Sustaining the Divine in Mexico Tenochtitlan
Nahuas and Catholicism, 1523–1700
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
320 Pages | 6 x 9 | 21 b&w illus., 4 tables
Sustaining the Divine in Mexico Tenochtitlan addresses these and other questions by focusing on Mexico City in the colonial era. Moving beyond the standard narrative of Spanish domination, author Jonathan Truitt uses Nahuatl- and Spanish-language sources, drawn from multiarchival and multinational research, to provide an innovative look at indigenous life on the southern half of the island capital of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. While Spanish authority was important, indeed central, it was far from omnipotent and depended each day on the assistance of the indigenous people. In many ways, Nahua life continued much as it had prior to Spanish contact. While certain elements of precontact life, such as public human sacrifice, were eliminated, others, such as traditional gender roles or belief in divinity, persisted.
Before and after contact, religion was central to life on the island capital. Truitt uses Spanish and indigenous interactions with religion as a window on daily life in the city. As quickly becomes clear, Nahua men and women were active in most areas of city life. They took pride in their achievements, defended their religious buildings, fought against abuse, and ignored the idea that women should not be active members of the community. While change occurred during this era, it was controlled and directed as much, if not more, by the indigenous population as by the Spanish.
Truitt’s innovative use of previously neglected Nahua and Spanish documents sheds new light on indigenous life in New Spain, making Sustaining the Divine in Mexico Tenochtitlan an important contribution to a deeper understanding of the era.
"This exploration of indigenous Catholicism in early colonial Mexico City has long been needed. With great sensitivity to gender, class, and ethnic interactions, Jonathan Truitt examines the material and spiritual development of an urban indigenous Catholicism. I strongly recommend Sustaining the Divine."—Susan Kellogg, author of Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America's Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present
"Sustaining the Divine makes an important contribution to the study of the effort to Christianize natives in Mexico City–Tenochtitlan in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Most previous work has focused on evangelization in the countryside of the missionary frontier, but no work has focused so tightly on the urban environment."—John F. Schwaller, author of The History of the Catholic Church in Latin America
"Jonathan Truitt’s essential and deeply researched study of the relationship between the Church and its indigenous subjects in Mexico City breaks new ground. Sustaining the Divine moves the field beyond traditional paradigms that highlight destruction, fear, and coercion. Truitt illustrates how within the trauma of conquest the need for religion persisted among native peoples, continuing to be at the heart of indigenous social organization."—Dana Velasco Murillo, author of Urban Indians in a Silver City: Zacatecas, Mexico, 1546–1810
“Writing clearly and without jargon, Truitt builds meticulously on earlier research while introducing the reader to a wide range of individual Nahua actors whose names and actions enliven the narrative.”—Hispanic American Historical Review
“Truitt’s evidence-driven, jargon-free prose is essential reading for scholars studying indigenous Christianity, Franciscans in colonial Mexico, or the origins of New World Christianity.”—Fides et Historia