Author Archives: Rachel Tomei

Class Notes: Wed, October 18th

Class Summary:

The historical questions we discussed in class on Wednesday focused on what tools of conversion did the Spanish use on indigenous people in Latin America. The tools of conversion we discussed were: church construction, secular and regular clergy, congregation (missions), education, and public festivals. The student presentation of the day was on the use of public festivals in colonial Latin America, summarized in the thesis- Spanish authorities designed festivals that were aimed at the mass population to promote a shared history and values. Native people were made to feel like they had to participate because of their “implicit evil”, their skin color.

We also discussed what kind of sources let us get at questions of belief. These included primary sources, material culture, local stories & oral histories, prayers, educational materials, paintings/art, etc. Our sources we read for class fall under many of these categories. The “Orders Given to the Twelve” is a primary source from 1523. The article on Gaspar Antonio Chi included images of places, art, and reimaginings of public spaces.


“Go, therefore, my much beloved sons, with the blessing of your father, to carry out what I have commanded you; and armed with the shield of faith and with the breastplate of justice, with the glade of the spirit of salvation, with the helmet and lance of perseverance, struggle with the ancient serpent which seeks and hastens to lord himself over, and gain the victory over, the souls redeemed with the most precious Blood of Christ.” – Orders Given to “the Twelve”

When discussing this source, the class mentioned the language used. It’s warfare terminology that focuses on the violent nature of the task posed to Catholics spreading the faith. The class talked about how urgent this mission was. Spanish Catholics believed they were fighting evil by spreading their religion.

Key Terms:

public festival – a celebration of the public for a certain event or purpose, usually religious. They were used in colonial Latin America as a way to control and influence indigenous peoples.

Saint Rose of Lima – the first person born in the Americas canonized as a Saint. Because of the great documentation that must be done in the process of sainthood, we have lots of sources on her.


Revised Research

How were women forced to adapt to traditionally European Christian gender roles in colonial Mesoamerica? How can looking at the tradition of nunneries and Christian girls education help answer this question?



Cruz, Juana Inés De La, and Jeremy Dean. “In Reply to a Gentlemean from Peru, Who Sent Her 

Clay Vessels While Suggesting She Would Better Be a Man”. Poems Protest and Dreams.



Bokser, Julie A. “Sor Juana’s Rhetoric of Silence.” Rhetoric Review 25, no. 1 (2006): 6-34.


Burkett, Elinor. “In Dubious Sisterhood: Class and Sex in Spanish Colonial America.” Latin 

American Perspectives (1977).


Myers, Kathleen. “The Mystic Triad in Colonial Mexican Nuns’ Discourse: Divine Author, Visionary Scribe, and Clerical Mediator.” Colonial Latin American Historical Review (1997).


Myers, Kathleen. “Neither Saints nor Sinners: Writing the Lives of Women in Spanish America.” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). 

Research Question

I’m interested in researching how colonial powers used religion as part of cultural imperialism in the middle and later colonial period in Latin America. I would hope to find primary sources from different ethnic and socioeconomic groups and their views on religious practice. Looking at the spread of Christianity, from King Ferdinand’s claim of God giving his monarchy power over the “new world” to continued missionary efforts, may shed light on religious difference today.

What I Would Like to Learn this Semester

Last semester, I took a class called Decolonial Philosophy with Dr. McBride. The first two weeks of the course we spent talking about how different regions had wildly different histories with colonization that shaped current world economies, political structures, and social hierarchies. Therefore, the process of decolonization in each of these regions began differently and should still be approached differently. As a class taking place in the United States, we spent a lot of time talking about how decolonial philosophy affects our lives in the US. I look forward to spending a semester specifically focusing on the colonial history of Latin America.

A big theme of that class was on the definition of “man”, as defined by western hegemonic powers. Sylvia Wynter said that the original definition of “man” was a Christian-European man and that allowed for the dehumanization of the rest of the world. She then says the definition changed with what we now call eugenics. This changing definition of what it meant to be human affected the way imperialism developed in the 19th century. In my last class with Professor Holt, Latin America & the US, we talked about how ethnic and economic classes looked different in colonial Latin American than in the rest of the world. I want to learn more about how people were categorized and defined by colonial powers in Latin America and where we can see remnants of these ideologies today.