The Monk and the Mariposa: Franciscan acculturation in Mexico 1520-1550

Reilly, Penelope (2016) The Monk and the Mariposa: Franciscan acculturation in Mexico 1520-1550. Master of Philosophy (MPhil) thesis, University of Kent,. (Full text available)

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Abstract

Acculturation by the Franciscan Friars in Mexico from 1520-1550 This thesis sets out to examine the process of acculturation as experienced by the Franciscan friars during the first years of their mission in Mexico at the beginning of the sixteenth century. It will suggest that the acculturation was a two-way affair; that the Franciscans were as much changed by their contact with the indigenous people as were the natives by their contact with the friars. It begins with a study of the various changing interpretations of the notion of ‘acculturation’ and argues that beside the classical linear interpretation such expressions as ‘reverse acculturation’, ‘transculturation’ and ‘co-acculturation’ may be more appropriate for these particular circumstances. It then examines how the friars came to be in Mexico and the Aztec culture which they encountered which both shocked by its human sacrifice and yet provided striking examples of parallels with the Christian religion, thus indicating an early example of possible mutual accommodation. Next the thesis looks at the ways in which the friars prepared the ground for their mission: destroying many of the temples, settling the natives in ‘pueblos’ and above all, learning a range of local languages so that they could both converse with the Aztecs and preach to them. This can be seen as an excellent example of how the missionaries themselves were open to the process of acculturation; instead of insisting on the language of the coloniser, as was the practice of later missionaries, they carried the word to the natives by speaking their own tongues. The thesis goes on to examine the process of evangelizing, suggesting that in this area the greatest degree of ‘transculturation’ can be observed. Shortages of resources and manpower and sheer pressure of numbers made it necessary to take ‘short cuts’ in the administration of the sacraments, adopting for instance a ‘missa secca’ (where there was no wine) and dispensing with the use of white gowns and salt, which were in short supply, for the baptismal ceremony. In cultural areas of their work the friars found themselves exposed to another form of ‘acculturation’ – a phenomenon which might be termed ‘co-acculturation’. Thus in some of the songs of Pedro de Gante Christian and Aztec references sit side by side. Monastic architecture combines classical Spanish design with innovations like the ‘capilla abierta’. The Tlaxcaltecans, having been taught by the missionaries the art of using perspective, used this same art to extract more favourable terms from the Spanish authorities. Acculturation by the Franciscan Friars in Mexico from 1520-1550 This thesis sets out to examine the process of acculturation as experienced by the Franciscan friars during the first years of their mission in Mexico at the beginning of the sixteenth century. It will suggest that the acculturation was a two-way affair; that the Franciscans were as much changed by their contact with the indigenous people as were the natives by their contact with the friars. It begins with a study of the various changing interpretations of the notion of ‘acculturation’ and argues that beside the classical linear interpretation such expressions as ‘reverse acculturation’, ‘transculturation’ and ‘co-acculturation’ may be more appropriate for these particular circumstances. It then examines how the friars came to be in Mexico and the Aztec culture which they encountered which both shocked by its human sacrifice and yet provided striking examples of parallels with the Christian religion, thus indicating an early example of possible mutual accommodation. Next the thesis looks at the ways in which the friars prepared the ground for their mission: destroying many of the temples, settling the natives in ‘pueblos’ and above all, learning a range of local languages so that they could both converse with the Aztecs and preach to them. This can be seen as an excellent example of how the missionaries themselves were open to the process of acculturation; instead of insisting on the language of the coloniser, as was the practice of later missionaries, they carried the word to the natives by speaking their own tongues. The thesis goes on to examine the process of evangelizing, suggesting that in this area the greatest degree of ‘transculturation’ can be observed. Shortages of resources and manpower and sheer pressure of numbers made it necessary to take ‘short cuts’ in the administration of the sacraments, adopting for instance a ‘missa secca’ (where there was no wine) and dispensing with the use of white gowns and salt, which were in short supply, for the baptismal ceremony. In cultural areas of their work the friars found themselves exposed to another form of ‘acculturation’ – a phenomenon which might be termed ‘co-acculturation’. Thus in some of the songs of Pedro de Gante Christian and Aztec references sit side by side. Monastic architecture combines classical Spanish design with innovations like the ‘capilla abierta’. The Tlaxcaltecans, having been taught by the missionaries the art of using perspective, used this same art to extract more favourable terms from the Spanish authorities. However, it is in that astonishing art form the auto that the best example of both ‘trans-acculturation’ and ‘co-acculturation’ can be found. Here an attempt has been made to show that what are basically well-known Bible stories have been overlaid by Aztec religious and cultural references which are not only a form of ‘hidden resistance’ to Spanish rule but the most impressive example of the blending of two cultures under the aegis and inspiration of the Franciscan friars. The result is a moment of sublime dramatic co-operation which was never to be repeated.

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Philosophy (MPhil))
Uncontrolled keywords: Franciscan friars, mission, Mexico, 1520-1550
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GT Manners and customs
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 29 Feb 2016 14:12 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2016 15:20 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/54348 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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