January 2019: Presentations on Jesuit Studies at the AHA Conference

The 2019 annual meeting of the American Historical Association, taking place in Chicago, January 3-6, features panels, papers, and a poster on Jesuit Studies.


Information about those relevant presentations appears below. To learn more about the AHA meeting, please visit: https://www.historians.org/annual-meeting



Saturday, January 5, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

Panel: Jesuit Imagination, Strategy, and Praxis in Early Modern India

Chair: Anatole Upart, University of Chicago


“Neither the One Who Plants nor the One Who Waters Is Anything, but Only God”: Claudio Acquaviva and Ratification of Cultural Accommodation in Asia, by Liubou Dzihanau-Vnukousky, Belarusian State University

Big Little Gods: Ivory Statuettes and the Jesuit Mission in 17th-Century India, by Erin Benay, Case Western Reserve University

Tamil Folklore and Catholic Devotion in the Sermons of Giacomo Tommaso de Rossi, SJ, 1701–74, by Margherita Trento, University of Chicago

Comment: Anatole Upart, University of Chicago



Saturday, January 5, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM

Panel: Missions and Presidios: Jesuits, Amerindians, Filipinos, and Muslims in the Spanish Pacific, 1556–1700

Conference on Latin American History 51

Chair: Jason Dyck, Western University


“That All Might Burn and No Memory Remain”: Jesuit Relics and Native “Idols” in Northern New Spain, by Brandon Bayne, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

— In December of 1600, the Jesuit missionary Hernando de Santaren and Spanish Captain Diego de Avila set out to “pacify, convert, and settle” dispersed Acaxee communities of the Sierra Madre Occidental in northern New Spain. They had begun the process of reducción earlier in February, but now returned in hope of gathering nearly 1,700 people into ten towns. Not always the case, these particular representatives of church and state worked together. Santaren would help Avila bring the Acaxee to work his encomienda, while the Captain would secure the Jesuit’s evangelistic work in the wake of recent unrest, including the 1594 killing of Father Gonzalo de Tapia in nearby Sinaloa. Before evangelization could commence, Santaren hoped to uproot existing “superstitions,” ordering residents to bring him their “idols.” Through enticements and compulsion, they prodded the Acaxee to surrender stone figures and ritual bowls as well as skulls, teeth, and other human bones. Once assembled, they set them on fire, so that “that all might burn and no memory might remain among these people of such an abominable sacrifice.” While Jesuits branded native ancestral bones “idolatrous,” they simultaneously sacralized their own as relics. Santaren had first arrived in this mission in June of 1594, just eleven days before Tapia’s death. In the ensuing weeks and months, he and his colleagues recovered their fallen colleague’s skull and arm and brought them to their college, where they venerated them for their miraculous ability to resist burning, effect conversion, and extirpate vices. This paper examines the 1594 killing of Father Gonzalo de Tapia and the 1600 attempted pacification of the Acaxee in northern New Spain to compare Jesuit and native practices of bone collection, veneration, and destruction. It argues that bones became crucial objects of religious confrontation that both sides used to contest or display power.


Revisiting the Moro Wars through Jesuit Sources about the Philippine Islands, by Tatiana Seijas, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

— The Moro Wars as a historical narrative, and a category of analysis, needs revision. The classic timeline of the Moro Wars (1565 to 1663) divides them into a number of phases tagged to Spanish colonial objectives (or failed strategies depending on one’s perspective). A revised narrative of this ongoing conflict would, instead, necessarily underline the economic basis of this conflict in slaving and mark the passage of time according to the perspectives of the Brunei, Maguindanao, and Sulu Sultanates, other Muslim authorities, Indigenous chiefs from Luzon and the Visayas who allied with Spain, as well as the Spanish participants. Scholars who have employed printed ecclesiastical histories have mainly interpreted the Moro Wars as forming part of Spain’s imperial project to expand Christendom and vanquish Islam. This paper re-evaluates these works, like Pedro Chirino’s Relation of the Philippine Islands (1604), as well as Jesuit correspondence, to garner a deeper understanding of how the conflict played out on the ground. Jesuit priests stationed in Mindanao, for example, wrote eye-witnesses accounts of their interactions with Muslim people. A more critical reading of Jesuit sources has the potential to reveal the goals of soldiers and religious leaders (Christians and Muslims) in the wider geopolitical conflict over what state would control trade in the Sulu Sea, and what state would wield sovereignty over the diverse islands of the Philippines Archipelago.


Polemics and Presidios: Juan de Albizuri and the History of the Sinaloa Missions, by Jason Dyck, Western University

— Jesuits worked closely with soldiers to convert indigenous peoples to the Christian faith in New Spain. There was an intimate relationship between their missions and presidios, especially after the martyrdom of Gonzalo de Tapia in 1594 and subsequent indigenous revolts in the early decades of the seventeenth century. But while historians have closely analyzed some of the changing missionary strategies as a result of these violent uprisings, events in the Spanish Pacific have largely been absent from their discussion of the northern frontier. In this paper, I highlight some of the connections between Jesuit activity in Sinaloa and the Philippines through an analysis of Juan de Albizuri’s (1601–1651) Historia de las misiones apostólicas (1633). Albizuri was a Spanish Jesuit, missionary, and sacred historian of colonial expansion in northwestern New Spain. His Historia—available only in manuscript form at the Bancroft Library—is among the earliest accounts of Jesuit missions outside of central Mexico, a text that has been overshadowed by Andrés Pérez de Ribas’s more accessible and popular Historia de los triunfos de nuestra santa fe (1645). While both elaborately defend the role of presidios on Jesuit missions, Albizuri’s rationale is unique because he turns to the experiences of his brethren in Asia to bolster his arguments. In a marginal note he defends his order from the attacks of Antonio de Remesal, a Dominican and historian of colonial Guatemala who severely critiqued Alonso Sánchez’s idea that the Spanish crown should invade China from the Philippines. An analysis of this small and seemingly insignificant quarrel sheds important light on the interconnections in the Spanish Pacific and confirms Luke Clossey’s assertion that “China loomed . . . large in America.”


Comment: Cynthia Radding, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



Thursday, January 3, 2019: 3:50 PM

Paper: Antonio Vieira, the Jews, and the Portuguese Empire: Cultural Common Grounds and Royal Practicality in Post-1640 Portugal, by Oren Okhovat, University of Florida

— This presentation will explore how Portuguese Jews and New Christians remained entangled with Portuguese society even after leaving the Peninsula. Special attention will be given to the role that the Jesuit priest and diplomat, Antonio Vieira, played in serving as a channel through which prominent Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam were able to influence political, economic, and religious processes within the Portuguese empire in the seventeenth century. It also demonstrates how Portugal retained an important place in the imagination of Portuguese Jews and suggests that this community of newly converted Jews retained a cultural and political affinity for a real or imagined Portuguese homeland. Much has been published on the retention of Iberian cultural norms and Catholic religious notions among the Portuguese Jewish community of the Dutch world. Moreover, continued Portuguese Jewish economic and political activity in the Iberian Peninsula has been well documented. This research adds to these previous works by exploring how Portuguese Jews and New Christians shared a religious and cultural common ground with Portuguese Old Christians through a strong affinity for Portuguese messianism across confessional lines and through the strong economic and political impact that Portuguese Jews had on the outcome of the Portuguese independence struggle beginning in 1640. It demonstrates how this relationship undermined the Portuguese Inquisition in the second half of the seventeenth-century and traces the beginning of a trend of royal favor for economically and politically desirable agreements with non-Catholic entities that directly challenged Inquisition prerogatives.



Saturday, January 5, 2019: 11:10 AM

Paper: Guaraní Native Language Suppression in Mid-18th-Century Paraguay, by Barbara Ganson, Florida Atlantic University

— In 1743 Spain altered its colonial language policy by insisting that its missionaries encourage the use of Castilian in its missions. By requiring instruction in Spanish, the Bourbons intended that the indigenous people would obtain a better understanding of concepts in Christianity. In specific, the King of Spain ordered the provincial of the Society of Jesus in Paraguay to teach Spanish to Indian children that same year. The Jesuits however found it nearly impossible to put this decree into practice because the native Guaraní language was so widely spoken. In 1760 the crown circulated a similar decree, encouraging the eradication of native languages spoken in the Spanish Empire and requiring that only Spanish be spoken. King Charles III ordered that “Indians be taught the dogmas of our religion in Spanish and that they be taught to read and write in this language only… in order to improve the administration and spiritual well-being of the natural ones (referring to indigenous peoples) and so that they can understand their superiors, love the conquering nation, rid themselves of idolatry, and become civilized.” This essay will explore language attitudes in mid-eighteenth-century Paraguay, especially native reactions to Spain’s shifting language policy. It will examine native texts to examine the extent to which the Guaraní became literate: who became literate and why. Language was a contentious issue in colonial society in the Rio de la Plata, reflecting the forces of domination and the relationships between power, education, literacy, and gender.


Saturday, January 5, 2019: 2:10 PM

Paper: Did the Virgin Mary Chew Coca? Progressive Catholics and Andean Religion in Peru, by Matthew Peter Casey, Arizona State University

— This paper shows that the progressive Catholics’ contentious relationship with Indigenous religious traditions limited the spread of liberation theology in Peru. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the Church officially recognized Latin America’s rich popular religious traditions as a “great treasure.” But while post-conciliar progressives lauded cultural diversity, they simultaneously promoted “more authentically Christian” expressions. In Peru, those who welcomed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council were the harshest critics of Indigenous religious traditions. For these priests, nuns, and lay activists, the ubiquitous offerings to glacial mountain peaks and celebratory annual feast days were just as oppressive as the economic backwardness and lack of social services that plagued the Andean region. They insisted on orthodox sacramental practice, creating tensions in communities where the Biblical tradition had for centuries lived within Indigenous cosmology. The Jesuit Manuel Marzal was the leader of a generation of progressive priest-anthropologists—including many North American and European missionaries—who came to see these “syncretic” myths and rituals as the primary obstacle to a renewed Andean Church. But the lay pastoral agents who founded ecclesial base communities under the guidance of these priests found themselves at odds with practitioners of unorthodox traditions. The ideological shifts of the 1960s pitted liberation theology against popular Andean Catholicism, severely limiting peasant solidarity for causes like land reform, adult education, and women’s liberation.


Saturday, January 5, 2019: 3:50 PM

Paper: “We of the Indian Nation”: Indigenous Identity at the Guadalupe School in Mexico City, 1753–1811, by Jessica Criales, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

— In 1753, Jesuit priest Antonio Herdañona founded a school for indigenous girls in Mexico City, named after Our Lady of Guadalupe. The purpose of the school was to form indigenous girls in the Catholic faith and Spanish literacy, as well as Western gender norms and domestic skills, in an attempt to help root these cultural practices and perspectives more deeply within the indigenous Mexican population.

Nevertheless, the school also served to reinforce indigenous identity. The school’s connections with other indigenous institutions and communities, such as the boys’ school of San Gregorio or the convent of Corpus Christi, were subtle but constant, and understood not only by Spanish colonial officials, but the indigenous population of Mexico City as well. Students drew on their identity as both indigenous women and members of the school in order to try to influence colonial policies, and the operations of the school itself. Finally, in the early 19th century the students banded together in support of a proposal to transform the school in a convent, which they believed would make it more prestigious.

By analyzing school archives, student letters, and local histories, this paper seeks to better understand the interactions between ethnic identities and colonial institutions in late 18th century Mexico. While on the surface, the school was a vehicle for Spanish ideology, further investigation reveals the school stood as a nexus in an intricate network of indigenous support, mobility, and identity that undergirded life in the Mexican capital.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Poster: Gender and Mission in Mexico’s Sierra Tarahumara, by Julia C O’Hara, Xavier University

— This poster displays the gendered dimension of the missionary experience in twentieth-century Mexico. It examines the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Poor, a religious order established in 1886. In 1904, the sisters joined a new Jesuit mission among the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. The sisters collaborated with the Jesuits to develop a program aimed at transforming the Tarahumaras’ way of life. Together, the missionaries strove not only to introduce the Tarahumara to Catholicism, but also to model Christian norms of gender relations and family life and new ways of addressing the troubled relations between the Tarahumara and their non-indigenous countrymen.

The sisters inserted themselves into two key debates in twentieth-century Mexican public life: the struggle over Catholicism’s role in the political and cultural life of the nation, and the question of how to respond to the perceived problem of “redeeming” the nation’s indigenous people so as to incorporate them into the body politic. My poster demonstrates that the sisters’ missionary experience paints a more complex picture of how religion and race are intertwined in Mexico than has previously been acknowledged. By comparing their unique approach to the “Indian problem” to the approaches taken by the Jesuits, the institutional Catholic church, and the Mexican government, the poster highlights the important role that gender has played in the construction of such seemingly self-evident categories as “race,” “nation,” “religion,” and “mission.”

Fundamental to the missionary enterprise were single-sex boarding schools for Tarahumara children and adolescents. In them, the Jesuits worked almost exclusively with Tarahumara boys, while the sisters taught Tarahumara girls and dedicated themselves to providing domestic labor for the Jesuits and their students. The sisters also joined the Jesuits in encouraging male and female graduates to marry one another and to live in carefully supervised “colonies.” These unique settlements anchored the mission; from them, the missionaries hoped, would emerge genuinely Christian families that would serve to “regenerate” the Tarahumara “race.”

At least four generations came of age in the colonies before the missionaries blended them into the surrounding Tarahumara communities. A lasting impact of these colonies is their role in nurturing the religiosity of Tarahumara women. The first Tarahumara woman became an ordained member of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Poor in 1942. Other indigenous women followed, ultimately becoming a significant percentage of the order’s membership. In contrast, the first Tarahumara Jesuit was not ordained until 1978, and since then only a handful of Tarahumaras have become Jesuits.

The sisters’ success at inviting Tarahumara women into their order greatly shaped their approach to their work as missionaries. This poster uses archival photographs, documents, and maps to illustrate that, in their day-to-day lives within the mission, the sisters shared more with their Tarahumara students than with their Jesuit collaborators. Gender solidarity gradually supplanted differences in race, language, and culture. Their experience provides a fascinating example of how gender can break down the otherwise rigid boundaries that “mission” so often erects.



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