Message #87: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: Catholicism, Conquest and Hispanic-Indian Culture Date: Sun, 16 Feb 1997 17:35:45 EST From: Maurice Brill, S.J. I visited the Phoenix Art Museum for the guided tour of the Art Institute of New Mexico members through the Brooklyn Museum of Arts Collection of Hispanic-Indian Art. I got a whole new perspective of the Native American and Hispanic culture. Apparently, the Spaniards when they first came to America were not psychologically shaken by the Protestant Reformation or the ascent of the British Navy of Queen Elizabeth. There was much common ground between the Aztecs and the Spaniards. The social systems were parallel, the Aztec language was much in structure like the Latin language. In the first ten years of colonizations by the Spaniards, the Aztec language was clearly defined and could be translated into Spanish. The Spanish nobility intermarried with the Aztec nobility. During the 16th Century the Dominicans and Franciscans were training young Aztec boys in Latin, which the boys picked up quickly. The Aztecs were remarkably quick to learn. They studied European philosophy, wrote poetry in Latin, and began incorporating Spanish styles in their art work. The Spaniards were amazed at the intelligence of the Aztecs and Mayans. The Dominicans were preparing Aztec boys for the Catholic priesthood. Trade with China and Japan was quickly established. The nobility of Mexico wanted the silks and dishware of Asia. Manila became the city of shipment of Asiatic goods. Some people from Asia came to Mexico. The Spaniards were winning many Catholic converts in Asia. The Protestant Reformation and the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the depredations of the English changed the Spanish character. There was a marked change in colonial policies in Mexico and New Mexico. Whereas before there was great tolerance for different cultures among the Spanish, the Inquisition and the Council of Trent changed the way the Indians were treated. The Spanish were depressed by the great loss of wealth caused by the English. The free shipping communications through the Spanish Empire were broken and the administrators became very tense. The relations between Spaniards and Indians became more hostile. The Pueblos drove the Spaniards out of New Mexico. Smallpox was decimating the Indian population. In the paintings of the Cuzco school of Indian artists in Peru, there are pictures of Negros who were imported to do the menial tasks which the lower class Indians had been doing before the smallpox epidemics. After the Council of Trent the discipline in the Catholic Church was tightened and all signs of religious syncretism were banned. Thus followed a split between the faith preached by the missionaries and the traditional religious ways of the Indians. It would have been interesting to speculate what the growth of Catholicism would have been had not Martin Luther started the Reformation. Something parallel to the Christianization of Europe in the early Middle Ages would have taken place. The two chief military and political advisors of Cortez when he conquered Mexico were Jews who practised their faith freely. They were given large tracts of land by Cortez and their families openly practiced the Jewish faith. Not so after the Reformation and the Inquisition. The Jesuits who were too much inclined to incorporate native culture into the their mission life were kicked out of the colonies. The information discussed by the lecture tour of the art collection provided a new perspective on the colonization of Latin America by the Spaniards. Everything was very concrete since the art pieces demonstrated well the minds of the artists. It was a great lesson in art history, history, and archaeology.