In their efforts to convert indigenous peoples, Franciscan friars brought the Spanish Inquisition to early-sixteenth-century Mexico. Patricia Lopes Don now investigates these trials to offer an inside look at this brief but consequential episode of Spanish methods of colonization, providing a fresh interpretation of an early period that has remained too long understudied.Drawing on previously underutilized records of Inquisition proceedings, Don examines four of the most important trials of native leaders to uncover the Franciscans' motivations for using the Inquisition and the indigenous response to it. She focuses on the consecutive impact of four trials--against nahualli Mart n Ocelotl, an influential native priest; Andr s Mixcoatl, an advocate of open resistance to the Franciscans; Miguel Pochtecatl Tlaylotla, a guardian of native religious artifacts; and Don Carlos of Texcoco, a native chief burned at the stake for heresy. Don reveals the heart of Bishop Zum rraga's methods of conducting the trials--including spectacular bonfires in which any native idols found in the possession of professed converts were destroyed. Don's knowledge of the contemporary Spain that shaped the friars' perspectives enables her to offer new understanding of the evolution of Franciscan attitudes toward evangelization. Bonfires of Culture reexamines important primary documents and offers a new perspective on a pivotal historical era.
Patricia Lopes Don is Associate Professor of History at San Jose State University. She is the author of several scholarly articles on colonial Mexico and early modern Spain.