing power and permanence of Spanish and Christianity

3. Schools

a.        Spaniards saw them as a way of turning sons of caciques into Christians

b.       And against the traditions and beliefs of their fathers

c.       Mayan nobles saw it a means of continuing traditions

                                                                                                         i.            preserving their place as keepers of knowledge

                                                                                                       ii.            and their place as intercessors with the gods

4. Maya followed Spanish lead and put up many crosses

a.       Missionaries saw it as a sign of Mayan piety

b.      Maya saw representations of Tree of Life, the Tree of Four Directions

    1. Result

1.  As elsewhere, led to disillusionment

2.  Much of Church retreated to cities

3.  Advent of reducciones and the wilderness missions

4.  Specifically in Yucatan, contributes to enormous gulf between Mayan and Spaniard.

    IX.            Importance of social institutions

A.      Cofradías

1.  Lay brotherhoods generally tasked to support a particular shrine

2.  Responsible for public rituals, feasts and public charity

3.  Provided and opportunity for Amerindians (and others) to participate in religious activity with some independence from the clergy

4.  Provided opportunities for social advancement and to gain public honors

B.      Auto sacrementals

1. Religious plays put on during important feast days

2. Sometimes sponsored by cofradías, the village as a whole, or other groups

3.  Themes often centered around Christian defeats of pagans, notably Spanish over pre-Conquest groups

4.  Whole communities participated

5. High social importance, and gave Amerindians an opportunity to portray themselves their pre- Spanish Catholic culture

      X.            Settler-missionary conflict

A.      Missionaries often saw themselves as defenders of the Amerindians

1.  Bartolome de las Casas begins this tradition with Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies(1539)

2. Missionaries sought to relieve Amerindians of excessive tribute and work demands from settlers

3. Conflicts arose over saints’ days and access to ritual participation

4.  Franciscans tended to emphasize love and charity in their defense of the Amerindians, Jesuits questions of law and jurisdiction

B.      Increasingly, missionaries sought to separate Amerindians from settler culture

1.  Less enthusiasm for teaching the Amerindians Spanish (or Portuguese)

2. Instead, friars worked to codify and spread use of certain Amerindian languages, like Quechua in Peru

3.  Settlers, European languages seen as sources of corruption of worldly culture

4.  Reducciones used to bring Amerindians in rural areas to live in one place, both to convert them and separate them from settlers

C.      These challenges came mainly from friars in rural regions. Secular urban clergy generally identified with settlers.