I am a historian of colonial religion, missionary work, and the craft of sacred history in the early modern Spanish world with a special concentration on Spanish America. The sources that I primarily focus on are the provincial chronicles of the religious orders, mission histories and relations, sacred biographies of holy men and women, and devotional histories of miraculous images. I am interested in what these works—informed by early modern notions of truth and sacred rhetoric—can teach us about larger political, religious, and cultural trends in colonial societies. My work specifically concentrates on the multiethnic nature of these texts, the ways in which Spaniards and creoles appropriated cultural elements from Indigenous people, castas, and black Africans and incorporated them into their narratives of the sacred past.
Several of the sacred histories I study circulated in manuscript form during the colonial era, and although many of these texts were later published in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a significant number of them are still in need of transcription. For this reason a major part of my research involves transcribing sacred histories and explaining their importance for our understanding of larger colonial issues.
My first book is a transcription of the creole Jesuit Francisco de Florencia’s third volume to his history of the Jesuit Province of New Spain, which is currently under review. This text provides not only a series of Jesuit lives but a window onto questions of blood purity in Spanish America and how this informed the development of creole patriotism.
At the current moment, I am also working on a monograph dealing with Florencia’s life and writings, an expansion of my dissertation on sacred history in seventeenth-century New Spain (Mexico). Florencia was among the most prolific writers of the colonial period, but his works have not been studied in great detail beyond his account of the Virgin of Guadalupe. My study looks at his larger corpus of writings to shed new light on creole identities, specifically as it relates to multiethnic sanctity, Marian geographies, and the meaning of La Florida in colonial times.
Another project of mine involves transcribing two mission histories penned by Juan de Albizuri in 1633 and 1640. These two text focus on the lives of the Jesuit martyrs Gonzalo de Tapia and Hernando de Santaren. But more than just simply sacred biographies (sometimes called hagiography), these two manuscripts teach us much about cultural interactions between Jesuits and Indigenous peoples on the frontier.