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"Heretical plagues" and censorship cordons: colonial Mexico and the transatlantic book trade (1).

In the 1570s the Mexican Inquisition prosecuted high-profile heresy and piracy cases against John Hawkins and other English and French corsairs. These trials prompted a high alert for Lutheran and Calvinist books as well as vernacular Scripture reaching Mexico. Many of the accused were simply merchants while others were indeed pirates, but their foreign national and linguistic identities placed them in the crosshairs of a larger debate about the transatlantic diffusion and regulation of books and religious ideology. The issue of trade violations by Hawkins and others paled in comparison in the collective Catholic apprehension over the possibility that the newly conquered Mexico could become "infected" by the Lutheran and Calvinist "heretical plagues"--language used commonly by inquisitional and episcopal authorities to refer to the threat of these same sailors. Among the central concerns was the possibility that vernacular translations of the Bible or books by "heresiarchs" like Calvin, Melanchthon, or John Knox would reach Mexico, infiltrate Catholic homes and minds, and result in an ecclesiological disaster in which the unsuspecting faithful succumbed to the duplicitous charms of salvation by faith and the unapproved theological-linguistic renderings of the Gospels and Pauline letters.

In interrogations before the inquisitors, the accused heretics were frequently asked whether they had brought any books with them. The 1573 trial against Englishman William Calens--accused, convicted, and sentenced for Lutheran heresy--is a case in point. He revealed that his shipmates had prayed the Our Father and Creed and read the Psalms in English, prompting the censors to remark that while per se such works (like the Psalms) had inherent religious value, their translation into English made them immediately suspect. Chapter 7 of the indictment handed down by the prosecutor noted that the corsairs in Hawkins's ship had brought many Lutheran books as well as the Gospels and Pauline Letters in English that the shipmates were required to hear daily. (2)

This essay examines the ways that theologians and jurists understood the nature of censorship as a central component of religious orthodoxy. This means analyzing the medieval and early modern theoretical discussion of the connections between books and a viral conception of heresy. Major political theorists like Augustine, Jerome, and Aquinas provided a base on which later medieval and early modern jurists and theologians understood the need for censorship. This theory in turn informed the creation of the Index of Prohibited Books issued by the Spanish Inquisition. This essay analyzes first this body of theory in order to understand the ways that the Index was put into effect. Secondly, this essay examines the application of that Index on a daily basis in colonial Mexico.

The theory behind the need for censorship viewed the Index as one of the principal purposes of the Inquisition. For theologians and jurists, heresy was viewed as a contagion and heretical books as its most effective vector. For this reason inquisitors and theorists viewed the issue of book distribution and reading with considerable gravity. In practice, however, those charged with carrying out the stern vision of censorship and the Index in New Spain inconsistently upheld those rigorous standards. The result is a contingent and mitigated application of power and religious authority in a cultural context often assumed to have been uniform and homogeneous. Such a view countervails against the romantic Hispanophobic and Black Legend view of rapacious Spaniards and murderous Catholic missionaries that supposes that the Inquisition was so undifferentiated as to be a symbol of intellectual terror.

As in Spain, the Inquisition in Mexico claimed jurisdiction over censorship and print. Prior to 1571 in the viceroyalty of New Spain there operated diocesan, or "ordinary," inquisitions, drawing on a tradition in canon law that allowed bishops to prosecute heresy by the authority inherent in their office. (3) Inquisitors specially designated by the Pope, however, were always understood to have superior authority under the law. (4) In theory diocesan inquisitions could also (and indeed were expected to) regulate print and book circulation, but the documentary evidence for this activity is limited, and it does not appear that such diocesan inquisitional control of print occurred with much regularity in New Spain before 1571.

The Spanish Inquisition operated on a conciliar system, in which a central governing council (the Consejo General del Santo Oficio de la Inquisicion, sometimes simply called the Suprema) stood at the apex, under the royal patronage of the crown, though technically deriving its power from the papacy. In direct vertical administrative relationships stood the individual local general Inquisitions--in Toledo, Valencia, Valladolid, Seville, Mexico, Peru, and so forth.

In 1569 the Consejo de Indias (the major legislative body dealing with the Spanish American empire) convened a meeting with the purpose of revamping the chaotic state of administration in the Indies. Among its results was the recommendation to establish central tribunals of the Inquisition in Mexico and Peru. (5) Up to this time, diocesan authorities had convoked Inquisitions within their bishoprics throughout New Spain. The establishment of a specially delegated Inquisition in Mexico, operating under the aegis of the General Spanish Inquisition, revoked the jurisdictions of no fewer than eight diocesan "ordinary" (deriving from the power of office) inquisitions operating by 1571 in Puebla, Oaxaca, Guatemala, Yucatan, Michoacan, New Galicia (or Guadalajara), Nicaragua, and Honduras as well as an "apostolic" Inquisition in the archdiocese of Mexico (specially appointed by the Crown and with the approval of the Pope). Subsequently, all inquisitional matters in New Spain fell under the Mexican Inquisition's bailiwick, effectively nullifying the jurisdiction of diocesan officials to investigate and punish heresy.

In terms of the quotidian regulation of books, the inquisitional deputies, or comisarios, were charged with the recall and removal from circulation of all prohibited books outside the immediate geographic reach of the inquisitors themselves in Mexico City. On the gulf coast, Veracruz was the officially approved port of entry for ships entering New Spain with merchandise through the Spanish transatlantic mercantile trade routes. As such, the inquisitors appointed a comisario there with the mandate to review incoming ships for potential intellectual contraband in the form of prohibited books. But the efficacy of this control was blunted by the distaste of individual comisarios in Veracruz for certain components of the Index of Prohibited Books as well as the widespread disdain for the Index among Spaniards. Contrasting the case of Veracruz, vigorous regulation of books in places like Zacatecas and Guatemala took place within the jurisdictions of comisarios who were active defenders of the Index.

All of New Spain was, in theory, subject to the recall efforts of the Index and the inquisitional apparatus. In application, the censorship project varied widely. Attendance at the annual Lent edict of the faith was enforced with difficulty. Copies of pronouncements banning books or prayers were routinely torn off the front doors of churches and cathedrals. Others claimed that inquisitional censure was useful only to wipe their asses (a common claim, in fact). (6) People used copies of the Gospels as amulets against lightning and painful childbirth. Friars refused to relinquish books prohibited by the Index or by decree. The overall picture of censorship as a tool of control was haphazard and ad hoc rather than complete and effective.

The dissemination of power in the form of censorship resulted in idiosyncratic power. The notion of power as multidirectional and incomplete in the political history of Mexico has long been a staple of historiographic analysis. Yet the long-standing tradition of a Black Legend presupposes the uniform nature of power within the Inquisition and its attendant cultural hegemony. Despite this powerful intellectual trope, I suggest that the Inquisition demonstrated the same absence of uniformity that has been demonstrated for other sectors of Mexican culture in the social and cultural history and subaltern studies of the last three decades. (7) When faced with the evidence of incomplete enforcement of the Index, the Inquisition was as mediated and contested as the Indian response to Christianization or bans on pulque (fermented cactus juice) or the encomenderos' obedience to laws prohibiting Indian slavery. If New Spain was a laboratory for the dilemma of derecho indiano and the universalism of a triumphant Catholicism in the New World, the Inquisition and the Index were pieces of this complex fabric of social control. (8)


Luis de Paramo, a Castilian inquisitor of Sicily (then part of the Spanish Empire), explained the desideratum of the Inquisition in the preface to his 1598 metaphysical and jurisprudential history, De origine et progressv officii sanctae inquisitionis (On the Origin and Progress of the Office of the Holy Inquisition): "The Holy Offices of the Inquisition annihilated the heretical plagues, since we did not want to allow the heretics, even in silence, to advance. Likewise we desire for all kingdoms, republics, nations, regions, towns and cities, to use this salubrious remedy to remove such a dangerous malady." (9) Paramo was especially fond of the disease metaphor. In a section titled "on the success of the Holy Office in precluding numerous calamities," he related the nightmarish demise of various heretics. Nestor, condemned in the Synod of Ephesius of 429, died only after worms had devoured his tongue. For his role in opposing the Council of Florence (presumably for supporting the conciliarists of Basle), Marcus Ephesius suffered so heavily from colic that he "hurled ordure from his mouth. (10) And Paramo related that a blight of sinister portents afflicted Calvin in his last four years on earth: arthritis, kidney stones, hemorrhoids, fevers, migraines, phlegm, bloody tuberculosis, and, last but certainly not least, a swarm of lice scurrying over his entire body. (11) The metaphorical point was that these were the natural results of the heretical plague manifested in terrestrial suffering and only presaged the torments awaiting the enemies of the faith in Hell itself.

Paramo drew on a lengthy tradition in canon law and theology dating to the very early patristic Church. Jurists and theologians viewed heresy as an infection borne along the vector of individuals and books; ergo, prohibiting the dissemination of heretical books was a linchpin of efforts of medieval and early modern Catholic authorities in their inquisitional war against the "heretical plagues," to use a frequent metaphor. Jerome expressed this view, his words later codified in the canon law in the Decretum: "heretics must be removed from the Church so that they do not infect the faithful with their contagion because putrescent meat must be cast out and the mangy sheep must be repelled from the flock and destroyed, so that it does not corrupt and putrefy the entire household, flock and body." (12)

Jerome was hardly the only Catholic ecclesiastical theorist to employ this analogy. The fear of the spreading, creeping "evil" of heresy lay at the heart of the mechanical logic of Inquisition and its inseparable handmaid, censorship. Indeed, censorship could never be extricated from Inquisition as a concept. This connection began very early--in patristic works like those of Tertullian and Augustine--but had its best-known medieval proponent in Thomas Aquinas, who examined the concern over public disputation on the faith and doctrine in the segunda segundae of his Summa theologiae. According to Aquinas's mathematical precision, there was no danger in debating the faith amongst theologians and educated men, but in the presence of the uneducated, one needed to determine whether or not heresy had already presented itself publicly. If no heresy had presented itself in a given parish, public debates on the faith could only be considered dangerous. (13) In the modern period, such public debate would mean the reading and distribution of books in addition to sermons and oral debate.

While not explicitly stated by Aquinas, the metaphysics of heresy was viewed never as sui generis but as acquired from other heretics. According to this view, which was both theological and legal, one became a heretic via exposure to incorrect ideas. This leaves in doubt the ultimate origin of heresy though most theorists agreed that it was the result of a perversion of Scripture or of the mortal sin of pride. Such a view dated at least to the fifth-century papacy of Gelasius, whose bull, Qui in iam dampnatum heresim labitur, provided the foundational definition of heresy in the canon law. According to Gelasius and the concomitant gloss in the Decretum, heresy was never invented or new but always the reflection of an ancient and eternal error. (14) The introduction of heterodox books into a "pure" area--in this case, the Church and body politic of New Spain--thus reflected both metaphysical and jurisprudential concerns over the etiology of heresy. In turn, theologians and canonists viewed the potential damage of such infection of the worldly Church as tremendous or even irreparable.

In addition to metaphysical conceptions of heretical "plagues," Innocent III (1198-1216) offered the most vigorous and sophisticated explications of the dangers of heresy to a papal state and a universal Church. In the bull Vergentis in 1199 he identified heresy with the crime of laesae maiestatis. (15) Thus the connection of Church unity with the theorization of heresy was manifested in a bull that would provide inquisitors with the power to argue that heresy was not only a crime of the faith but also a crime against monarch, state, and society in general. He achieved this with a metaphysics in which heresy was equated with cancer that "creeps more easily in stealth and in the open spreads its iniquitous poison." (16) Innocent called heretics wolves among the flock of Christ, foxes in the vineyard of the Lord, and brutish dogs that did not deserve to bark--metaphors used three centuries later by Leo X when he condemned Luther. (17) Thus in the bull Exurge Domine, Leo drew on Psalm 73: "Rise up O Lord and judge thy cause, ... incline thy ears to our prayers, for foxes seeking to destroy your vineyard have surged forth.... A wild boar is loose in your forest and is determined to exterminate and devour it." (18) It was no accident that the Seal of the Inquisition bore the motto from the same Psalm: Exurge Domine et judica causam tuam. The logical conclusion was that heretics and their defenders, supporters, and abettors, all must be either brought back into the fold or extirpated. In the case of Innocent III, the final response was to initiate the Albigensian Crusade to exterminate heretics in Languedoc.

These concerns would be brought to bear directly on the issue of the printed book in the sixteenth century. One of the most productive jurists and theorists of heresy of the early modern period to exert broad influence in the Hispanic world was Francisco Pena, an audacious (many thought arrogant) Catalan who earned doctorates in canon law and theology in the mid-sixteenth century. In the second half of the sixteenth century he was variously a censor of the Roman Inquisition, judge of the papal court, the Rota, and an active historian, archivist, and editor. He is best known as the editor of several treatises of inquisitional law and theory, the most comprehensive of which was Nicolai Eymeric's Directorium Inquisitorum (Inquisitors' Manual). Eymeric was inquisitor of Aragon in the mid-fourteenth century and wrote his lengthy treatise around 1373. In the sixteenth century, Pena compared all the available manuscripts of this comprehensive guide to inquisitional practice and law, producing its first modern edition in 1578 with his extensive commentaries. (19)

Along with theologians, Pena viewed the failure to live up to the responsibility of pastoral care as a primary cause of the "ignorant" falling into heresy via invasion, infection, or incursion by the forces of evil. But Pena did not rely on the usual scriptural exegesis of the shepherd and his flock to explain the dangers of books and their "spreading evil." Instead, he placed the responsibility squarely on the ordinary men and women who transported prohibited and/or heretical books. (20) For example, Pena concluded that heretical books were more dangerous than heretics themselves because books, rather than people, could be widely dispersed and therefore read by more people. Consequently, Pena suggested that "because the living voices of heretics can scarcely fill one city, when books are easily transported to and fro, not only a city but kingdoms and provinces are infected." (21) In the case of Mexico, Pena's commentary referred, if only implicitly, to the introduction of prohibited books through the port of Veracruz.

Nor was Pena the only Spanish jurist to provide commentary on the infection metaphor as it related to heterodoxy and heretical books. Diego de Covarrubias commandeered such respect as a jurist that he was known as the "Spanish Bartolus'--a reference to the jurist who was second only to Gratian as the most influential and respected Italian medieval legal theorist. (22) Like many canonists of his day, Covarrubias's career was tightly interwoven with both Crown and Church. He provided authoritative commentaries on numerous legal codes, was bishop in turn of several important dioceses, including Segovia and Cuenca, and in 1562 attended the Council of Trent as a juridical representative of the Spanish Crown. (23) Covarrubias provided a brief explanation of the notion of heterodoxy as infectious in his commentaries on the excommunication chapters within the Sextus. (24) One of the principle reasons for excommunication, he reasoned (echoing Jerome), resembled the modern rationale for the destruction of livestock to prevent the spread of foot-and-mouth disease: "one sick sheep infects the entire flock and therefore one sick sheep must be removed and separated from the flock so that its proximity does not infect the remaining sheep. And in so doing the shepherd is not cruel, but rather good." (25)

Whereas Pena and Covarrubias primarily interpreted canon law and its glossators, others understood the introduction of prohibited books in more theological and scriptural terms. Alfonso de Castro was master of theology at the Franciscan convent of Salamanca, confessor to Charles V, and author of the most widely disseminated inquisitional treatises of the early modern period--his Adversus omnes haereses (Against All Heresies--first published in Paris in 1534) went through more than twenty editions, and later his considerably more complex De justa haereticorum punitione (On the Just Punishment of Heretics) was published seven times. (26)

Castro conceived the translation of Scripture into the vernacular as one of the major causes of heresy and subsequently associated heresy with an ability to spread, infiltrate, and metastasize. Heresy was linked to war and invasion, and Castro concluded that once the Church was forsaken, "invisible armies, whose javelins are unseen, cannot be deflected. Thus demons labor vigorously to pluck out the eyes from Catholics so that they can poison their souls." (27)

Castro argued that if the books of heretics were left undestroyed, the disease of heresy might rise again. Accordingly, he proposed a kind of preventative medicine to annihilate any last cancerous cells not effectively removed by theological removal: "It is therefore necessary that all books of heretics be burned, so that no pestilent root remains out of which new heretics might arise." (28) Nor was Castro's admonition here merely theoretical. A shrewd student of history, Castro reminded his readers that without the printing press, pamphleteering, and German translations of the Bible, Lutheranism would never have been as successful as it was.

Pena, Covarrubias, and Castro were not the sole theorists to discuss the book trade as viral and infectious, but they were the most influential in Mexico. One finds references to their works in censorship debates and decisions of the Mexican Inquisition. Countless letters by the inquisitors in Mexico City warn comisarios of the infections of the heretical lands of Germany and England, and of the "cancer" spreading across the Atlantic. In fact, in inquisitional procedure the nationality of the defendant was routinely included, and when it was determined that the prisoner was from "infected lands," the opportunity for conviction increased as a matter not of theory but of the practice of law. Being from such an "infected land" removed the potentially exculpatory repentance that was afforded Spanish suspects. Conflation of foreignness, disease, and crime was common both in ecclesiastical tribunals, such as the Inquisition, and in secular courts in early modern Spain and Mexico. For example, sodomy was viewed as a foreign disease while Judaism and Islam were both considered inherently non-Spanish. Such views were not merely intellectual abstracts--in northern Spain, the majority of men accused and convicted of sodomy were non-Spanish. While such distinctions may appear flippant, for jurists and theologians the intimate relationships between religious, sexual, and political crime were always closely linked in the legal and religious mind with foreignness and the alienation of both body and soul. (29)

The end result of the everyday practice of inquisitional prosecution in sixteenth-century Mexico is that concerns about the circulation of print, the entrance of foreigners, and the transatlantic circulation of ideas were frequently at the forefront. These prosecutorial concerns, however, were not always matched on the local level, where the comisarios were often much less severe in their application of the inquisitional law.


Censorship in the early modern Hispanic world was divided, in practice and by law, between pre- and post-production regulation. Through the Camara de Castilla (the highest ranking royal council) the Crown exercised pre-production control of the book trade through licenses to print books. In theory the Camara de Castilla could prevent the publication of virtually any book simply by refusing a license for its publication. In practice, however, this rarely happened, since it tended to issue licenses to printers whose individual books received minimal oversight from the Crown. The result is that there was little pre-publication censorship in the Hispanic world from the Crown. (30)

The Crown did attempt on various occasions to assert its rights and prerogatives concerning censorship of publications. The most notable effort was a series of royal edicts banning the transatlantic shipment of hugely popular "libros de caballeria" or chivalric, picaro, and knights-errant novels such as El Cid, Amadis de Gaula, Guzman de Alfarache, Lazarillo de Tormes, Primaleon, or generically titled "romanceros." (31) By all appearances, the royal effort was a colossal failure. Even inquisitional authorities did not take such bans seriously, placing in jeopardy the efforts of the Crown at controlling literary taste.

The Crown was effective, however, when it acted as a kind of final arbiter of high-profile inquisitional cases. From the foundation of a national Spanish Inquisition in 1478, the Spanish Crown had extracted from the papacy wide-ranging rights and privileges to appoint and regulate its own Inquisition and inquisitors. In theory the Pope was the final arbiter of all inquisitional cases, as occurred in the lengthy trial against the archbishop of Toledo, Carranza. (32) But in practice the majority of high-profile inquisitional cases did not get appealed to Rome, and in many cases the king adjudicated along with the inquisitor general and the inquisitors of the General Council of the Inquisition. This was the case when archbishop-inquisitor of Mexico, Dominican Alonso de Montufar, accused the co-founder of the University of Mexico, Augustinian Alonso de la Veracruz, of heresy for opposing his centralizing autocracy and the tithing of the Indians. (33) Philip II also effectively censored and removed from circulation Bernardino de Sahagun's manuscripts that formed the Florentine and Madrid Codices. But in general the Crown tended to steer away from vigorous censorship endeavors, leaving them to its Inquisition.

While the Crown regulated the licensing of print, the Inquisition laid claim to censor any book after its publication if it contained anything deemed worthy of censure. The result is that censorship operated on two levels: the Crown controlled the initial printing licenses, but the Inquisition could censure anything after that initial approval even if the Crown had authorized its publication. The most famous result of the Inquisition's administrative strategy was the Index itself. This meant, in effect, that the Spanish Inquisition, or its satellite courts like Mexico, could prohibit or order expurgated or removed from circulation any book that had already been published. This assertion of ecclesiastical and legal power was vast and staggering, since previously only local ecclesiastical and university censures or specific Church council or papal decrees had been undertaken. The papacy and general councils of the Church had asserted their legal authority to ban works for centuries, but there had never been any systematic attempt to compile these efforts into a single Index. (34) By the 1540s various universities, notably Louvain and Paris, had begun to issue Indexes, but the issue was one of jurisdiction and even of anti-Gallic sentiment. Many Spanish theologians and canon lawyers viewed Indexes of Prohibited Books issued by universities as local and not universally binding. Indeed, Alfonso de Castro once wittily remarked (in reference to university statements of censure): "the decrees of Paris do not cross the Pyrenees." (35) But the Spanish Inquisition would assert its legal right to prohibit any book on the grounds that its jurisprudential precedent derived from the papacy itself and was endorsed by the Crown. The result was, of course, the infamous Index. The first complete Index of the Spanish Inquisition was issued in 1559. Subsequent versions (much amplified and expanded) were issued in 1583, 1612, 1632, and 1640.

Whereas the Crown could threaten fines and, in some extreme cases, corporal punishment, the Inquisition held the ultimate trump card: the threat of Hell itself. While (post)moderns may scoff at this, to the average person of the sixteenth century, the threat was no small issue. (36) Indeed, the Inquisition held the power, like bishops, to excommunicate someone from the Catholic community, resulting in the loss of the sacraments. The very real possibility that one might die without a final absolution terrified many, if not most, Catholics and quite a few heretics as well. According to Catholic soteriology of the sixteenth century, if one died with a mortal sin on one's conscience, without having confessed it and receiving absolution--something denied to the excommunicate--one went to Hell. The Inquisition could in one legal maneuver place someone in immediate danger of such eternal punishment--a punishment infinitely graver than a fine from the Crown. (37)

Among the offenses for which the Inquisition threatened excommunication was the reading, possession, distribution, or even knowledge of books on the Index. According to inquisitional procedure, a yearly edict of the faith was to be read to the faithful. In the medieval period this was to coincide with the physical entrance of inquisitors into a town, but with the Inquisition's permanent establishment in 1478 in Spain and 1571 in Mexico, this edict of the faith was read annually, during Lent. The edict enjoined--in fact, compelled by Church law--the faithful to come forward if they knew of any offenses against the faith or the Holy Mother Church. During a "grace" period lasting usually thirty to sixty days after the edict's reading, one could safely come forward and avoid excommunication and harsher penalties from the Inquisition in exchange for obedience. (38) These edicts were read in the major church in any given city, generally in cities with cathedral chapters, while in towns and rural areas it was impractical to have the edict read by inquisitional authorities in the early colonial period, though by the eighteenth century ecclesiastical organization made this a reality. (39) The result is that the reading of the edict took place in cities like Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Valladolid, Zacatecas, Puebla, Oaxaca, Santiago de Guatemala, and Guadalajara.

Those who did not come forward to denounce any heresy committed by themselves, their neighbors, family, or friends--anyone who had erred against the faith, in short--faced excommunication. This included the possession or reading of prohibited books. While in theory the edict enjoined populations to relinquish their prohibited books annually, the practice was to make a concerted effort to recall and remove from circulation books that appeared on recent Indexes. This meant that there were specific time frames in which the edicts stressed the recall of books--in the years following the publication of a new Index. In the case of the 1559 Index, there was no central tribunal of the Inquisition in Mexico that claimed such broad jurisdiction that it covered all of New Spain, so that the first attempt to enforce the 1559 Index on a wide scale came after the 1571 establishment of the Holy Office in Mexico. Similar purges followed the 1583 Index in 1584 and 1585, in the 1610s after the 1612 Index, and in the 1630s following the 1632 Index. (40)

These purges, like the review of ships in Veracruz, had varied results. In some jurisdictions the enforcement appears to have been vigorous, while in others the comisario charged with the task himself was found to defy the Index, possessing prohibited books. But the success of this approach was predicated on the belief of the citizenry. In other words the comisarios tended not to enter private homes or engage in widespread invasions of personal libraries to root out prohibited books. Rather, the mere threat of excommunication for possessing a book banned by the Inquisition was enough. Books were relinquished freely, and people came forth to deposit them with their local comisario. In many cases books were simply left anonymously in the cathedral for the comisario to find. Nor can one ignore the likelihood that many of the people who possessed prohibited books feared that their neighbors, family, or friends would denounce them to the Inquisition. By voluntarily relinquishing their books, they avoided stiffer penalties. Indeed, if a book was only recently banned, relinquishing it generally carried no penalty whatsoever, whereas to be discovered, ex post facto, with the same book would have resulted in inquisitional prosecution and punishment.


Prior to 1571 and the formalization of the Inquisition throughout New Spain, there was no widespread effort to recall and remove prohibited books from circulation. Instead, book censorship efforts were generally limited to specific cases of books written and/or published in Mexico. Two notable cases have attracted significant scholarly attention: the Doctrina of the first archbishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumarraga, and the Dialogo in Tarascan (Purepecha) of his fellow Franciscan, Maturino de Gilberti. In both cases the apostolic inquisitor and archbishop of Mexico, Alonso de Montufar and his aide-de-camp and fellow Dominican, Bartolome de Ledesma, were the principal proponents of the bans on the Franciscan works. Zumarraga's Doctrina was printed first in 1539 and had attracted the unfavorable attention of Montufar by the 1550s. Montufar convoked a meeting of theologians and jurists on November 3, 1559, to review the book, and on the advice of some of them along with Ledesma he ordered it banned pending further review by the General Council of the Inquisition, which would revoke Montufar's decision two decades later. (41)

There were two principal areas of dispute that overlapped in these high-profile censorship cases. The first reflected a broad debate occurring throughout the Hispanic world concerning humanism and Erasmianism. Erasmus had exerted considerable influence in the court of Charles V, but by the 1530s his work had come under considerable fire principally from conservative Dominicans who viewed both humanism and Erasmian leanings as heretical or at least highly suspicious. Simultaneously, the conservative faction from Spain that was influential and ultimately victorious at Trent began to formulate the first Indexes, particularly the 1554 and 1559 editions, formalizing the attack on various works of Erasmus, of vernacular translations of Scripture, and other humanist projects. Montufar was clearly aligned with this general antihumanist ideology. He had been a censor of the Inquisition in Granada, and his overall prosecutorial activity as inquisitor in Mexico reflects a staunchly conservative vision of Catholic counter reform. To this can be contrasted the considerable admiration for Erasmus shown by Zumarraga as well as other influential members of the Franciscan mission in Mexico.

The second major point of confrontation was jurisdictional. Montufar, along with the bishop of Michoacan, the highly regalist former lawyer Vasco de Quiroga, promoted a Tridentine reform of the Mexican Church parallel to efforts in Spain. Despite the fact that Montufar was a Dominican, he, along with Quiroga, championed and promoted a systematic attack on mendicant privileges in New Spain. As early as 1522 the papacy had conferred broad exemptions on the mendicant clergy in the Indies, and Montufar followed the vision of Trent that sought to reestablish Episcopal control of the Church and jurisdiction--in this case in the Indies. The Franciscans in general bore much of the brunt of this centralizing reform in Mexico, since they were the first mendicants to arrive in Mexico, had wealthy and powerful allies and patrons (notably the Cortes family), and had quickly amassed considerable property, social influence, and political connections. The content of Zumarraga's and Gilberti's work was, in many ways, less important than the fact that they were Franciscans. Similar missionary works by Augustinians and Dominicans did not receive nearly the same level of scrutiny from the Mexican inquisitional censors.

In the censorship trial of Zumarraga's work, the principal ostensible point of contention was an obscure opinion of Zumarraga that the blood of Christ during the Crucifixion had been reincorporated into the wood of the Cross--a point so abstruse and so devoid of heresy that the General Council of the Inquisition did not even take Montufar's ban seriously. (42) There were clearly other, ulterior motives for banning Zumarraga's Doctrina. Among them was Zumarraga's unabashed enthusiasm for Erasmus and his call to translate the Bible into all languages of the world. Zumarraga also had published a work by Seville's cathedral canon, Constantino de la Puente, who was later convicted, after his death in the inquisitional jail awaiting trial, for heresy in 1559. (43)

Investigation into Gilberti's work was instigated essentially by bishop Quiroga, and his Dialogo was condemned for more openly Erasmian and liberal leanings. (44) In it he had argued that the Indians of Michoacan should be discouraged by missionaries from venerating any image except Christ, for fear that by venerating saints they would have a good excuse to dissimulate their idolatry. What to Gilberti seemed like advice based on practicality appeared as iconoclasm and Calvinist heresy to Montufar and Ledesma, who urged its ban pending further review by the Inquisition's General Council. On Montufar's and Ledesma's urging, Phillip II ordered the Dialogo banned on March 15, 1563. (45) Like Zumarraga's work, the General Council rehabilitated Gilberti's condemned Dialogo, but the damage had been done and the work fell into disuse. (46)

Apart from high-profile cases against Gilberti and Zumarraga, there were few organized inquisitional efforts to rid Mexico of prohibited books before 1571, which is astonishing given the hyperorthodox and somewhat paranoid leanings of Montufar and Ledesma. Indeed, one of the co-founders of the University of Mexico, Augustinian Alonso de la Veracruz, was attacked by Montufar as a heretic for arguing in a treatise titled De decimis that the Indians did not have to pay the tithe. De la Veracruz appealed his case, which Montufar had submitted to the General Council of the Inquisition directly, and was absolved by Philip II and the Suprema, but not before De la Veracruz had to cross the Atlantic to insist that Montufar was an obdurate tyrant. Therefore, despite Montufar's enforcement of a centralized Tridentine Church in Mexico, he did not enforce the Index with nearly the same level of verve. (47) This was probably the result of his tendency to delegate authority to vicarious representatives of diocesan power and to his own physical debility that left him ill and virtually bedridden for most of the final years of his tenure as archbishop-inquisitor.

IV. THE PURGE OF 1571-72

The first orchestrated purge of prohibited books in Mexico occurred around 1572. After the arrival of the new inquisitor general, the canon lawyer don Pedro Moya de Contreras, all of New Spain came under the jurisdiction of one single tribunal of the feared Holy Office. Among the efforts of the new inquisitor general was a general purge of prohibited books in line with the 1559 Index. The result of the purge is a memoria, or an inventory, unsigned, but in Ledesma's distinct hand. (48) A careful reading of its entries allows us to make some conclusions about its timing despite the absence of notarized signatures and dates. The oidor (judge) of the high court (Audiencia) of Mexico, Vasco de Puga, was listed as having relinquished a handful of books, so this automatically places the document between 1559, when Puga arrived in Mexico as oidor of the Audiencia, and 1576, when he died. In 1563 Puga published in Mexico one of the first summaries of derecho indiano and was shortly thereafter recalled to Spain, only to return to Mexico in 1568. (49) Pedro Martin, son of Pero Martin, "who lives in front of the houses of Vasco de Puga," also relinquished books, corroborating this date period. (50)

One can further limit the date for this document with references to other inquisitional officials. In 1572 Ledesma entered his formal proof of limpieza de sangre (a proof of Old Christian and non-Jewish ancestry necessary for appointment) to become a censor, in which he mentions the general inspection that he made of all libraries in Mexico. (51) Frequently mentioned as part of the purge was the 1571 edition of the Vocabulario (a Nahuatl-Spanish dictionary) of fray Alonso de Molina--like Zumarraga and Gilberti, a Franciscan and a target of the Montufar Inquisition's censorship. Since Puga was removed from office as oidor in September 1572 as a result of a royal investigation into corruption by the royal inspector Valdes de Carcamo, the document and attendant purge occurred between late 1571 and the first few months of 1572.

Besides the time frame, geographic features indicate that the removal from circulation of books on the 1559 Index was relatively local, suggesting that Moya de Contreras had commissioned Ledesma to conduct a general visita in the immediate surroundings of Mexico City. This is born out by two factors. First, there is ample correspondence to the inquisitional comisarios in other parts of New Spain, ordering them, in the 1570s, to conduct visitas of monastic and private libraries. Second, in the Ledesma purge, all of the notable Spaniards who had books taken were citizens of Mexico City. Numerous monastery libraries were inspected, and all of these were Franciscan and located in the densely populated area surrounding Mexico City, including houses at Tepeyac (likely Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco), (52) Xochimilco, Tepeapulco, Tula, Xilotepec, Huexotla, and Cuatitlan. (53) It was probably no accident that the monasteries targeted for inspection were Franciscan. In banning works by influential Franciscans Gilberti and Zumarraga, and forcing the revision of Molina's work, Ledesma (and Montufar) had clearly demonstrated their mistrust of certain strands of Franciscan thought.

One can draw some general features of the 1571-72 purge by Ledesma that highlight both the inefficacy of port controls in Veracruz and the highly popular nature of certain types of prohibited works. Ledesma confiscated a relatively high number of books--727--though this also reflects the higher literacy rates and population of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. This is much larger than most other such efforts throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Mexico, though in 1588 the comisario in Puebla, cathedral canon Santiago, confiscated 555 books during a purge. (54) Other visitas, however, tended to be much smaller given the smaller populations of the areas outside the Valley of Mexico. For example, under relatively strong enforcement in Yucatan, the comisario licenciado Cristobal de Miranda confiscated 74 books in 1574. (55) The general visita undertaken by the comisario of Yucatan, Franciscan Hernando de Sopuerta, in 1586 yielded some 136 books. (56)

In the Ledesma purge, Scripture was by far the most common work removed from owners. He showed his dedication to the antihumanist leanings of his fellow Dominicans of the later sixteenth century. In the purge he confiscated nearly 200 scriptural editions: 109 complete Bibles, 39 editions of Gospels and Pauline Letters, 30 New Testaments, 11 Gospels and Letters specifically in Spanish, 2 Psalms, 2 books of Proverbs, and 2 editions (presumably manuscript) of Gospels and Letters in Indian languages, for a total of 195. Of the complete Bibles as well as the editions of Gospels, Letters, and New Testaments, the language was not specifically stated. Any of these--and they were sure to be more than a few among those 178 editions in which the language was not stated--in Spanish (or any other vernacular language) was specifically banned in its entirety by the 1559 Index. In addition, numerous Latin scriptural editions were banned by the Index for a variety of reasons ranging from typographical errors to commentary by heretics to being the fruit of a heretical press in a place like Germany despite being in Latin. One can safely conclude that among the Latin reading (or Spanish reading) educated class, Scripture was extremely popular reading. Importantly, even the high-ranking officials of empire and Church did not necessarily share the extreme views of the inquisitors and theologians who fashioned the 1559 Index. In fact, the oidor Puga was forced to relinquish a copy of the Gospels in Spanish. (57)

In addition to Scripture, books of Hours--prayer books for daily use--were confiscated in large numbers: of 135 in all, 128 of these did not specify language. Like Scripture, all Hours in Spanish and vernacular tongues were prohibited en masse by the 1559 Index. Ledesma would have handed over these Hours to a censor to review their language and content, and if deemed legal they were to be returned to their owners; all Spanish Hours were to be destroyed. But flummoxing the inquisitional efforts to rid the Catholic world of vernacular books of Hours was the obduracy of virtually the entire Spanish world. If the inquisitors in Mexico viewed prohibited books in the context of theories about infection and heresy, they understood their duties in practical terms. Indeed, so popular and so important were such Hours that inquisitors in Mexico repeatedly warned their comisarios of the dire social consequences of burning such books in public, given their traditional place in lay spiritual practice among Spaniards. For example, on November 8, 1577, inquisitors Alfonso Fernandez de Bonilla and Alfonso Granero Davalos wrote a letter to their comisario in the Yucatan, ordering him to "burn the [Pauline] Letters, Gospels and Hours in Spanish in a secret place so that no one sees it because of the scandal it could cause for people to watch the burning of books that the Church has used for such a long time." (58)

Besides Scripture and Hours, the most frequently confiscated individual author in Ledesma's purge was Erasmus. This should hardly be surprising given the vehement antihumanism of Ledesma, who found 36 editions of Erasmus in his purge, 12 of them being the Chiliads. Like Spanish Hours and Scripture, Erasmus continued to be widely popular in Mexico despite the efforts to ban the vast majority of his works. Esteban de Portillo, the provisor of the archdiocese, holder of the prime chair of canon law in the University of Mexico and later its rector, legal counsel of the Inquisition, and a former inquisitor ordinary himself, was hardly a paragon of heretical thought. Yet Ledesma forced him to relinquish a copy of Erasmus's Chiliads. (59) The irony was surely not lost on Portillo, who could not have claimed ignorance of the law.

Perhaps the best-selling author of the entire sixteenth century in the Hispanic world was the Dominican Luis de Granada. Despite being considered a perfectly orthodox man and theologian, his hugely popular Libro de oracion y meditacion--a guide to spiritual discovery for the laity--was banned by the 1559 Index as being dangerously close to illuminism. But like bans on Spanish Hours and Bibles, the ban on Granada's work was also ignored, and it circulated freely between Seville and Veracruz. Yet it does not appear in Ledesma's purge. There are two potential explanations for the absence: (1) it was not circulating in Mexico City; (2) Ledesma himself ignored the ban. Given the evidence of its widespread circulation between Seville and Veracruz from 1572 to 1640, the latter explanation seems much more likely, but like contraband in general, this remains conjecture based on negative evidence. The question, of course, is the reason Ledesma would have ignored such a ban. Though this is speculative, it seems likely that as a fellow Dominican Ledesma viewed Granada's work with lenience.

Authors besides Erasmus who did appear with regularity in Ledesma's purge were Johann Ferus, Zumarraga, and Alonso de Molina--Franciscans all. Their works were to be found, in direct violation of the law, in every Franciscan monastery that Ledesma visited during his purge. This also should not be surprising, given the bitter relations between the Franciscans and their Erasmian wing and the autocratic Montufar and his "jefe intellectual" in the move toward a secular, diocesan Church--the bishop of Michoacan, Quiroga.

Besides these majority categories, Ledesma confiscated a wide range of spiritual, confessional, and legal works. Not all of these works necessarily were banned by the Index, demonstrating the exacting and precise nature of this visita. Many of the works Ledesma confiscated were works known to have one banned edition, like the popular Flossanctorum (of which he confiscated two). In other cases Ledesma may have felt that the books simply rang a bit suspicious, and he probably ordered them reviewed to verify they did not contain any heresies. For example, he confiscated ten editions of Jerome, hardly the most suspicious author, probably in an effort to discern the edition and place of publication, since humanists had employed Jerome's works. He confiscated more than a dozen copies of works by Chrysostom, whose works had been edited by heretics in Germany. And in a possible sign that the deep distrust of the Dominicans for the Jesuits was well under way, Ledesma confiscated eight copies of Exercicios espirituales, though the memoria does not specifically mention Loyola as the author.

Overall, the purge of 1571-72 demonstrates that both lay and clerical Spaniards in Mexico read and possessed a wide range of prohibited works between 1559 and 1571. Scripture, prayer books, Erasmus, as well as countless spiritual works continued to be read despite the bans on them by the Index. This suggests that while there was virtually no presence of or popularity for Luther or Calvin, many Spaniards in Mexico viewed the prohibition of otherwise orthodox authors with distrust. In some cases, as noted, even high-ranking members of the legal or religious elite possessed such banned works. In other cases the deep distrust of the humanist-Erasmian Franciscans in Mexico for the Index and its rules was refracted in their intransigence over the bans on works by their own order's authors as well as on works by Erasmus. The overall effect of this purge is not clear, though it surely would have had an impressive chilling effect on intellectual life in Mexico. More likely, Ledesma was successful in implementing one of the central "reforms" of Trent and the Spanish Index, which was to curtail lay spiritual intellectual exercise.


In addition to a general visita (exercised in this case by Ledesma), there were other methods for the enforcement of the Index in Mexico in the sixteenth century. The Inquisition aimed to establish a kind of cordon sanitaire in Veracruz. The Inquisition's comisario in Veracruz was required to board all incoming ships in the mercantile fleets and search them for book imports as well as to conduct a general visita, which meant interviewing the people on board. In practice via both of these methods the results of enforcing the Index were inconsistent.

There appears to have been virtually no regulation of the book trade through Veracruz before 1571. Some scholars, like Irving Leonard, have suggested that a strong censorship apparatus was established in Veracruz much before 1571, but I have yet to see any documentation confirming the claim. (60) Veracruz was part of the diocese of Puebla and as such fell under the jurisdictional claims of Puebla's diocesan Inquisition, which was operative as early as 1536 but generally not very active until the 1550s when it began to adjudicate cases. (61) In diocesan administration the bishop held ultimate legal authority, but this was delegated to his provisor as his chief judge. Vicarios were empowered to adjudicate legal matters in smaller towns within the diocesan territory. During diocesan inquisitions in Mexico before 1571, vicarios exercised the same role that the comisarios after 1571 in a formal Inquisition would exercise: they had the power to investigate claims of heresy or other sin-crimes against the Church, taking depositions, ordering witnesses to appear, and even to arrest suspects in order to be sent to the diocesan see for trial. In Veracruz there were vicarios active in inquisitional matters in very few years: 1538, 1541, 1551, 1563, 1568, and 1571 (six years out of thirty-six). None of these vicarios appears to have engaged in regulating the book trade or in visitas of ships. In other words, it appears that the port of Veracruz went ignored in terms of censorship and book circulation before 1571. (62)

In 1572 Francisco Lopez de Rebolledo was named comisario of the Holy Office in Veracruz--a position he held until his death in 1591. Thereafter the office of comisario in Veracruz was held by Franciscans for twenty-five uninterrupted years until 1617. During this forty-five-year period, regulation of books was anything but consistent in Veracruz. While one cannot ignore the possibility that much of the visita documentation has been lost, one cannot by extension overlook the equally real possibility that the comisarios simply did not enforce the rules of the Index and the Inquisition. Veracruz was and is febrile. So un-salubrious was its climate that before the eighteenth century the port existed primarily as an unpacking area, and the vast majority of traders who dealt with merchandise coming through Veracruz lived in Xalapa or Mexico City and only went to Veracruz when the mercantile fleet from Seville had arrived, fleeing the malarial port when finished. Despite these environmental restrictions, in theory a comisario of the port was expected to live in Veracruz in order to regulate the book trade, though it is possible that, like merchants from Mexico City and Xalapa, he only went to the port when the fleet arrived.

Assuming that the comisarios were in fact undertaking visitas regularly, even the results of those visitas reflect a lassitude in enforcing the Index. (Concrete evidence for visitas in Veracruz occurs only about half of the years for this forty-five-year period.) The first way in which the comisarios ignored the law was in their method of conducting the visitas themselves. By law they were required to interview all passengers and gente de mar (that is, sailors) on board every ship. This was clearly stated in the numerous instructions written to them by inquisitors and reiterated in all the standard legal discussions of the Inquisition. Alfonso de Castro, for one, viewed the tendency not to hold bishops or other dignitaries to even higher standards than the average person as one of the principal causes of the spread of heresy. Pena viewed the transport of heretical or prohibited books as more noxious than the penning of them in the first place and could hardly have viewed favorably this failure to inspect the personal libraries of officials. (63)

But despite the clarity of the law and the theory of the Inquisition, the comisarios of Veracruz interviewed not a single bishop, viceroy, Audiencia judge, dona, or even middling bureaucrat in their visitas. Instead they interviewed the gente de mar almost exclusively. That the gente de mar was always headed back to Spain and the passengers were those who were likely to bring their personal books with them only reiterates the legal failure of the comisarios. One can only assume that a flood of both legally acceptable and forbidden books entered Mexico through this vast oversight.

If the inquisitional law was clear that all members of the Church were subject to doctrinal oversight, the Index was occasionally overly complex, which was one of its principal bureaucratic failings. In many cases the Index prohibited only certain editions of a book. This was the case with the extremely popular Flossanctorum (a lives of the saints), a book that had only certain approved editions. In other cases the issue was language--books of Hours in Spanish were uniformly banned, whereas those in Latin were subject to scrutiny based on edition and place of publication. The same held for certain classical works like the Ars amandi of Ovid (allowed in Latin but banned in translation) or Cicero (any editions with commentaries by heretics like Melanchthon were banned). But the comisarios of Veracruz neglected to investigate these important legal details. The detailed visita documents routinely fail to mention the specific edition of Flossanctorums or the language of books of Hours. In many cases Hours in Spanish were mentioned, but the comisario did not mention whether he had confiscated the offending work or not.

There are a variety of potential explanations for the procedural shortcomings in Veracruz. Leonard, for one, attributes them to the stifling heat of the Gulf Coast and to the sloth and ineptitude of the comisarios. It is tempting to explain this in climatologic ways, but this does not explain why friars endured equally hellish conditions in many other parts of Mexico at the same time. There is no shortage of stories of monks in Mexico going through extreme physical privation. Augustinian friars traveled through the stifling heat of lowland Michoacan in rough habits. The founder of the Dominican province in New Spain, Domingo de Betanzos, is said to have walked barefoot from Guatemala to Mexico City. (64) Graft and corruption, however, are not entirely unreasonable explanations for the state of port controls in Veracruz. Lopez de Rebolledo was accused, though exculpated, of trading in contraband. His successor, fray Diego de Bobadilla, was accused of soliciting sexual favors in the confessional at the end of his tenure in 1597. (65)

There was more at work than peculation and the seduction of young girls in Veracruz as a site of book censorship. Rather, there appears a disdain for the rules of the visita and the details of the Index at work: the distrust of the Franciscans for the Index. As discussed above, both in Mexico and Spain, works by noted and respected members of their order--Zumarraga, Gilberti, Ferus, among others--were singled out time and again by the Dominicans, who almost single-handedly controlled the compilation and authorship of the Index. (66) It is quite likely that the Franciscans, still smarting over the devastation wrought on their monastic libraries by Ledesma in 1572, simply distrusted the extreme measures of the 1583 Index--an Index so conservative that it had more Catholic than Protestant authors on it.

Overall, the enforcement of one of the central components of censorship--port controls--appears to have been a relative failure in early colonial Mexico. Prior to 1571 diocesan officials of Puebla did not appear to have placed much emphasis on placing a vicar in the port to screen the book trade. By the late sixteenth century, both Lopez de Rebolledo and the Franciscan comisarios simply did not enforce the controls expected both by the rules of the Index nor of the theorists like Pena and Castro (ironically, a Franciscan himself) who saw port controls as central to the success of censorship efforts. The result is that much of urban Mexico was a place of considerable exposure to European theological controversies. The debates over humanism, Erasmus, Trent, and Catholic Reform were given wide purchase through the gaping hole in the barrier to the diffusion of books that was Veracruz. It is no small exaggeration to trace the availability of numerous prohibited works (especially the Flossantorum, Luis de Granada, and Spanish-language prayer books) in urban markets to the lack of enforcement of the Index in the entry port of Veracruz.


As was the case in Spain and Italy, enforcement of the Index was most effective in cities in Mexico. (67) In contrast to ports, where merchant interests were always strong and often tied to the success of the port in general, nonport cities in both colonial Mexico and early modern Spain tended to be more easily (and closely) regulated. On the one hand, urban citizens had more to lose from the appearance of heterodoxy than sailors. Simultaneously, cities tended to have a much higher concentration of the personnel associated with the social control of ideas, like inquisitors, bishops, a cathedral chapter, or university professors. Comisarios in Mexico tended to live in cities that also had cathedral chapters, large monasteries, or colleges. As late as 1600, there were few comisarios located outside of such areas in New Spain, though on occasion missionaries in rural Indian areas (like Chiapas) performed double duty as comisarios. But overall, the vast rural areas of colonial Mexico tended to be far less regulated by royal or religious officials. This phenomenon was hardly unique to the Inquisition, and the regulation of print tended to follow similar patterns concerning tax enforcement, bans on bigamy and concubinage, regulation of Indian slavery, or mining.

As could be expected, the enforcement of the Index tended to vary considerably from one city to another. In some cases the comisarios were vigilant and strict in their enforcement of the Index; in others, the comisarios were lax, owing perhaps to an ideological distrust of the Index and its Dominican intellectual fathers. In other places the comisarios were simply corrupt or debauched and had little interest in enforcing the directives of the Inquisition.

A good example of a comisario apparently blatantly disobeying the Index is Melchor Gomez de Soria. He had been inquisitor ordinary in Zacatecas, the large mining city, before being nominated as comisario in Guadalajara, capital of the diocese of the same name and a growing, if smaller, city. On March 14, 1571, he wrote to the governor of the archdiocese of Mexico (presumably Ledesma in place of the ailing inquisitor-archbishop Montufar) to inform him of his personal library, noting that "if some [books] or others are prohibited, please inform me so that I can send them to your grace later." (68) Surely no one believed that Gomez was unaware of the 1559 Index. In the same letter, he informed the archdiocese that among his books were the New Testament Letters and Gospels in Spanish, and asked the inquisitor "to inform me if they can be read because I have a good deal of them." (69) Again, it boggles the imagination that the central component of the 1559 Index--namely, the prohibition of the Scripture in vernacular--was unknown to Gomez, a man who had been dean of the Michoacan cathedral chapter and later cathedral canon in Guadalajara.

Yet his strategy of pretending not to know the contents of the Index seems to have worked, as on May 22, 1572, he wrote to the new inquisitor general Moya de Contreras to say that he had not received a response from the Holy Office concerning the Gospels and Letters in Spanish. (70) But in 1586 the other comisario of Guadalajara, the cathedral chantre, Francisco Martinez Tinoco de Segura, conducted a visita of books--presumably in the private libraries of citizens--and reported his findings of both the books recalled and their owners. Gomez was found to have the Adagia of Erasmus and Johann Ferus's commentary on John, both of which were prohibited in the 1583 Index. (71)

Gomez was hardly the only inquisitional comisario and urban resident to fall well below the high standards placed on him, and while his disobedience to the Index may have been theological, in other cases it appears personal. In many instances comisarios simply did not fulfill any of their duties. For example, in 1567 the provisor of Puebla, Pedro Ortiz de Cuniga, was rather a libertine. While he acted as the diocesan inquisition's vicar, he was prosecuted for concubinage by the diocesan inquisition for which he previously worked. Convicted, he was sentenced to lose two months of pension from the administration of sacraments, 220 pesos in fines (about the average annual salary of a parish priest), the costs of the trials, and ordered not to have any contact social (or otherwise) with his two presumed mistresses, Maria de Rivera and Magdalena Rodriguez. (72) In the late 1570s Cristobal de Badillo, comisario of Michoacan and a one-time professor of law at the University of Mexico, passed much of his time buying expensive silk suits, playing cards, and engaging in fights. Ultimately, his commission was revoked for gambling. (73) In other cases, comisarios were tried for doctrinal offenses. For example, the cathedral canon and comisario (1578-1605) of Puebla, Alfonso Ruiz Hernandez de Santiago, was prosecuted and convicted by the Inquisition itself for blasphemy and sentenced to six months exile in 1605. (74) Overall, then, the strict legal, theological, and moral orthodoxy of the Inquisition was faced with the problems of everyday disregard for the law as immutable.

In contrast to the examples given above, other cities sometimes hosted vigorous defenders and enforcers of the Index, notably in Zacatecas and Guatemala, seat of the diocese and cathedral chapter of the same name and province. Diego de Septilveda was comisario of Zacatecas (at that time one of the three principal cities of New Spain along with Mexico City and Puebla) from 1586-1605 and demonstrated acumen for his job markedly different than the above-discussed Melchor Gomez de Soria. (75) In his correspondence with the inquisitors in 1586 and 1587 in his efforts to enforce the new Index of 1583, Sepulveda showed attention to detail that is often absent in the other comisarios' correspondence. For example, unlike the visitas in which the comisarios of Veracruz never noted the publication date or edition of a book, Sepulveda was careful to record this information. Sepulveda had recalled copies of the Flossanctorum only when they were prohibited editions. In fact it appears that Sepulveda may very well have had a better grasp of the Index than inquisitor Bonilla. In letters dated November 12, 1586, and February 12, 1587, Sepulveda notified the inquisitors in Mexico City that he had confiscated copies of the Historia pontifical by Goncalo Yllescas because they were 1569 editions. (76) The 1583 Index had prohibited all editions of the Historia pontifical printed before 1573, (77) yet, in the margin of the February 1587 letter, Bonilla had written "return to owner because it is not prohibited." (78) In light of the theoretical discussion of the dangers of doctrinal corruption, such a mistake would have seemed enormous to more exacting censors.

Like Sepulveda, the comisario of Guatemala, cathedral dean don Felipe Ruiz de Corral, was similarly unbowed by everyday disobedience and disregard for the Index. One of the centerpieces of inquisitional law concerning transport of books involved licenses. By law anyone transporting books from Spain to Mexico had to have an inquisitional license to do so. As in Veracruz inbound, all passengers on board ships leaving Seville were, in theory, subject to a visita by the Inquisition--in the case of Seville, the inquisitors of Seville themselves conducted the visitas. Having reviewed the books, they issued an inquisitional license to transport the books to Mexico. Ruiz de Corral frequently wrote to the inquisitors in Mexico, noting that his efforts to force passengers from the Caribbean debarking in Guatemala to display licenses for passage of books from the Inquisition in Seville were largely futile.

Ruiz de Corral's tenure was marked by near constant boycotting of the edicts of faith read in the cathedral chapter, including even by familiars (an honorary office of deputized police work) of the Inquisition. (79) The Dominican Antonio de Remesal is today famed as the first biographer of Bartolome de Las Casas. Remesal had come from Spain to Guatemala as a friar-missionary, and when he arrived in 1625, Ruiz de Corral demanded to see his license from the Seville Inquisition to bring his rather large personal library. Remesal refused; the comisario in turn confiscated the Dominican's books in an attempt to force him to show his inquisitional license. (80) A rancorous feud followed. While Ruiz de Corral succeeded in laying an embargo on Remesal's books and initiating an inquisitional investigation against him, ultimately the comisario was forced to relent in the face of an administrative standoff.

If enforcement of the Index in urban centers with resident comisarios owed much to the idiosyncrasies of human nature, the enforcement of censorship in rural colonial Mexico was a function of geography, logistics, and missionary activities. One can consider that in a geographic area roughly equivalent to Spain, only one Inquisition operated in New Spain; by contrast, in Spain, several Inquisitions were active. Sixteenth-century New Spain was also only Hispanicized effectively in central Mexico, while much of the rest remained frontier or culturally and linguistically Indian (and therefore exempt from the Inquisition). (81)

There is abundant evidence that there were logistical problems in enforcing the Index. For example, in numerous instances there was no Index locally available for a comisario's reference, even, at times, in cities. On October 12, 1585, inquisitors Bonilla and Francisco Santos Garcia wrote to the comisario of Veracruz, Lopez de Rebolledo, that they were still waiting for a copy of the new 1583 Index and that they had not received the edition in the shipment from Seville in the most recent merchant fleet. (82) The Mexico City resident inquisitors shortly thereafter possessed copies of the new Index, but the same cannot be said for other parts of the viceroyalty.

It appears that much of rural New Spain lacked Indexes. On September 22, 1587, the inquisitors sent out lists of commonly circulating prohibited books to those comisarios "in those parts [of New Spain] where the General Catalogue had not yet arrived," suggesting that the absence of the Index for many comisarios was quite common. (83) In such a letter to the comisario of Guadalajara--presumably chantre Martinez--the inquisitors wrote that because "in some parts of that diocese there was no notice of the Index and because in some towns of Spaniards it would be possible for some prohibited books to circulate; therefore, we send with this the list of the those books which are most likely to continue to circulate." (84) Likewise, on March 14, 1588, Bonilla and Santos Garcia sent a list of the prohibited books "which tend to" continue to circulate to the comisario in Guatemala. (85) Authorities in Chiapas confronted similar circumstances. For example, in October 1586, the inquisitors wrote to Dominican Alonso de Norena as the comisario of Chiapas, explaining that "so few or no Indexes had arrived in this fleet that we have no other [copy] to send to your reverence and thus you need to make do with what you have there [in Chiapas]." (86) They did send a brief list of specific books, but one can imagine the sense of latitude this failure to send Norena an Index would have accorded him.

Similar problems continued in other sparsely populated regions. In Acapulco, the comisario Alonso Munoz wrote that he undertook a visita of a ship coming from Peru in late 1586. He explained that in order to complete the visita it was "necessary to have here the Catalogue or memoria of prohibited books." (87) This was not Munoz's last request for an Index; he made similar requests in letters of March 10, 1587, and April 8, 1587. (88) The situation compelled the inquisitors in 1587 to compose a general list of the most commonly circulating prohibited works for comisarios "in those areas where a General Catalogue had not yet arrived." (89) This was a blanket admission that the Index was physically lacking in much of New Spain. The prohibited books viewed as most likely to be circulating and therefore most in need of purgation included, among others:

--every type of Hours in Spanish

--small Hours called Crown of Our Lady

--various manuals of conscience

--Bouquet of Spiritual Flowers (Ramillete de flores espirituales)

--all Letters and Gospels in Spanish

--all Letters and Gospels in Indian vernacular languages

--Papal History (La historia pontifical)

Here were those books considered both most dangerous and whose ban was most likely to be ignored by the populace unless vigorously reminded.

This list of books--those prohibited books "most likely" to circulate--in the added absence of the Index was an open admission that much of the censorship project was hampered and that in rural New Spain operated only tenuously. In urban areas the enforcement of the Index may have counted on a better apparatus for control, but that same enforcement also encountered a more educated population that was more likely to distrust certain strands of conservative thinking. Overall, the everyday enforcement varied considerably between city and countryside and from city to city based on the ideology and temperament of the local comisario.


This brief sketch highlights the theory behind censorship as well as the fitful and variable nature of enforcing that same vision in Mexico. Theorists tended to view prohibited books as inherently linked to heresy and to the spread of heretical or heterodox ideas. For this reason jurists and theologians alike considered the control of transregional book movement, of the introduction of new books, and the regulation of reading to be extremely important components of the spiritual health of the faithful and the Church itself. On one level this discourse was abstruse and theoretical, as in the work of Aquinas or the manual writer Alfonso de Castro. On another level this discourse was translated into the prosecutorial activity of the Inquisition and was codified most notably in the Index itself. Yet if the theorization of the inherent connections between heresy, books, and censorship tended to promote the Index as a central component of defense, the application of censorship rules and the details of the Index varied considerably in New Spain. Much depended on individual views of the law, dissident theology, climate, geography, transatlantic availability of the Index itself, and simple luck.

But can this variable enforcement be attributed solely to idiosyncrasy? Was it part of a much larger pattern of colonial Spanish American society that social historians have described for some time now? An ancient Hispanic attitude toward the law--obedezco pero no cumplo (I obey but do not comply)--was accepted in colonial society broadly and deeply. In other words the vision of the law as mutable and suitable to one's needs bound much of colonial legislation, adjudication, and quotidian enforcement of the law. This can certainly be seen in the ways that local officials used law to further their own lucrative, amorous, or political goals. Could the Index be one more example of this pattern? Or did other factors contribute to the inconsistent nature of censorship in New Spain?

I conclude by suggesting that the cultural exigencies associated with obedezco pero no cumplo certainly played a factor in the application of the Index. At the same time, we can locate other reasons for the relative failure of the Index in early Mexico. I argue for two intersecting factors concerning the efficacy of the Index in sixteenth-century Mexico. First, a kind of lay theology undermined the index. Second, broad disdain and distrust for the extremely conservative ideology of the fashioners of the Index--especially for the Dominicans who crafted the 1583 Index under the aegis of inquisitor Quiroga--burrowed deeply into Mexican religious consciousness at the highest levels.

First, it appears that the laity in Mexico among peninsular and American born Spaniards, as well as the growing mestizo population, developed its own sense of theology. This laity was, of course, not formally schooled in theology and had only a rudimentary exposure to major theologians and works. Nevertheless, the books found on a regular basis coming in to Veracruz, in private libraries, and relinquished to the Inquisition after the Edict of the Faith show that the laity read spiritual works with great interest. Indeed, of all the books circulating in New Spain of the time, spiritual works represented by far the majority. This meant that the average person, whether literate or not, would have been exposed to some of the major trends in religion of Spain as well as Mexico.

The popularity of spiritual guides, prayer books, the Bible, and allegorical works was extremely widespread. Sailors recounted that the Flossantorum was read commonly on the long Atlantic voyage. I discussed above how many prohibited or suspect "Erasmian" spiritual works could be found in virtually any Franciscan monasteries. The works of Luis de Granada continued to be extremely popular throughout Mexico. Books of Hours could be found in virtually any inspection of ship, library, or bookstore. Overall, the laity in Mexico had a clear sense of what it viewed as theologically acceptable or doctrinally sound and orthodox.

While only a small fraction of the laity was literate (perhaps as low as 5 percent), the public reading of books was extremely common. The first edition of Don Quixote was shipped in large numbers to the Spanish Americas--it appears in interviews with sailors coming in to Veracruz as early as September 1605, only months after its publication. (90) The point is less about who could read and more about the extent to which the influence of certain writers was likely to have percolated into the public consciousness.

There is ample evidence from cultural historians that the Indian practice of public bathing and attending pulquerias was quickly adopted by Spaniards, especially men. (91) These spaces became fertile ground not only for romantic, sexual, or social encounters but also for political debate and discussion, for readings of books, and reenactments of actions from books. For example, in 1598 Sebastian Rodriguez was denounced to the Mexican Inquisition because, while in such a bathhouse</p> <pre> he was in bed with a woman, [and had] said to another Spanish man who was also in bed with another woman in the same room: help

me, I want to sing the Mass and want you to respond like a friar.

Making a joke of the entire thing, he began to sing the preface of Our Lady. Then he lowered his voice very seriously and said, thus respond friars, and hitching himself up from below, said, this is the organ, to which the other Spaniard said, hey, what you are doing is a great sin to talk of one's crotch material. The first

responded, joking about what he had done, God would not punish me

for that because it is not even a venial sin. Then taking his virile

member in his hand, said, this is the work of the organ, and arguing

about this on his behalf, the woman [with whom he was in bed] said,

this was not heresy or even blasphemy. (92) </pre> <p>While Rodriguez may not have been typical of all Spaniards, inquisitional trial testimonies seem to suggest he was not terribly far outside the mainstream.

The point is that the laity had its own unique ideas about heresy, orthodoxy, and proper Catholicism. On the one hand, most of the Spanish and mestizo laity in Mexico seemed to have a genuine fear of or hatred for Luther and Calvin. At the same time, they did not share the more conservative theology of friars or pious jurists. They tended to view sexual sins as relatively minor. Simultaneously, they had a real love of the cult of the saints and Mary in particular. Spiritual works advising them on their inner spiritual thoughts were extremely popular as was the moral theology of Antonio Diana or the "moral" novels of Antonio de Guevara, like Marco Aurelio el reloj de principes. Likewise, the Flossantorum remained a staple in many libraries, despite the fact that some editions were banned. Intriguingly enough, many viewed the Flossantorum as a book intended for entertainment, which suggests that Erasmus's witty satire of saint propitiation may have found an eager audience. So, while the outward cult of the saints, by all measures, was robust in colonial Mexico, it is possible that many people viewed it as less efficacious than their actions would suggest.

Finally, the continued popularity of picaresque and bawdy tales like Guzman de Alfarache, Amadis de Gaula, and even Don Quixote, shows that despite the vigorous efforts of clerical moralists, the laity continued to view such forms of entertainment as orthodox and acceptable. Rodriguez's lurid parody of the Mass suggests that friars and other clerics were often the brunt of innuendo and jokes. At the same time, the laity appears to have attended the Mass with considerable regularity, even if the same laity often balked at the tithe. My suggestion is that the laity, far from being completely unaware of the subtleties involved in Catholic theology, simply fashioned its own version of what it viewed as orthodox and acceptable.

If the laity in Mexico developed its own sense of what was properly castigated or not, this extended to books appearing on the Index. Overall, the laity in colonial Mexico appears, like much of Spain, to have distrusted and disobeyed the extremely conservative vision of orthodoxy of principally Dominican theologians that helped to create the 1559 and 1583 Indexes. But this does not mean that this same laity disagreed with the entirety of that counter-reform tendency. The 1559 Index, for example, was notable for formalizing the bans on the works of major heretics like Calvin and Luther and for making official the prohibition of vernacular translations of Scripture. The laity in Mexico appears to have either agreed with the condemnation of Luther and others, or the ban on his works was so effective that his works were never available in Mexico. The documentation for formal inquisitional book censorship in Mexico up to 1640 includes only one mention of someone having possessed a book by Luther--Alonso Calderon, alcalde mayor of Acapulco, who had a copy Luther's De potestate papae in 1568. (93) Compare this with the some 200 copies of Scripture confiscated by Ledesma in Mexico City in 1572, and one quickly develops a sense that the laity in Mexico had no particular interest in Luther, while the same laity saw fit to disobey many other facets of the Index.

When the inquisitors dealt with issues facing them not as theorists but as practitioners of law and colonial authority, they came directly up against deep cultural unpopularity of the Index. When the inquisitors of Mexico wrote to their comisario in 1577 to warn him of the dangers of public book burning, they left a much deeper mark on their legacy than they may have suspected. By their admonition they admitted that while they could force people to relinquish their books, they failed to convince them that such a policy was necessary for the protection of Catholicism.

Martin Austin Nesvig is an assistant professor at the University of Miami.

(1.) All translations are mine unless specified otherwise. I thank Matt O'Hara, Paul Vanderwood, and the anonymous reviewers from Church History for their helpful comments and criticisms on earlier drafts of this essay.

Abbreviations used:

AGN: Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico City, Mexico

Inq.: Inquisicion (as a section of an archive)

leg.: legajo

lib.: liber

tit.: titulum

qu.: quaestio

ar.: articulum

c.: capitulum

vol.: volumen

exp.: expediente

f.: foja

(2.) AGN, Inq., vol. 52, exp. 5, f. 350.

(3.) Expressed most notably by Lucius III in 1184 in the bull Ad abolendam, later incorporated into the canon law in Decretales, lib. V, tit. VII, c. IX (that is, c. Ad abolendam).

(4.) For a pithy explanation of the distinction, see Francisco Pena, commentarium LI, tertia pars, in Nicolai Eymeric, Directorium Inquisitorum (Venice: apud Marcum Antonium Zalterium, 1595), 535: "Ordinarii, vt summus Romanus Pontifex et Episcopi locorum, qui cum ordinantur, seu consecrantur, iure diuino in haereticos accipiunt potestatem, et iurisdictionem.... Alii sunt iudices delegati, quibus a sede Apostolica hoc munus iudicandi haereticos in specie datum est, quos iura, Inquisitores, vocant."

(5.) See Stafford Poole, Pedro Moya de Contreras: Catholic Reform and Royal Power in New Spain, 1571-1591 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987).

(6.) This was one of the more common reasons for ecclesiastical judges to prosecute people for the crime of "desacato." For example, in December 1569, in Guanajuato, when a representative of the diocesan officials went to inform Pedro Munoz Maestro de Roa that he would be excommunicated if he continued to refuse to pay his tithe, Munoz responded: "mierda para la notificiacion y para la de escomunion y para quien me lo notificare." See AGN, Inq., vol. 11, exp. 4, f. 304.

(7.) Recent examples of this trend (though they differ considerably in their specific conclusions) toward viewing power as multifocal and contested include: Gilbert M. Joseph and Daniel Nugent, ed., Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1994); Eric Van Young, The Other Rebellion: Popular Violence, Ideology, and the Mexican Struggle for Independence, 1810-1821 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2001); William B. Taylor, Magistrates of the Sacred: Priests and Parishioners in Eighteenth-Century Mexico (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1996); Ileana Rodriguez, ed., Latin American Subaltern Studies Reader (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001).

(8.) "Derecho indiano," or literally "Indian law," referred to the specific legislation and jurisprudence relating to the Spanish Indies, not necessarily to Indians as an ethnic group. Though technically part of the imperial system and on the same administrative levels as other viceroyalties, the viceroyalty of New Spain, like that of Peru, was recognized as a colonial dependency. Accordingly, very early, beginning in the 1560s, under the auspices of the Council of the Indies, the Spanish Crown began commissioning compilations and commentaries on derecho indiano by eminent jurists who had served in the Audiencias of the Indies. There is extensive and considerable scholarship on the subject. For an abbreviated listing, see Jose Ma. Ots y Capdequi, Manual de historia de derecho espanol en las Indias (Buenos Aires: [Talleres Graficos de A. Baiocco y cial, 1945); Juan Manzano Manzano, Historia de las recopilaciones de Indias, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (Madrid: Instituto de Cooperacion Iberoamericana, Editiones de Cultura Hispanica, 1991 [1950]); Ismael Sanchez Bella and others, Historia del derecho indiano (Madrid: Editorial MAPFRE, 1992); Javier Barrientos Grandon, La cultura juridica en la Nueva Espana: Sobre la recepcion de la tradicion juridica europea en el virreinato (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, 1993); Isacio Perez Fernandez, El derecho hispanoindiano: Dinamica social de su proceso historico constituyente (Salamanca: Editorial San Esteban, 2001).

(9.) Luis de Paramo, De origine et progressv officii sanctae inquisitionis (Madrid: ex Typographia Regia: apud Ioannum Flandrum, 1598), preface: "ab haereticas pestes Oficii Sancti ferrum, et ignem admouerint eos silentio praetermittere noluimus, nec quidem regna, Respublicas, nationes, regiones, oppida, et urbae quae, vel salubri hoc remedio ad repellendum morbum tam periculosum usae sint, vel in sui pernicem illud reciecerint."

(10.) Ibid., 312. On Nestor: "Vermes linguam eius corrserunt ipse tamen allisus humo periit." On Marcus Ephesinus: "cholico morbo laborans (ex ore enim eructabat stercora) diris cruciatibus afflictus interiit."

(11.) Ibid., 313: "Calunius cum quatuor annos nouem morbis dirissimis excruciaretur atque tabesceret ... nempe cholica, dolore articulorum, calculo, haemorrhoidibus, febri iasthmate, capitis dolore, pituita, sanguinis vomitatione, denique pediculi undique scantentibus exersus, infelicissime ac foedissime obiit."

(12.) Decretum, causa 24, qu. 3, c. XVI: "resecandae sunt putridae carnes: et scabiosa ouis a caulis repellenda, ne tota domus, massa corpus et pecora ardeat, corrunpatur, putrescat, intereant."

(13.) Summa Theologiae, 2a.2ae, qu. 10, ar. 7.

(14.) Decretum, causa XXIV, qu. I, c. I.

(15.) It begins, "Vergentis in senium saeculi corruptelam," meaning, loosely, "The corruption of a world advances unto its old-age."

(16). Decretales, lib. V, tit. VII, c. X, Vergentis: "nondum tamen usque adeo pestis potuit mortificari mortifera, quin, sicut cancer, amplius serperet in occulto, et iam in aperto suae virus iniquitatis effundat."

(17.) Decretales, lib. V, tit. VII, c. X, Vergentis: "vulpes demolientes vineam Domini ... lupos ab ovibus videamur ... canes muti non valentes latrare."

(18.) Leo X: "Exurge Domine et iudica causam tuam, memor esto improperiorum tuorum, eorum quae ab insipientibus siunt tota die: inclina aurem tuam ad preces nostras, quoniam surrexerunt vulpes quaerentes demoliri vineam, cuis tu torcular calcasti solus.... Exterminare nititur eam aperde sylva et singularis ferus depascitur eam." The bull is cited by Paramo, De origine et progressv, 114-23.

(19.) For editions of Eymeric, see Emil van der Vekene, Biblioteca bibliographica historiae sanctae inquisitionis (Vaduz, Luxembourg: Topos, 1982), 31-43. For discussion of Pena, see Peter Godman, The Saint as Censor: Robert Bellarmine between Inquisition and Index (Leiden: Brill, 2000).

(20.) Eymeric, Directorium.

(21.) Pena, commentarium LII, secunda pars, in Eymeric, Directorium, 314: "qui vivae haereticorum voces vix unam civitatem replere possunt, libri autem cum facile hinc & inde transuebantur, non modo vnam civitatem, sed & regna & prouincias inficiunt."

(22.) Donald R. Kelley, The Writing of History and the Study of Law (Aldershot, U.K.: Variorum, 1997).

(23.) Conradus Eubel and Guillelmus van Gulik, ed., Hierarchia Catholica Medii et Recentioris Aevi (Monasterii: sumptibus et typis librariae Regensbergianae, 1923-35), 3:174.

(24.) Also known as the Constitutions of Boniface VIII.

(25.) Diego de Covarrubias y Leyva, In Bonifacii Octavi Constitutionum, quae incipit, alma mater, sub titul, de sentient. Excommunicat. Lib. 6 Comentarii, in Opera (Antwerp: apud viduam and haeredes Petri Belleri, 1614), 1:322: "vnum enim pecus morbidum omne pecus inficit, atque ideo pecus morbo infectum resecandum est, et sequestrandum, ne reliquas contractu suo inficiat oues. Nec ex ea causa pastor iudicatur crudelis, sed pius: imo crudelis esset et ingnauus, si pecus morbo infectum a grege minime segregaret."

(26.) For biographical data on Castro, see V. Pinto Crespo, "Thought Control in Spain," in Inquisition and Society in Early Modern Europe, ed. Stephen Haliczer (London: Croom Helm, 1986); and Francisco Tomas y Valiente, "El crimen y pecado contra natura," in Sexo barroco y otras transgresiones premodernas, ed. Francisco Tomas y Valiente (Madrid: Alianza, 1990). Both offer skeletal discussions of Castro. The only full-length biography, which is both a detailed intellectual history and apologetic paean to Tridentine Catholicism, is Teodoro Olarte, Alfonso de Castro (1495-1558): Su vida, su tiempo y sus ideas filosoficas-juridicas (San Jose: Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, 1946). For information on Castro's output, see Van der Vekene, Biblioteca bibliographica, 16-24.

(27.) Alfonso de Castro, De justa haereticorum punitione (Madrid: ex typpographia Blasii Roman, 1773 [1547]), 10.

(28.) Ibid., 141: "Necessarium est igitur, ut omnes haereticorum libri comburantur, ne pestilens aliqua maneat radix, quae novos quotidie valeat ex se gignere haereticos."

(29.) See E. William Monter, Frontiers of Heresy: The Spanish Inquisition from the Basque Lands to Sicily, Cambridge Studies in Early Modern History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Rafael Carrasco, Inquisicion y represion sexual en Valencia: Historia de los sodomitas, 1565-1785 (Barcelona: Laertes, 1985); Federico Garza Carvajal, Vir: Perceptions of Manliness in Andalucia and Mexico, 1561-1699 (Amsterdam: Stichting Amsterdamse Historische Reeks, 2000); Tomas y Valiente, "El crimen y pecado contra natura."

(30.) For overviews, see Fermin de los Reyes Gomez, El libro en Espana y America: Legislacion y censura, siglos XV-XVIII, 2 vols. (Madrid: Editorial Arco/Libros, 2000); Virgilio Pinto Crespo, Inquisicion y control ideologico en la Espana del siglo XVI (Madrid: Taurus, 1983).

(31.) For discussions, see Irving A. Leonard, Books of the Brave: Being an Account of Books and of Men in the Spanish Conquest and Settlement of the Sixteenth-Century World (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1949).

(32.) The best study of the trial is Jose Ignacio Tellechea Idigoras, El proceso romano del Arzobispo Carranza: Las audiencias en Sant' Angelo, 1568-1569 (Rome: Iglesia Nacional Espanola, 1994). An excellent first-hand account is the viciously ad hominem attack on Carranza by the influential jurist, Diego de Simancas, in his autobiography published in a transcription in 1905: "La vida y cosas notables del senor Obispo de Zamora don Diego de Simancas," in Autobiografias y memorias, ed. M. Serrano y Sanz (Madrid: Baillie/Bailliere, 1905). His equally scabrous and influential treatise on ecclesiology and heresy is De catholicis institutionibus (Valladolid: ex officina Aegidij de Colomies typographi, 1552).

(33.) See Arthur Ennis, Fray Alsono de la Vera Cruz, O.S.A. (1507-1584): A Study of His Life and His Contributions to the Religious and Intellectual Affairs of Early Mexico (Louvain: E. Warny, 1957). The actual trial appears to be lost, though the denunciations made by Montufar and Ledesma are found in Archivo Historico Nacional (Espana), Madrid, Spain, Inq., leg. 4437, exp. 5.

(34.) Overviews of this authority are discussed in Eymeric, Directorium, and Castro, De just. haer. pun., among other places. For a broader overview in a lengthy global context, see J. M. Bujanda, Index des livres interdits, 11 vols. (Sherbrooke, Quebec: Centre D'etudes de la Renaissance, 1984-89).

(35.) Alfonso de Castro, Aduersus omnes haereses (Cologne: M. Nouesiani, 1549), 17: "Quamobrem recte dici solet, articulos Parisiensis non transire montes."

(36.) Despite the claims of certain scholars, the evidence for Mexico and Spain suggests that fear of Hell and Satan was profound and culturally deep seated. A notable study arguing that early modern Europe was only minimally Christianized in the sixteenth century is Jean Delumeau, Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire: A New View of the Counter-Reformation, intro. John Bossy (London: Burns and Oates, 1977). For "classic" studies of attitudes toward death in early modern Europe, see Michel Vovelle, Piete baroque et dechristianisation en Provence au XVIIIe siecle; les attitudes devant la mort d'apres les clauses des testaments (Paris: Plon, 1973); and Philipe Aries, L'Homme devant la mort (Paris: Editions de Seuil, 1977). For views that suggest a deep concern about Hell, see Carlos M. N. Eire, From Madrid to Purgatorial: The Art and Craft of Dying in Sixteenth Century Spain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Jaime Morera, Pinturas coloniales de animas del purgatorio: Iconografia de una creencia (Mexico: UNAM Posgrado, 2001).

(37.) On excommunication and its effects as viewed by early modern jurists and theologians, see Covarrubias, In Bonifacii Octavi Constitvtionvm; and Francisco Suarez, Disputationes de censuris in communi, excommunicatione, suspensione et intercito, itemque de irregularitate, ed. Carlos Berton, vol. 23 of 28 in Opera omnia (Paris: apud Ludovicum Vives, 1856-78).

(38.) The procedural law of the Inquisition can be found in the majority of treatises on inquisitional law and practice. The best known is Eymeric's Directorium Inquisitorum. For a bibliography of other such works, see Van der Vekene, Biblioteca bibliographica. The best modern treatment of the subject of inquisitional procedure is Andrea Errera, Processus in causa fidei: L'evoluzione dei manuali inquisitoriali nei secoli XVI-XVII e il manuale inedito di un inqisitore perugino (Bologna: Monduzzi, 2000).

(39.) I am grateful to Matt O'Hara for this information that falls outside the time period of my research.

(40.) Chronological histories of the Index are best discussed in Bujanda, Index des livres interdits, and de los Reyes Gomez, El libro en Espana y America. For detailed analysis of recall efforts in the wake of new Indexes in Mexico, see Martin Austin Nesvig, "Pearls Before Swine: Theory and Practice of Censorship in New Spain, 1527-1640" (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 2004), chapter 8.

(41.) AGN, Inq., vol. 43, exp. 4.

(42.) The proposition that had caused "scandal" among numerous people (at least according to Montufar) was that, "speaking of the unions that occurred in the holy resurrection of our redeemer Christ," Zumarraga had concluded that "the blood of the tree [cross] was reintegrated by divine potential, or at least that amount necessary for the body and was thus reunited with divinity." See AGN, Inq., vol. 43, exp. 4, f. 119; the calificacion (or theological review) of the opinion reads in part: "hablando de las huniones que se hizieron en la santa resurecion de nuestra redentor Christo (que la sangre de Ramada fue recogida por la potencia diuinal a lo menos la que hera nescesaria para el cuerpo y fue unida a la diunidad)."

(43.) Good discussions of these issues can be found in Marcel Bataillon, Erasmo y Espana: estudios sobre la historia spiritual del siglo XVI (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economca, 1966).

(44.) For the role of Quiroga in defending the power of a diocesan Church against a mendicant one, see Ricardo Leon Alanis, Los origenes del clero y la iglesia en Michoacan, 1525-1640 (Morelia, Mexico: Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo, 1997).

(45.) AGN, Inq., vol. 43, exp. 20, f. 297.

(46.) Libros y libreros en el siglo XVI, seleccion de documentos y paleografia de Francisco Fernandez del Castillo (Mexico: Archivo General de la Nacion, 1914), 37.

(47.) For discussions of the conflict between De la Veracruz and Montufar, see Ennis, Fray Alsono de la Vera Cruz.

(48.) The lengthy memoria is found in AGN, Jesuitas, III-26, exp. 22. Evidence in this section is gleaned from this document unless otherwise noted. I have footnoted specific pages but otherwise I rely on this document generally for this discussion. The original order to undertake this task has apparently been lost, but the result, called a memoria, remains today in the Jesuit section of the Mexican National Archive, instead of in the Inquisition section, leading it to be overlooked by most historians, even of the Inquisition. It lacks its first two pages and begins paginated number 3, which leaves to speculation the content of the first two pages, though the formula of book inventories of this sort suggests that there would have been a brief statement of the nature of the inventory followed simply by lists. The remaining document represents lists of books identified with the owners or the monasteries in which they were found.

(49.) Vasco de Puga, Prousiones cedulas Instruciones de su Magestad: ordenancas de difuntos y audiencia, para la Buena expedicion de los negocios y administracion de justicia: y gouernacion desta nueua Espana: y para el buen tratamiento y obseruacion de los yndios (Mexico: P. Ocharte, 1563).

(50.) AGN, Jesuitas, III-26, exp. 22, f. 3r.

(51.) AGN, Inq., vol. 60, exp. 4.

(52.) AGN, Jesuitas, III-26, exp. 22, f. 5r.

(53.) AGN, Jesuitas, III-26, exp. 22, f. 8r. For location of these convents, see Peter Gerhard, Historical Geography of New Spain, 1519-1821 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972).

(54.) AGN, Inq., vol. 82, exp. 15A.

(55.) AGN, Inq., vol. 77, exp. 43, f. 274.

(56.) AGN, Inq., vol. 141, exp. 86, fs. s/n.

(57.) AGN, Jesuitas, III-26, exp. 22, f. 7v.

(58.) AGN, Inq., vol. 84, exp. 31, f. 161: "las Epistolas y euangelios en Romance y las oras en romance las quemara en lugar secreto que nadie lo vea por el escandalo que se podria reciuir de ver quemar libros de que por tan tiempo usa la yglesia."

(59.) AGN, Jesuitas, III-26, exp. 22, f. 6r. On Portillo's various positions of authority, see Nesvig, "Pearls Before Swine," appendices 1f, 1g, and 2b.

(60.) See his magisterial study of literary taste in New Spain and Peru, Books of the Brave, cited fully above in note 31.

(61.) There was one trial, for bigamy, adjudicated in Veracruz in 1541 by licenciado Antonio de Sopuerta as the Visitador of the diocese. See AGN, Inq., vol. 23, exp. 5. This, however, appears to be something of an anomaly, as the next complete trial in the diocese of Puebla appears in 1552: AGN, Inq., vol. 96, exp. 5.

(62.) See Nesvig, "Pearls Before Swine," chapter 4 and appendix lg.

(63.) Alfonso de Castro, for one, viewed the failure to regulate church officials as high as bishops as one of the principal failings of orthodox Catholicism and one of the chief causes of heresy, since it was bishops who were entrusted with the doctrinal regulation of their dioceses. See Castro, De just. pun. haer., and Adversus omnes haereses.

(64.) For the personal hell that would have been the missionary efforts in the tierra caliente in the sixteenth century, see Leon Alanis, Los origenes del clero y la iglesia en Michoacan. For the austerity of Betanzos, see Alberto Maria Carreno, Fr. Domingo de Betanzos: Fundador en la Nueva Espana de la venerable orden dominicana (Mexico: Victoria, 1924).

(65.) AGN, Inq., vol. 160, exp. 8.

(66.) For the not so sub rosa control of the 1583 Index issued by Quiroga by Salamanca Dominicans, see Pinto Crespo, Inquisicion y control ideologico.

(67.) See, for example, Pinto Crespo, Inquisicion y control ideologico; Maria Jesus Torquemada, "Censura de libros y barreras aduaneras," in Perfiles juridicos de la inquisicion espanola, ed. Jose Antonio Escudero (Madrid: Institutio de Historia de la Inquisicion, 1989); Dorothy Schons, Book Censorship in New Spain (Austin, Texas: n.p., 1949); Gigliola Fragnito, La Bibbia al rogo: La censura ecclesiastica e i volgarizzamenti della Scrittura (1471-1605) (Bologna: Il Mulino, 1997); and Fragnito, "The Central and Peripheral Organization of Censorship," in Church, Censorship and Culture in Early Modern Italy, ed. Gigliola Fragnito, trans. Adrian Belton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Agostino Borromeo, "Inquisizione spagnola e libri proibiti in Sicilia ed in Sardegna durante il XVI secolo," Annuario dell'istituto storico italiano per l'eta moderna e contemporanea 35-36 (1983-84).

(68.) AGN, Inq., vol. 74, exp. 24: "si alguno o algunos se hallare prohibidos se me auisen porque los embiare a V.M. luego."

(69.) AGN, Inq., vol. 74, exp. 24: "me auise V.M. si se puede leer porque tengo para mi ay muchos."

(70.) AGN, Inq., vol. 74, exp. 35.

(71.) AGN, Inq., vol. 141, exp. 79. The Index is: Index et cathologus librorum prohibitorum, mandato ... Gasparis a Qurioga ... in regnis Hispaniarum Generalis Inquisitoris denuo editus (Madrid: n.p., 1583).

(72.) AGN, Inq., vol. 34, exp. 8.

(73.) AGN, Inq., vol. 83, exp. 1.

(74.) AGN, Inq., vol. 274, exp. 4.

(75.) See Nesvig, "Pearls Before Swine," appendix 1g.

(76.) AGN, Inq., vol. 141, exp. 88; vol. 142, exp. 7.

(77.) Index and cathologus librorum prohibitorum (1583).

(78.) AGN, Inq., vol. 142, exp. 7, f. s/n.

(79.) AGN, Inq., vol. 304, exp. s/n, fs. 132-34; vol. 354, exp. s/n, fs. 182-83; vol. 510, exp. 73.

(80.) AGN, Inq., vol. 510, exps. 81-82.

(81.) When the central tribunal of the Inquisition of Mexico was legally established in 1569, it was decreed that Indians were henceforth exempt from its jurisdiction.

(82.) AGN, Inq., vol. 139, exp. 62.

(83.) AGN, Inq., vol. 140, exp. 15.

(84.) AGN, Inq., vol. 142, exp. 27: "en algunas partes de ese obispado no se terna noticia del cathalogo General y porque en algunas poblaciones de espanoles seria possible auer algunos libros prohibidos por el se le embia con esta la memoria de los que verissimilmente puede auer."

(85.) AGN, Inq., vol. 142, exp. 40.

(86.) AGN, Inq., vol. 141, exp. 106: "an venido tambien en esta flota tan pocos o ningunos cathalogos que no tenemos otro que embiar a Vuestra Reverencia y asi se deue contentar con hazer lo que pudiere con el que alla tiene."

(87.) AGN, Inq., vol. 169, exp. 3.

(88.) AGN, Inq., vol. 169, exp. 3.

(89.) AGN, Inq., vol. 140, exp. 15.

(90.) AGN, Inq., vol. 276, exp. 13, fs. 291-332; vol. 291, exp. 6a.

(91.) See, for example, Solange Alberro, Del gachupin al criollo: O como los espanoles de Mexico dejaron de serlo (Mexico: Colegio de Mexico, Centro de Estudios Historicos, 1992).

(92.) AGN, Inq., vol. 176, exp. 5: "cierto hombre hespanol, estando acostado en la cama con una muger, dixo a otro hespanol que tambien lo estaua con otra en un apossento, que le ayudasse que queria cantar missa y que le respondiesse como frayle, y haziendo burla, comenco a cantar el prephagio de nuestra senora, y arregoldar con la voca diziendo que ansi repsondian los frayles y aventossear por abaxo diziendo que aquel era el organo, a lo qual diziendole el otro hespanol que mirasse lo que hazia que era gran pecado lo que estaua haziendo que hablasse de las texas abaxo. Respondio, como haziendo burla que por aquello que hazia, no le castigaria Dios porque no era pecado ni aun venial y tomando su miembro viril, dezia, que era las telas del organo, y reniendole por ello la dicha muger con quien estaua acostado, dixo que no eran heregias ni blasfemias."

(93.) AGN, Inq., vol. 9, exp. 5.
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Author:Nesvig, Martin Austin
Publication:Church History
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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