“Not a Man of Contradiction: Zumárraga as Inquisitor and Protector of the Indigenous People of Mexico”

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Abstract

Zumárraga's efforts to convert the indigenous peoples of New Spain are characterized by a consistency alien to prevailing twenty-first-century values. A highly educated and pious bishop, who, after his tenure as Protector of the Indians, continued his fight against their enslavement and explored possibilities for their economic improvement, Zumárraga also rigorously exerted his authority as Apostolic Inquisitor, passing harsh sentences on them. Greenleaf (1961) concludes that the protector and inquisitor was a man of contradiction. Lopes Don (2010) sees an attack against the indigenous leaders, a desperate attempt to restore the friars' authority and make up for the shortcomings of their evangelistic efforts for which he could be considered responsible. This article proposes that Zumárraga acted principally as protector of the common people who suffered at the hand of their indigenous leaders with the connivance of the Spanish authorities. An analysis of his correspondence from the years 1536 and 1537 demonstrates that Zumárraga conceived of his inquisitorial office as the most effective tool to assert authority and protect the indigenous underclass from the spiritual debasement and physical exploitation to which their leaders subjected them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-40
Number of pages15
JournalHispanic Research Journal
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Special Issue edited by Tyler Fisher and Catarina Fouto

Keywords

  • Fray Juan De Zumárraga
  • Inquisition in Mexico
  • Colonial evangelization
  • Indigenous leaders
  • Indigenous slavery

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