Doña Teresa Confronts the Spanish Inquisition
A Seventeenth-Century New Mexican Drama
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
296 Pages | 6 x 9 | 10 color and 5 b&w illus., 1 m
In 1598, at the height of the Spanish Inquisition, New Mexico became Spain’s northernmost New World colony. The censures of the Catholic Church reached all the way to Santa Fe, where in the mid-1660s, Doña Teresa Aguilera y Roche, the wife of New Mexico governor Bernardo López de Mendizábal, came under the Inquisition’s scrutiny. She and her husband were tried in Mexico City for the crime of judaizante, the practice of Jewish rituals. Using the handwritten briefs that Doña Teresa prepared for her defense, as well as depositions by servants, ethnohistorian Frances Levine paints a remarkable portrait of daily life in seventeenth-century New Mexico. Doña Teresa Confronts the Spanish Inquisition also offers a rare glimpse into the intellectual and emotional life of an educated European woman at a particularly dangerous time in Spanish colonial history.
New Mexico’s remoteness attracted crypto-Jews and conversos, Jews who practiced their faith behind a front of Roman Catholicism. But were Doña Teresa and her husband truly conversos? Or were the charges against them simply their enemies’ means of silencing political opposition? Doña Teresa had grown up in Italy and had lived in Colombia as the daughter of the governor of Cartagena. She was far better educated than most of the men in New Mexico. But education and prestige were no protection against persecution. The fine furnishings, fabrics, and tableware that Doña Teresa installed in the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe made her an object of suspicion and jealousy, and her ability to read and write in several languages made her the target of outlandish claims.
Doña Teresa Confronts the Spanish Inquisition uncovers issues that resonate today: conflicts between religious and secular authority; the weight of evidence versus hearsay in court. Doña Teresa’s voice—set in the context of the history of the Inquisition—is a powerful addition to the memory of that time.
“Frances Levine provides a rare glimpse into the society of Spanish colonial New Mexico as seen through the eyes of Doña Teresa Aguilera y Roche, wife of Governor Bernardo López de Mendizábal. No other body of documentation reveals as much about the period before the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 as does Levine’s examination of the couple’s trial by the Inquisition. Levine deftly recounts Doña Teresa’s passionate and poignant defense against her accusers. A rare example of the writings of a highly literate woman living in seventeenth-century Mexico, Doña Teresa Confronts the Spanish Inquisition also makes an important contribution to scholarship on women in colonial Latin America.”—Rick Hendricks, New Mexico State Historian and coauthor of The Spanish Missions of New Mexico: Before 1680
“Frances Levine provides a comprehensive, coherent, and—above all—sympathetic account of the sufferings endured by Doña Teresa at the hands of the Inquisition, highlighting her spirited defense, written, as was most unusual for the time, in her own hand. Thoroughly informed and based on the best historical materials available, Levine’s work dramatically illuminates a crucial period in the history of colonial New Mexico.”
Jerry R. Craddock, editor of Zaldi´var and the Cattle of Ci´bola: Vicente de Zaldi´var’s Report of His Expedition to the Buffalo Plains in 1598