Spiritual Conquest of Latin America

        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 in particular see Reconquista as evidence of their special role in advancing Catholicism

C.      While Portuguese share Spanish belief in a mission to spread Catholicism,  they never put the same level of resources into it

D.      Patronado real/Padroado real

1.  Both Spanish and Iberian Crowns had tight relationship with Roman Catholic Church

2. Under the patronado/padroado 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

    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.      Iberian Crowns 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

a.       Franciscans were most important in pushing the frontiers in Spanish lands

b.      Jesuits took on similar role in Brazil

2.  First formal missionary group were Franciscans, arriving in Mexico in 1524

B.      What would motivate a young missionary to ship off to remote Mexico or the depths of Brazil?

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.      Twenty-two bishoprics in the Spanish world by 1550, a number which would more than double over time

B.      First Portuguese bishopric not formed till 1549

1.  Church in Brazil always smaller, poorer than Spanish counterpart

2.  Much smaller Amerindian population to work with, thus less important than to Spanish

3. Church would have much less political influence in Brazil

C.      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 (or Portuguese) cultural ways

  VII.            Limitations of conversion

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

1. Would also be true about many of the African slaves

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

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

c.        Similarly, African religious leaders transported unintentionally and randomly

a.       Some deities and ideas lost in the process

b.      Where in Africa, communities often had one patron deity, a more mixed system will emerge in slave communities

3. Folk Catholicism

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

b.      In Mexico, 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. Santeria (Cuba) and candomble (Brazil) are examples of Yoruban belief being intertwined with Catholicism

5.  Amerindian and 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.      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.      Basilica for the Virgen de Guadelupe built on site sacred to Tonantzin, a Mexican earth goddess

VIII.            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

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.