Evangelization and Cultural Conflict in Colonial Mexico (BOK)
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In a study published in the mid-twentieth century, French historian Robert Ricard postulated that the evangelization and conversion of the native populations of Mexico had been rapid and relatively easy. However, different forms of evidence show that the so-called "spiritual conquest" was anything but easy or rapid, and, in fact, natives continued to practice their traditional beliefs alongside Catholicism. Within several decades of initiating the so-called "spiritual conquest," the campaign to evangelize and convert the native populations, the missionaries faced growing evidence of idolatry or the persistence of traditional religious practices and apostasy, straying from Church teachings. The evidence includes written documents such as inquisition investigations that resulted, for example, in the execution of don Carlos, the native ruler of Tezcoco, on December 1, 1539, or that uncovered evidence of systematic organized resistance to Dominican missionaries in the Sierra Mixteca of Oaxaca. Other forms of evidence include pre-Hispanic religious iconography incorporated into what ostensibly were Christian murals, and pre-Hispanic stones embedded in the churches and convents the missionaries had built. One example of this was the stone with the face of Tlaloc at the rear of the Franciscan church Santiago Tlatelolco in Distrito Federal. During the course of some three centuries, missionaries from different Catholic religious orders attempted to convert the native populations of colonial Mexico, with mixed results. Native groups throughout colonial Mexico resisted the imposition of the new religion in overt and covert forms, and incorporated Catholicism into their worldview on their own terms. Native cultural and religious traditions were more flexible than the Iberian Catholic norms introduced by the missionaries. The so-called "spiritual conquest," a term coined by Ricard, evolved as a cultural war set against the backdrop of the imposition of a foreign colonial regime. The 11 essays in this volume examine the efforts to evangelize the native populations of Mexico, the approaches taken by the missionaries, and native responses. The contributions investigate the interplay between natives and missionaries in central Mexico, and on the southern and northern frontiers of New Spain, and among sedentary and non-sedentary natives. In the end, many natives found little in the new faith to attract them, and resisted the imposition of new religious norms and way of life.