Saturday, February 1, 2020

Beaterios of Guanajuato

Chichimeca Nations
The following is an account of the Beaterios of Guanajuato, one of the Dominican missions mentioned the book Preaching with their Lives edited by Jeff Burns and Margaret McGuiness and soon to be published by Fordham University Press.  A number of the primary and secondary sources are in Spanish and the bibliography appears after the last post in this series.  The area of Guanajuato and the surrounding states was originally home to the Chichimeca Nations, mostly Otomi and Nahua with a smaller constituent of Mazahua, Huasteca and Purépecha. [1]  When the Spanish arrived to evangelize and colonize the area in the early part of 16th century, the word Chichimeca took on a negative connotation similar to the word savages.  Compared to the Aztecs and Maya the Chichimeca did not live in fixed dwellings, but subsisted primarily by hunting and gathering.  They traveled freely throughout the region and fiercely resisted foreign intrusion into their territory.  Because the area was rich in silver deposits, the Spanish had a special interest in subduing the native population, whom they believed to be inferior, in order to exploit their natural resources.[1]
Mexico even today is the world's largest producer of silver. 

[1]  (Mexico: Instituto Nacional para el Federalismo y e Desarrollo Municipal, 2011)
[2] (Gradie 1994), pp. 67-68


Friar Juan de Zumárraga
At the General Chapter of the Franciscan Order held in Toulousse in 1531, Friar Juan de Zumárraga reported on what was needed for the missions in New Spain. “Each convent of ours needs another house together, to teach the children, where there is school, bedrooms, refectory and a devout chapel.” [1] Friar Juan de San Miguel was sent to find a suitable location in the central highlands 274 km north of México City.  After scouting the territory of the Chichimeca thoroughly he built a small chapel next to the river the indigenous called Izcuinapan.  He placed the mission under the patronage of his own namesake, the Archangel San Miguel.  The Chichimeca were not hospitable to this endeavor and twenty years later they killed fourteen Spanish soldiers set to guard it and Friar Juan fled for his safety.  His replacement, Friar Bernardo Cossín, moved the mission a short distance away on a hill that could be better defended.  He built a rugged sanctuary and dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe hoping to capitalize on the image that had been growing in popularity among the indigenous.  When the rains came and washed away a good portion of the land the sanctuary was built upon, he began to worry about the building toppling over the steep cliff overlooking a ravine.  He managed to persuade some neighboring inhabitants to widen and fill in the ravine with cobblestones. Unfortunately, this activity led to more flooding.  When the rains came, the waters had no place to go and the whole area flooded.  Friar Bernardo was killed by natives in retaliation along with both of his successors Francisco Doncel and Pedro Burguense.  As the Spanish began extracting silver from the mines in Zacatecas and San Luis Potosí, their wagon trains on the Camino Real were repeatedly raided and robbed.  Over the course of the next forty years war more than 4,000 Spaniards were killed by Chichimeca in Guanjuato[2]
[1] (López Espinoza 2010), pp. 128-129 
[2] (de Morfi 1989), p. 95