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Chapter 19

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Spain in America

by
Edward Gaylord Bourne

in the
Barnes & Noble edition,
New York, 1962

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 21

p302 Chapter XX

The Transmission of European Culture
(1493‑1821)

The transmission of the heritage of European culture to the New World and its inhabitants, the great work of the colonial epoch, was the task undertaken by the church. From the beginning the conversion of the natives to Christianity was a dominant motive of the Spanish policy; yet this exaltation of religion was not at the sacrifice of the political interests of the crown. The church organization was a very perfect machine, thoroughly under the authority of the king, and a most effective agency in sustaining his rule in these distant dominions. Pope Julius II, in 1508, granted the king of Spain the right of patronage,1 a concession of no great significance at the time when only the feeble settlements in Española were involved, but of enormous importance after the main-land conquests were completed. The right was broadly interpreted, and under it the king nominated to the pope all the high church dignitaries, prohibited the p303circulation of any papal bulls in America without his consent, and required every priest and monk who proposed to go to the New World to obtain the royal license. No church, monastery, or hospital could be erected except in accordance with the king's ordinances.2 One-ninth of the tithes was covered into the royal treasury,3 and an even more important part of the king's revenue was derived from the sale of bulls of the Crusade or indulgences, the purchase of which was practically universal.4

The work of conversion in Mexico followed upon the heels of conquest, indefatigable friars devoting every moment to preaching, baptizing, and learning the native languages. The old religion withstood the assault as little as the old state: the destruction of the temples and the idols by the conquerors, the death of many of the old ruling caste and of the Aztec priesthood relaxed its bonds, and the masses were relieved from the dreadful burden of the earlier faith.5 In the Old World the progress from actual to vicarious sacrifice for sin had been slow and painful through the ages; in the New it was accomplished within a single generation. The old religion p304had inculcated a relatively high morality, but its dreadful rites overhung the present life like a black cloud, and for the future it offered little consolation. The adjustment to Christian morals of Indian customs, such as the polygamy of the chiefs, presented greater difficulties than mere conversion of the people.

The work of the church was rapidly adapted to the new field of labor. In the main it consisted of three distinct types — the parish work of the Spanish towns, in charge of a cura; the teaching and parish work in the Indian villages, or doctrina, in charge either of two or more friars or of a cura; and the mission among the wild Indians, in charge of misioneros. Every town, Indian as well as Spanish, was by law required to have its church, hospital, and school for teaching Indian children Spanish and the elements of religion.

As in Spain, the clergy consisted of the regulars, or members of the orders — the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Mercenarians, and the Jesuits — and of the seculars, of all grades from the archbishops down to the simple cura. The regulars not only had large monasteries in the cities, but were scattered up and down through the country in little houses containing from two to five inmates.6 The doctrinas of the Indian villages might be in charge of "religious," or monks, or of curas, but not of both together. No monastery could be established p305in a pueblo where the doctrina was in charge of a cura.7

If the work among the wild Indians were successful they were gathered together in a village called a mission, where under the increasing supervision of the friars, they were taught the elements of letters and trained to peaceful, industrious, and religious lives. In fact, every mission was an industrial school, where the simple arts were taught by the friars, themselves in origin plain Spanish peasants. The discipline of the mission was as minute as that of a school: the unmarried youth and maidens were locked in at night; the day's work began and ended with prayers and catechism; each Indian, besides cultivating his own plot of land, worked two hours a day on the farm belonging to the village, the produce of which went to the support of the church. The mission was recruited by inducing the wild Indians to join it, and also by kidnapping them.8

Spanish America from California and Texas to Paraguay and Chili was fringed with such establishments, the outposts of civilization, where many thousands of Indians went through a schooling which ended only with their lives. In the process of time a mission was slowly transformed into a p306"pueblo de Indios," with its doctrina, and the mission frontier was pushed out a little farther. Then the white planters began to push in. "The whites, and the casts of mixed blood favored by the corregidors (provincial administrators of the tribute) established themselves among the Indians. The missions become Spanish villages, and the natives lose even the remembrance of their natural idiom. Such is progress of civilization from the coasts towards the interior — a slow progress shackled by the passions of man, but sure and uniform."9

Far different was the advancing frontier in English America with its clean sweep, its clash of elemental human forces. Our own method prepared a home for a more advanced civilization and a less variously mixed population, and its present fruits seem to justify it as the ruthless processes of nature are justified; but a comparison of the two systems does not warrant self-righteousness on the part of the English in America.

However great the work of the church in civilizing the Indians and in mitigating the conquest, one must not ignore the fact that, after the first flush of excitement over the vast field opened before it, there was a relaxation of discipline and of morals. Though not strange it scandalized European observers. In more ways than one the conditions of the Middle Ages were revived. The every-day familiarity and age-long contact with the Mohammedan life in old Spain p307had made the Spaniards as a people exceptionally tolerant of irregular relations of the sexes. In the centuries preceding the discoveries a qualified form of plural marriage among the laity was recognized by the laws, as were more or less permanent connections between single men and women, in some aspects a survival of the old Roman legalized concubinage.10 The celibacy of the clergy in Spain had been more an ideal than a fact; indeed, the extraordinary efforts in the Middle Ages to enforce it against prevalent usage achieved less success in Spain than anywhere else in Europe; marriages of the clergy were not legal, yet a legal status was accorded their children.11

Queen Isabella had exerted much influence towards the improvement of the morals of the clergy, but when in the remote society of the New World the old-time conditions again presented themselves of the contact of a superior race with an inferior and compliant population, the clergy relapsed. Recruited as it was from the common people in Spain, concubinage became very general among both the friars and the curas.12 Society in general seemed very lax and corrupt to foreign observers. Frézier remarks p308that the Spaniards are temperate in wine, but that continence has very little hold on them. The old-time quasi-legal concubinage was very general, and the duties and obligations of the more formal marriage bond were lightly borne by both husbands and wives.13 The Peruvians, in addition, seem to have anticipated our own facilities for divorce and remarriage, a condition which scandalized the eighteenth-century Frenchman quite as much as the licentiousness of the clergy and their flocks.14

Both the crown and the church were solicitous for education in the colonies, and provisions were made for its promotion on a far greater scale than was possible or even attempted in the English colonies. The early Franciscan missionaries built a school beside each church,15 and in their teaching abundant use was made of signs, drawings, and paintings.16 The native languages were reduced to writing, and in a few years Indians were learning to read and write. Pedro de Gante, a Flemish lay brother and a relative of Charles V, founded and conducted in the Indian quarter in Mexico a great school attended by over a thousand Indian boys, which combined instruction in elementary and higher branches, the mechanical and the fine arts. In its workshops the boys were taught to be p309tailors, carpenters, blacksmiths, shoemakers, and painters.17

Bishop Zumárraga wanted a college for Indians in each bishopric, and the first institution for higher education in the New World was founded in 1535, the college of Santa Cruz, in Tlaltelolco, a quarter in the Indian part of the city of Mexico. Besides the elementary branches, instruction was offered in Latin, philosophy, music, Mexican medicine, and the native languages. Among the faculty were graduates of the University of Paris and such eminent scholars as Bernardino de Sahagun, the founder of American anthropology, and Juan de Torquemada, himself a product of Mexican education, whose Monarquia Indiana is a great storehouse of knowledge of Mexican antiquities and history. Many of the graduates of this college became alcaldes and governors in the Indian towns.18

Nor was the education of the Indian girls neglected; and the increasing number of mestizo children led to the establishment of a college for them.19 From 1536 dates the first royal provision for the teaching of the Spanish creole youth.20 In 1551 Charles V founded the universities of Mexico and Lima. Chairs of Indian languages were ordered to be established in both and in the more important of other institutions.21 A year after the University of p310Mexico opened in 1554, its professor of rhetoric, Dr. Cervantes Salazar, a graduate of Osuno, published three interesting Latin dialogues, the first describing the university, the other two taking up Mexico city and its environs, a work after the model of the more serious of Erasmus's colloquies.22

Not all the institutions of learning founded in Mexico in the sixteenth century can be enumerated here, but it is not too much to say that in number, range of studies, and standard of attainments by the officers they surpassed anything existing in English America until the nineteenth century. Mexican scholars made distinguished achievements in some branches of science, particularly medicine and surgery, but pre-eminently in linguistics, history, and anthropology. Dictionaries and grammars of the native languages and histories of the Mexican institutions are an imposing proof of their scholarly devotion and intellectual activity. Conspicuous are Toribio de Motolinia's Historia de los Indios de Nueva España; Duran's Historia de las Indias de Nueva España; but most important of all Sahagun's great work on Mexican life and religion.23

The most famous of the earlier Peruvian writers were Acosta, the historian, the author of the Natural and Civil History of the Indies; the mestizo Garcilasso de la Vega, who was educated in Spain and p311wrote of the Inca Empire and of De Soto's expedition; Sandoval, the author of the first work on Africa and the negro written in America;24 Antonio Leon Pinelo, the first American bibliographer, and one of the greatest, as well as the indefatigable codifier of the legislation of the Indies. Pinelo was born in Peru and educated at the Jesuit college in Lima, but spent his literary life in Spain.

Early in the eighteenth century the Lima University counted nearly two thousand students, and numbered about one hundred and eighty doctors in theology, civil and canon law, medicine, and the arts. The French engineer Frézier reports that the training was good in scholasticism, but of little account in modern scientific subjects. Ulloa a generation later reports that "the university makes a stately appearance without, and its inside is decorated with suitable ornaments." There were chairs of all the sciences, and "some of the professors have, notwithstanding the vast distance, gained the applause of the literati of Europe."25 The coming of the Jesuits contributed much to the real educational work in America. They established colleges, one of which, the little Jesuit college at Juli, on Lake Titicaca, became a seat of genuine learning.26

That the Spanish authorities in church and state, did much to promote education is abundantly evident, p312and the modern sciences of anthropology, linguistics, geography, and history are profoundly indebted to the labors of the early Spanish-American scholars and missionaries. It is in these fields that their achievements shine, for in these fields they could work unhampered by the censorship of the press and the Inquisition. In philosophy and in politics the mind was less free. The part which the Inquisition played in confining intellectual work to the well-beaten track of traditional orthodoxy makes appropriate a brief consideration of its activities in America, about which great misconceptions have prevailed. The Holy Office was extended to America in 1569.27 Earlier the bishops had been accorded inquisitorial powers. One occasionally meets with references to the cruelties practised by the Inquisition on the Indians, but that charge is without foundation, for the Indians were exempted from its jurisdiction as children in the faith not capable of heresy.28 If they offended against the rules of the church they were punished, like children, with the whip. Foreign heretics, Portuguese or Spanish Jews, witches, and bigamists principally occupied its attention, but owing to the rigid exclusion of all emigrants tainted even with ancestral heresy this dreaded court ordinarily had little to do compared with its grewsomeº activities in the mother-country.

p313 The arrival of the Inquisition in Mexico in 1574 was signalized by pouncing on all of Hawkins' men who had been put ashore in 1568 that could be got hold of. Miles Philips gives a full account of its methods. Over fifty of them were condemned to be scourged and to serve in the galleys. Three "had their judgment to be burnt to ashes."29 Frézier found the commissaries of the Inquisition in the villages in remote Chili, and remarks: "They busy themselves mainly about the visions of real or pretended sorcerers and certain crimes subject to the Inquisition, like polygamy, etc. For, as for heretics, I am sure they find none, there is so little study there."30

In its entire history in Peru the Inquisition celebrated twenty-nine autos da fe, the first burning taking place in 1581 and the last in 1776. Fifty-nine heretics in all suffered at the stake.31 The list was shorter in Mexico. In two hundred and seventy-seven years, so far as has been learned, forty-one were burned as relapsed heretics and ninety-nine were burned in effigy.32 The auto of 1659 is typical: the criminals were twenty-nine in number, twenty-three men and six women; twelve for blasphemy, two for bigamy, one for forgery, one for perjury, one for avisos de carceles, one for failure to complete a penance, one woman for p314suspected Judaism, one for witchcraft, two, a father and daughter, for suspected connection with the heretics "illuminati." Seven relapses were burned, five for heresy and two for Judaism.33 Usually only a small proportion were executed as relapsed. In 1664 one offender was stripped to the waist and then "honeyed" and feathered.34 In view of the witchcraft tragedy in Salem one notices with interest that executions for witchcraft were comparatively infrequent, the accused usually being subjected to some milder penalty or acquitted.35

With the intellectual awakening in the eighteenth century new perils beset these sheltered communities. The Inquisition redoubled its activity, and the catalogues of prohibited or expurgated books grew to include, according to Depons, the works of five thousand four hundred and twenty authors. On the lists were the names of the leading thinkers of the century.36

The early promoters of education and missions did not rely upon the distant European presses for the publication of their manuals. The printing-press was introduced into the New World probably as early as 1536, and it seems likely that the first book, an elementary Christian doctrine, called La Escala Espiritual (the ladder of the spirit), was p315issued in 1537. No copy of it, however, is known to exist.37 Seven different printers plied their craft in New Spain in the sixteenth century.38 Among the notable issues of these presses, besides the religious works and church service books, were dictionaries and grammars of the Mexican languages; Puga's Cedulario in 1563, a compilation of royal ordinances; Farfán's Tractado de Medicina. In 1605 appeared the first text-book published in America for instruction in Latin, a manual of poetics with illustrative examples from heathen and Christian poets.39

Mexico was in a sense the mother-country of the Philippines, and the first general history and description of the islands in distinction from missionary narratives, Antonio de Morga's Sucesos de las Islas Philipinas, was printed in Mexico in 1609. Notwithstanding the efforts of the church and of missionaries in behalf of education it is not to be supposed that elementary education was anything like so generally diffused in the later days as in the English colonies, though Spanish America would have compared favorably with old Spain. If we compare Spanish America with the United States a hundred years ago, we must recognize that while in the north there was a sounder body politic, a purer social life, and a more general dissemination of elementary education, yet in Spanish p316America there were both vastly greater wealth and greater poverty, more imposing monuments of civilization, such as public buildings, institutions of learning, and hospitals, more populous and richer cities, a higher attainment in certain branches of science. No one can read Humboldt's account of the city of Mexico and its establishments for the promotion of science and the fine arts without realizing that, whatever may be the superiorities of the United States over Mexico in these respects they have been mostly the gains of the age of steam.

During the first half-century after the application of steam to transportation Mexico weltered in domestic turmoils arising out of the crash of its old régime. If the rule of Spain could have lasted half a century longer, being progressively liberalized as it was during the reign of Charles III; if a succession of such viceroys as Revilla Gigedo, in Mexico, and De Croix and De Taboada y Lemos, in Peru, could have borne sway in America until railroads could have been built, intercolonial intercourse ramified, and a distinctly Spanish-American spirit developed — then a great Spanish-American federal state might possibly have been created, capable of self-defence against Europe and inviting co‑operation rather than aggression from the neighbor in the north.

As it was, the English colonies, in the beginning more detached than the Spanish, yet contiguous, so that intercourse was easy, and enjoying the advantage of occupying a relatively small area, were p317able to join forces in the War of Independence. The Union became cemented by the acquisition first of half and then of the whole great central valley, an essential unit geographically, whose earlier lines of communication ran north and south, thus binding the two diverging sections by deep-lying ties. Then at just the right period came the steam-boat and the railroad to multiply the connecting links and unloose the great forces of economic interest and national pride to counteract the rising forces of disruption.

The Spanish colonies were more closely united administratively than the English, but at the time of their independence the physical and geographical obstacles to forming a United States of Spanish America were absolutely insuperable. Hence they tended to break up along lines roughly corresponding to the old administrative subdivisions. The Revolution consequently gave rise to a number of weak states whose peaceful progress under a clash of interests unknown in English America was impossible. The Spanish-American peoples have lacked the inspiration of united action, and their resources and powers have been frittered away in intestine quarrels. If the formidable apparition of the ever-extending United States draws them together for mutual defence; if the construction of railroads sufficiently overcomes the great geographical impediments to unity; if the Monroe Doctrine shall serve the temporary purpose of protecting them p318from foreign attack during this period of mutual approach — there may yet arise a great Spanish-American federal state, the counterpart of the United States, to become a wholesome check on its indefinite absorption of alien lands and peoples to the south, and the home of a great people which with the infusion of new blood will free itself from the evils of its earlier life while preserving the best of the heritage from Spain.

Society in Spanish America combines a great variety of more widely contrasting elements than are to be found in English America. In the old days, Europeans, Americans of European ancestry, African negroes, the descendants of the native stocks, all lived together as rulers and ruled, masters and slaves, "higher" and "lower" races, not entirely detached, not yet fused, rather a series of social layers, partly distinct and partly merged, with antagonisms and jealousies. Independence has not yet allayed these jealousies, but the continual reinforcement of the European stock by industrious immigrants from Spain, Italy, and Germany, relatively free from race and color prejudices, will in time give greater stability to social conditions, raise the average of intelligence, increase the production of wealth, and advance the progress of civilization, carrying on and not undoing the work of Spain. The Spanish language will still be the common tongue of the millions who live between the Rio Grande del Norte and the Straits of Magellan, and, p319with the advance in knowledge, national pride in the achievements of the Spaniards who explored a hemisphere and ineffaceably stamped upon its two continents their language and their religion will become an abiding inspiration.


The Author's Notes:

1 Icazbalceta, Obras, V, 217; Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 383.

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2 Icazbalceta, Obras, V, 217. For details see Recopilacion de Leyes, lib. I, tit. VI, Del Real Patronazgo.

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3 Usually called the "two-ninths," because it was two-ninths of half the tithes, Recopilacion de Leyes, lib. I, tit. XVI, ley 23.

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4 Cf. Robertson, America, notes 195 and 196, for prices and income from the bulls.

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5 Cf. Icazbalceta, Obras, V, 155 ff.

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6 Cf.e.g., Velasco on Mexico, Descripcion de las Indias, 194 ff.

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7 Recopilacion de Leyes, lib. I, tit. XIII, ley 2.

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8 Cf. Garrison, Texas, 56; Depons, Voyage, II, 98 ff.; Humboldt, Travels, III, 40, 100, 211; Roscher, Spanish Colonial System, 11.

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9 Humboldt, Travels, III, 215.

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10 See art. "Barragan," in Escriche, Diccionario Razonado de Legislacion; Burke, History of Spain, I, 404.

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11 See Lea, Sacerdotal Celibacy, index art. Spain; Prescott, Ferdinand and Isabella, ILXVIII, II, 397.

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12 See Ulloa, Noticias Secretas, index under concubinas, frailes, curas, concubinato; Frézier, Voyage, II, 447. Frézier excepts the bishops and the Jesuits, ibid., 433.

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13 Frézier, Voyage, 446. Cf. also Captain Betagh's Observations on Peruvian life in the eighteenth century, Pinkerton, VoyagesXIV.

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14 Frézier, Voyage, II, 403.

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15 Icazbalceta, Obras, I, 171.

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16 Cf. Lowery, Spanish Settlements, 396‑398.

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17 Icazbalceta, Obras, I, 176.

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18 Ibid., 180‑182; Alaman, Disertaciones (Havana ed., 1873), II, 110 ff.

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19 Icazbalceta, Obras, I, 182, 189.

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20 Ibid., 193.

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21 Recopilacion de Leyes, lib. I, tit. XXII, leyes 1 and 46.

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22 Reissued in 1875 with notes and Spanish version by Icazbalceta under the title Mexico en 1554.

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23 Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España.

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24 De Instauranda Aethiopum Salute; Historia de Aethiopia; Naturaleza, Policia Sacrada i Profana, Costumbres, etc. (Madrid, 1647).

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25 Frézier, Voyages, II, 392; Ulloa, Voyage, II, 45.

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26 Cf. Markham, Acosta, v.

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27 Recopilacion de Leyes, lib. I, tit. XIX, ley 1.

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28 Ibid., lib. VI, tit. I, ley 35.

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29 Miles Philips, in Hakluyt, Voyages, XIV, 209‑213.

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30 Frézier, Voyages, II, 182.

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31 Markham, Peru, 149.

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32 Icazbalceta, Obras, I, 316.

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33 Icazbalceta, Obras, I, 296.

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34 Ibid., 300.

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35 Gage gives an interesting account of his experience with a witch, New Survey of the West Indies, 167.

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36 Depons, Voyage, II, 74 ff. Cf. Alaman, Mejico, I, 121.

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37 Icazbalceta, Obras, I, 22.

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38 Ibid., 36.

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39 Ibid., 36.


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