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Medieval Academy of America

The Middle Ages in the Conquest of America Author(s): Luis Weckmann Reviewed work(s): Source: Speculum, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Jan., 1951), pp. 130-141 Published by: Medieval Academy of America Stable URL: . Accessed: 24/11/2011 22:11
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BY LUIS WECKMANN THE purpose of this paper is not so much to present to the members of this

Academy any particular point as to call their attention to the numerous mediaeval survivals scattered throughout the early and middle history of Latin America to which, for no apparent reason, little or no attention has been paid. For the mediaevalist it is interesting to note that there exists a natural continuity between the Middle Ages in Europe - and especially the Spanish Middle Ages - and the early institutional and cultural life of the Ibero-American colonies. As I hope to prove, the Middle Ages found their last expression on this side of the Atlantic, where, after the termination of the mediaeval period in Europe, an appropriate setting for the development of mediaeval ideals existed for an extended period in the Spanish New World while, contemporarily in Europe, the Religious Reformation and the so-termed Italian Renaissance were causing the abandonment of the essentials that sustained mediaeval Christendom. Although Renaissance thought has its importance in the shaping of early Latin American civilization, and some of the conquerors, notably Cortes, were Renaissance men in their fondness for the visible, material things - grandeur, wealth, fame - it is nonetheless true that some old mediaeval trends, perhaps nowhere stronger than in Spain, the land of perennial crusading, greatly influenced the early course of Latin American life. That should not surprise anyone. Forced to remain long in the background of European evolution, due to her almost constant state of warfare, Spain realized, later than any other country in western Europe, the flowering of her mediaeval civilization. Thus, Spain was able to transmit to America, as a living product and not as a dead tradition, many of her mediaeval accomplishments. There was no waning of the Middle Ages in Spain as there was during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in the rest of Europe. Spain found herself in the autumn of the Middle Ages during the first two centuries of her modem history, when, against insurmountable odds, she strove to keep alive and dominant such mediaeval ideals as those embodied in the ecclesia universalis and in the universal empire. The conception of a universal empire, the Company of Jesus, the new mysticism of St Theresa and of St John of the Cross, the new scholasticism of Vitoria and Suarez, the romance of chivalry, the Romanceroand the theater represented the late fruits which the Spanish mediaeval spirit produced well into the modern age.' Columbus, the first link between the Old World and the New, stands in a clearer light, perhaps, if we envisage him not so much as the first of the modern explorers but as the last of the great mediaeval travelers. Although there is no doubt that Columbus' mind was affected by Renaissance trends, we can still
paper was read at the twenty-fifth annual meeting of the Mediaeval Academy of America, held in Boston, on 14 April 1950. The author wishes to thank Mr Maurice L. Stafford and Dr Lorna Lavery Stafford, of Mexico City College, for their help in revising the English version of this paper. 180 * This

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say that this man, the spiritual heir of Marco Polo, was impelled by mediaeval quests and geographical puzzles towards the exploration of new routes of navigation. Was it not on the basis of Marco Polo's report (on his first voyage Columbus took with him Marco Polo's writings2), even if this was complemented by newer works, that he set out to find the fabulously rich islands, off the coast of Asia, so lavishly and imaginatively described by the Venetian? Still other mediaeval legends concerning the existence of islands to the West and current in Columbus' days were known to him and in part impelled him to the undertaking of his voyages. Antillia (whence Antilles), St Brandan's Isle, Brasil, the Island of Seven Cities, were among those legendary isles.3 Columbus never outgrew these geographical conceptions. In all his travels, when navigating through the Antilles or bordering the coasts of the American mainland, he thought (as his diary shows) that he was visiting the many islands which, as he said, were depicted in mediaeval maps at the end of the Orient in the vicinity of Cathay.4 The discoverer writes in the letter of his Fourth Voyage5 that he reached on 13 May (1503) the province of Mago (mentioned by Marco Polo) adjacent to Cathay, although he was skirting the coastline of Central America. Before his final homeward voyage Columbus wrote to the pope that he had taken, in the name of Spain, 1400 islands and 333 leagues of the continent of Asia, besides many other great and famous islands. This island, he adds, referring to Espanola, is Scythia, is Tarsis, is Ophir, and Ophaz and Cipango.6 If such were the geographical convictions of the discoverer, what then is strange in the fact that the papacy, barely a few months after the discovery, divided these newly-found lands, mainly islands, between Spain and Portugal on the basis of the then uncontested doctrine that all islands belong to the Holy See, a curious mediaeval theory whose ultimate basis lay, as I have tried to prove7, in the 'Donation of Constantine'? The fact that the so much misunderstood Alexandrine bulls of 1493 find their support in what we can term 'the most illustrious forgery of the Middle Ages' could not have given our continent a more mediaeval baptism. This quest of the islands, so rich in spices and pearls and precious metals, lures the imagination not only of Columbus but also of many later Spanish travelers. Cortes in his Cartas de Relaci6n makes allusions to them, to the wealth and secrets and 'admirable things' they hide.8 In South America, Gonzalo Pizarro headed an expedition in 1539 to find the rich lands of cinnamon and precious metals reported to exist beyond the mountains to the east of Quito.9 Perhaps most poignantly mediaeval of all was the conviction displayed by Columbus in the course of his third voyage, when he firmly asserted that he had found nothing less than the Terrestrial Paradise. To support his assertion, he quotes, in genuine mediaeval fashion, the opinions of St Isidore, of the Venerable Bede, of the 'master of scholastic history' (i.e., Petrus Comestor), of St Ambrose and of Johannes Scotus, all of whom had placed the earthly Paradise in the East. The earth, Columbus claims, is pear-shaped and Paradise lies in its highest summit. He reports that he was able to locate the Terrestrial Paradise after having encountered the mouths of the four rivers of Genesis that proceed from the Tree of Life, when he mistook the delta of the Orinoco river for the paradisi-


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acal streams.'1 The site of Paradise was so rich, asserted the discoverer, that with its wealth he could finance an army of 100,000 infantrymen and 10,000 cavalrymen with which the old mediaeval goal of recovering the Holy Sepulchre could be attained.l1 Columbus also rejoices at the thought that he has found a new land where the Lord can be served by the divulgation of His Holy Name and Faith among so many new peoples, a truly mediaeval attitude.12 In other minor details, such as in the method of time computations, in Columbus' writings as well as in those of his pilots and staff, and in the diaries of subsequent explorers, mediaeval usages are likewise followed.l3 The mediaeval world was surrounded by a realm of fable. Beyond the known lands there existed others, populated in mediaeval fantasy (drawn, it is true, from ancient sources, and distorted) by all kinds of mythical beings, monsters, enchantments so charmingly depicted in mediaeval mappaemundi. Such were, for instance, the giants, pygmies, gimnosophists, sciopodies, Amazons, cinocephali, boys with white hair, people who lived only on smells, headless beings with eyes on the stomach, bearded women, etc., so dear to the mind of St Isidore, together with griffons, dragons, the Sea of Darkness, the Land of Prester John. As the discoverers of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries came to venture to the edges of the world it was supposed that, sooner or later, they would encounter some of these mythical figures whose existence was, at least for a great number of them, beyond dispute. Of special prominence in the early history of Latin America is the quest for the Amazons, which seemed to have fascinated practically every conqueror and which has left a permanent souvenir in the names of the mightiest river of the continent and of the northernmost of Spain's provinces in America: California. Columbus already, in his second voyage, refers to a certain island, Madanina, inhabited, according to Indian versions, only by women, information that is put down soberly and sceptically by the historian of the Indies.14 Cortes, in a letter to the king in 1524, refers to what is now Lower California - presumably an island and at that time unvisited by Spaniards saying that it was inhabited only by women who, at given times, received visits of men from the mainland. Of the issue only female children were kept, the males being disposed of.15The very name 'California' apparently derives from an island of Amazons, ruled by Queen Calafia and mentioned in Las Sergas de Esplandidn, The a Spanish romance of chivalry and sequel of the famous Amadls de Gaula.16 whom Francisco and his lieutenant instructs Cortes Cortes, same year cousin, he is sending to Colima, to search out the truth concerning the rumors of the existence of Amazons in that province.17 When the self-willed and despotic president of the first Audiencia of New Spain, Nufio de Guzman, flees from the king's justice for his misrule he heads for the Mexican Northwest with an unauthorized military expedition in an attempt to locate the kingdom of Cihuatlan, legendary land of the Amazons, in order, by this exploit, to justify himself in the eyes of his displeased sovereign.18Even before that, as early as 1518, Juan Diaz believes in the existence of Amazons in the 'island' of Yucatan.19Other conquerors seek for those evasive women in Colombia20and in the Plata region.2'A secretary of the Royal Council, traveling in South America, and Pedro de Valdivia agree

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in their belief that the Amazons really live somewhere in Chile.22 Finally, Orellana boasts of having seen them along the banks of the river which now bears their name.23 The Amazons, however, did not monopolize the imagination of the conquerors; giants, too, were believed to have lived or to live still in the Antilles. Such is, at least, what Diego Ordaz maintains in the early sixteenth century.24The governor of Cuba, Velazquez, believes in the existence of strange beings with great flat ears and others with dog-like faces which he wants Cortes to locate in Aztec lands;25in Cibau, apparently, there are human beings still adorned with tails;26 somewhere else there are to be found hairless persons27and as late as the middle of the sixteenth century, according to an ancient legend, a dragon terrified every afternoon the peaceful dwellers of the city of Puebla until the monster was killed by a gallant knight. The memory of this deed still lingers in the old 'house of the one who killed the animal' in that locality. Although explorers express their disappointment at not finding the monsters they had hoped to encounter,28some of these mythical creatures have remained as motifs in early Latin American art like the four figures of cinocephali adorning the fountain of the Franciscan convent of Tepeaca in Puebla.29 The Fountain of Youth is another of those fascinating myths that lure the early Spanish discoverers. Pedro Martir de Angleria, the protohistorian of America, makes a passing reference to it as existing somewhere in the Caribbean, although he expresses his disbelief in its existence.30 L6pez de G6mara, without committing himself one way or the other, also mentions it.31The aged and experienced Ponce de Le6n - perhaps because of his years - firmly believes in this Fountain and goes forth to seek it after being informed that it is located in a certain island called Bimini.32 Among the other recurrent legends of early American exploration, El Dorado, the gilded man whose kingdom was so rich that his subjects painted him every day with gold and washed him off at night,33and Quivira and the Seven Cities of Cibola, founded by seven mediaeval bishops, have conspicuous places, the second legend having led to Coronado's discovery34of the American Southwest, where to this day New Mexico's folk plays represent a survival of mediaeval mystery plays. L6pez de G6mara, author of the Historia General de las Indias, the first seven chapters of which are in spirit and in form still mediaeval, weigh the reasons advanced by the fathers of the church and by ancient writers for and against the existence of antipodes. After wearisome references to Lactantius, St Augustine, St Isidore and others, the author finally accepts the probability of their existence in the New World,35after which he passes on to discuss the belief of the inhabitants of Iceland that Purgatory is to be located under their island.3 Among the fabulous beings which the imagination of the Spaniards places somewhere in America, room is reserved for the Devil himself. According to G6mara, the Devil is the principal god worshipped in a certain island of the Caribbean Sea where he appears many times and 'even speaks' to his devotees.37To balance this, we also find the Apostle Saint James, the Patron Saint of Spain, fighting side by side with the Spaniards in many of their military engagements.38 The


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New World is, no doubt, a land of hidden marvels, of untrodden mysteries; the land, as Columbus said, of Alpha and Omega, where the sun rises and where the sun sets,39the beginning and end of the earth. That the Spaniard of the sixteenth century was naturally prone to believe in such marvels can be explained in part by the fact that the romances of chivalry, partially outmoded in the rest of Europe, were still very popular among Spanish readers. Ferdinand Columbus, son of the Discoverer, heads the list of prominent men in the history of the New World who were attracted by this type of reading.40 When the army of Cortes, after an exhausting march, finally catches its first glimpse of the city of Tenochtitlan, strange and beautiful, mirroring its colors in the lake upon which it was built, Bernal Diaz, the soldier-chronicler of the expedition,41merely comments: 'We were astonished and told ourselves that this seemed like a thing of enchantment, such as they related in the book of Amadis,' after which the conquering army entered the Aztec capital with all the trappings of mediaeval splendor. Later on, when a rebellious soldier is condemned to death he finds no better way to express his disagreement with his sentence, which he attributes to tyranny rather than to justice, than to hope that sometime, in a better future, the Twelve Peers will rule - a reference to the Historia de Carlomagno y de los Doce Pares, a romance of chivalry first published in Spain in (the date is very revealing) 1525.42 In some episodes of the civil and urban life of the early colony, such as the dinner offered in 1538 by the first viceroy of New Spain to commemorate the signing of a peace treaty between Charles V and Francis I of France, all the splendor of the most magnificent of all mediaeval courts, that of the dukes of Burgundy, was reproduced. On this occasion, the pieces de resistance were huge pastries filled with live quail and rabbits. The mises en scene, a favorite device of the Burgundian dukes to entertain their guests and to display their wealth and magnificence, were also continued in New Spain where, for example, the main square of Mexico City would be converted into a lake and a naval battle fought around a fortress built on an artificial island, the whole episode representNothing strange in this, if it is remembered ing the siege of Rhodes by the Turks.43 that Charles V of Spain, himself born in Ghent, was the heir of Burgundian policies and of Burgundian grandeur through his father, Philip the Fair. In the legal and institutional realm of early America the mediaeval imprint is equally patent. The Spaniards of the period retained the ideal of a universal empire, of whose present incumbent they were but servants. Charles V remained for them the dominus mundi, the legitimate and God-ordained lord of the world. Sometimes, they found no better reason than this to demand from Indian rulers their submission to the king. Typical is the case of Francisco Pizarro in Peru, and his counsellor, Fray Vicente de Valverde, both of whom informed the last of the ruling Incas that they were the envoys of the pope and the emperor, the lords of the world, who demanded his submission to their authority.44 In the legal terminology of this and of later ages we find many feudal reminiscences too: the Indians are regarded as 'vassals', a somewhat ideal conception badly shattered by reality;46in the creation of titled estates with which the conquerors were re-

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warded, in the terminology used in the documents of donation with their mention of woods, pools, meadows and so forth, all are mindful of feudal Europe. The oath, a basic institution of the feudal age, where it sustained the very fabric of society, plays an important role in appeasement of internal quarrels, and in setting up alliances between the conquerors. When, for instance, Almagro and Francisco Pizarro were reconciled at Cuzco, they attended mass together and, joining hands over the consecrated host, swore not to malign one another, not to send separate reports to the emperor, and to share equally all profits - a scene which recalls the famous story of the oath exacted from King Alfonso VI by the Cid4 and which proved, may I add, equally ineffective. The pastimes of the conquerors are still those of a feudal class: tournaments, tourneys of canes (juegos de canas), hawking, etc., all of which presupposed a mounted nobility. When Las Casas had in mind his scheme of colonization in South America, at Cumana, he founded an order of 'Knights of the Golden Spur' to finance it.47Other usages, such as the cutting of boughs from trees in token of taking possession of the land and the reservation of hidden treasures to the king, the 'royal fifth', are also reminiscent of feudal practices. The derechode lanzas paid to the king by the early encomenderoscorresponds in general to a feudal scutage. The encomienda system itself, by placing a certain number of natives under the protection and guide of a Spaniard, could be considered feudalistic because conceived in the spirit of patronage, so characteristic of the feudal world. But since land tenure was not included in this system, the encomienda was deprived of what could have been its most feudal characteristic. Still, a contemporary Mexican scholar, Federico G6mez de Orozco, thinks it possible to trace the encomiendaback to mediaeval Spain, where conditions similar to those in sixteenth-century New Spain were created as the Christian kingdoms of the peninsula in their southward expansion were faced with the problem of a newly subjected class of non-Christians, and these new vassals of the crown were placed in trust (en encomienda) with the military orders which were made responsible for their spiritual welfare. Another thought should be given to the Capitaneas or administrative divisions of Brazil in the colonial era that resemble very strongly the type of administration prevalent during the late Middle Ages in the Madeira and Azores islands; and the sesmarias, the Portuguese mediaeval form of land grant introduced in Brazil after 1500, cannot pass unmentioned. Also, the mediaeval Spanish institution of the municipality - of ancient extraction but fortified by the role the townspeople played in the War of Reconquest - the cabildo abierto, already obsolete in the peninsula, was revived in America by the conquerors, eager to preserve for themselves and for their descendants a voice in the internal government of the colonies.48 Perhaps nowhere else is more visible the imprint of the Middle Ages in America, and especially in Mexico, than in the realm of art. Military architecture in the beginnings of the sixteenth century, the early fortresses and castles built by the first conquerors, with their moats, drawbridges and turrets, such as the castles of Ulua and Acapulco, are still genuinely mediaeval, and the same can be said of such walled cities as Campeche. In regard to religious edifices, conventual


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architecture of the first and even of the second half of the sixteenth century might be classified, according to Manuel Toussaint, Mexico's leading critic of Colonial art, as a mediaeval survival. It can be said, adds that authority, that the great fortified temples and convents of this period stand as the final expression of the Middle Ages in the world.49 Mediaeval Spanish architectural styles - Gothic, Moorish and even Romanesque, not in its pristine purity, it is true, inasmuch as no preconceived plan was followed and Indian ingenuity was an important new factor - are transmitted to America. I am going to give very briefly some examples taken from Toussaint's recent Historia del Arte Colonial en MExico. The convent of Tepeaca (finished in 1580) still mirrors the Middle Ages with all their rudeness and vigor.50Mediaeval Gothic or, to be more exact, Isabeline Gothic elements are still prevalent in the Franciscan convent of Zacualpan de Amilpas51and in the convent of Yecapixtla (built by the Franciscans between 1535 and 1540), the monument which preserves perhaps the greatest number of Gothic survivals in New Spain.62 When the structures of these imposing early monastery-fortresses do not follow any architectural style in particular, Gothic elements are concentrated in the facade and especially in the portal, as in the very rich fagade of the convent of Huaquechula (Puebla), where, in addition, exists a relief of mediaeval character depicting the Last Judgment and an 'open' chapel whose inner vault is considered the richest example of a Gothic ceiling to be found in Mexico.6 The facade of the Augustinian convent of Actopan has many Gothic features such as the great curved arch of the lintel.4 Although in some cases, e.g., Tepoztlan (second half of the sixteenth century), the facade is already Plateresque, the sculpture retains a mediaeval air.66In the cloister of the convent of Acolman, Gothic-Isabeline elements are frequent, e.g., the columns garlanded with apples which surround the lower cloister.6 The upper gallery of the cloister of the Augustinian convent of Cuitzeo is crowned by a row of gargoyles representing figures of fantastic monsters, each different and each with a distinct Gothic flavor.67In civil architecture, too, although to a lesser degree than in ecclesiastical architecture, Gothic influences can also be detected.68 Many additional examples could be cited. Mediaeval Moorish art also found its last expression in America, especially in the construction of some 'open' chapels, suitable for the worship of a large number of Indian neophytes; the best example is the royal chapel of Cholula, in all architectural respects a mediaeval mosque.69Mudejar elements are present in some of the facades of sixteenth-century monasteries, with the geometrical patterns which usually accompany Arabic art,60and also in the wooden ceilings or alfarjes and in the eight-sided pillars to be found in the earliest monasteries; as well as in towers, public fountains and some private residences where mediaeval Arabic influence can still be detected at the beginning of the eighteenth century.6 Perhaps the most striking phenomenon in relation to mediaeval architectural survivals in America exists in the construction of Romanesque churches and other buildings of Romanesque type. The church of the Franciscan convent of Patzcuaro is, essentially, a Spanish Romanesque church which could have been built

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in the twelfth century.62Romanesque chapels and capitals adorn many sixteenthcentury churches.3 This is not as surprising as it may appear: Romanesque constructions in New Spain are not, strictly speaking, afterthoughts but follow a 'natural' architectural evolution. Romanesque style took a deep and lasting hold in those European countries that had long been a part of the Roman empire, such as Spain and southern France, regions in which Gothic may be regarded more or less as a foreign intrusion. Old Roman structural devices and constructions remained alive - even though suffering alterations and decay - for many centuries in the Mediterranean countries, and the fact that the Spanish cortijo basically follows the plan of the Roman villa, which likewise is copied in the plantation or hacienda of central and northern Mexico, is an eloquent proof of the lasting character that the Roman genius gave to its edifices. The pattern of the unwalled town with a fortified church featuring strong walls, ramparts, merlons, narrow skylights, so familiar in the Mexican central countryside, has its precedent in mediaeval mendicant practices, especially in southern France, like Spain a Mediterranean land.64 In sculpture, in painting, and in the minor arts mediaeval influence is often present. Such elements as decorative sculpture, pulpits, wooden reliefs, door frames, rosettes, brackets, crochets and canopies in the frontispieces still have a mediaeval flavor and some of the human representations, such as hunting scenes, are undoubtedly copied from fifteenth-century Flemish and French tapestries.66 Gothic ironwork and metalwork in general, is also very numerous in the early colony: many chalices, candlesticks (with drip-pans), staffs, nails, knockers, and railings reveal a Gothic ancestry.66 The cultural atmosphere of sixteenth-century New Spain represents in many respects an unfolding of mediaeval Spain. In the colleges, and notably in the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico founded in 1551 - whose constitutions and organization were copied from those of Salamanca, and where graduates gave each member of the cloister 'six fat hens, four pounds of cold viands and a pair of gloves' after their reception67- St Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus reigned supreme at least until the eighteenth century. In the days of Carlos de Sigtienza y G6ngora, the University of Mexico, in its government and curriculum, was still an interesting and curious survival of European mediaevalism.68 The early Mexican historiographers and, more notably so, the first Spanish historians of America, followed the practice of the mediaeval chroniclers, in transcribing in their writings material from older sources without bothering to acknowledge their debt. There are traces, I believe, of Spiritual Franciscanism in the teachings and writings of Friar Peter of Ghent, one of the first Franciscans to arrive in Mexico and one of the most venerable figures of the early history of the Mexican church. The councils of that period, needless to say, echoed those of contemporary Europe. Finally, before I conclude this paper, which pretends merely to point out the existence of a potential field of study, I shall enumerate some other pheonmena in the early, and even in the moder, life of Mexico which can be considered mediaeval survivals. Futher research could aid in the task of understanding the vital


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powers that lie within many mediaeval institutions and ideas which enabled them to outlive their own epoch in a different environment, not as mere antiques but still full of energy and of potentialities. Theology was in colonial days and even beyond, down to the Wars of Reform, the queen and pinnacle of all university studies, with the Sententiae of Peter Lombard the undisputed text in that field. Latin remained compulsory for university work throughout the Spanish commonwealth until the days of King Ferdinand VI,69 and to the study of Latin that of oriental languages and of native languages was added as the result, I believe, of the impulse given in this direction in mediaeval days by St Raymond Lull. The power and influence of the church in colonial Mexico, especially that of the mendicant orders, was considerable. A distinguished contemporary Mexican historian, Pablo Martinez del Rio, has said 'not without exaggeration, of course' that the history of colonial Mexico is the history of mediaeval Europe without the strife of the Investitures. Religious festivities, the holidays par excellence until the nineteenth century (and, to a certain extent, even today, especially in rural areas) combined in many instances Christian purposes and pagan ceremonies in a process of synchretism that the practical genius of the church fostered in Europe in the era that followed the Germanic migrations. The old practice of the church in mediaeval Europe of building Christian sanctuaries on the site of heathen sacred abodes, was repeated in Mexico, where many a church of today is build upon a pagan pyramid. Religious theater, especially that celebrated in the atria of churches in many instances to-day, the atrium of the local church, is still the center of town life - is also remindful of mediaeval practices. The dominance of religious themes in colonial painting, architecture and sculpture (and the fact that sculpture was in many cases ancillary to architecture) as well as the noticeable activity of the miniaturists in the sixteenth century and after, are very suggestive. The Inquisition was not suppressed in Mexico until 1812. The great devotion to the Virgin, even today the most cherished form of piety, would have been most pleasing to St Bernard of Clairvaux.70 The mediaeval idea of law dominated the political and institutional life of the colony: natural law is considered to be paramount and in case a royal ordinance sent from Spain contradicted it the royal command was not carried out by the viceroys. This is, I believe, the explanation for the curious practice of the viceroys, who, upon receiving a royal order that conflicted with natural precepts or the customary law of the country, placed the documents upon their heads and said: 'Let us obey them but let us not carry them out'.71The problems of the submission of the Indians and of the status of their property were discussed on the basis of the doctrines of the great theologians and canonists of the Middle Ages. Beautiful legends such as the one that attributes to the manual intervention of the angels the completion of the towers of the cathedral of Puebla dot here and there colonial history and traditions. The military orders established themselves deeply on Mexican soil and were prominent in the conquest and settlement of many areas as well as in the setting up of the structure of colonial society. The landed nobility of early Mexico and her successor of independent days, the

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class of landowners (both conservative and liberal) practically dominated the economic life of the country, In this connection it should be remembered that the last great attack on latifundia, with wholesale expropriation of estates, where the conditions of the peasants were in many points similar to those of mediaeval serfs, was carried out only fourteen years ago. In geographical nomenclature, there was in Latin America a great recurrence to religious names that range from the City of Our Lady of the Assumption and the Port of the Triumph of the Cross to the promontory of the Eleven Thousand Virgins.72Even today typical mediaeval first names are widely used by the rural classes of Mexico, some of which possess a sixteenth-century Castilian diction: even one of our latest presidents, of humble parentage, had the charming mediaeval name of Abelard.73A comparative study of mediaeval guilds and the guilds of New Spain (whose ordinances have been edited by Silvio Zavala) will, I am sure, prove fruitful. In this connection too, the importance of fairs (usually held in the atria of churches)74as means of distribution corresponds to the economic type of organization of mediaeval Europe. The peddler, too, is still a familiar figure in some Mexican rural areas. As I have tried to point out, the study of mediaeval survivals in America is a fascinating field of research, for the better understanding of the early history of the New World and for its later currents and developments where mediaeval ideas and practices are palpable even today, as well as for the better appreciation of the intrinsic vitality and permanence of such ideas and practices which as living forces were able to survive their own atmosphere and their own epoch and to bear magnificent fruits in a different environment beyond the seas in the New World which in many respects came to fulfill mediaeval expectancies.
MEXICO CITY COLLEGE 1 C. Sinchez-Albornoz, 'La Edad Media y Am6rica,' in Espaila y el Islam (Buenos Aires, 1943), p. 182. 2 De consuetudinibus et conditionibus orientalium regionum (Antwerp, 1485?). Cf. S. de la Rosa, Libros y aut6grafos de Don Crist6bal Col6n (Seville, 1891), and H. H. Hart, Marco Polo (Palo Alto, 1942), p. 442, n. 1. 3 Cf. J. Kirkpatrick, The Spanish Conquerors(1934), p. 6. On the Isle of St Brandan, cf. P. Gaffarel, de l'Am&rique Histoire de la d6couverte avant Colomb (Paris, 1892), I, 205. 4 Navarrete, Colecci6n de documentos, etc., II, p. 58. A. P. Newton maintains that Columbus, in his geographical ideas, was emphatically a man of the Middle Ages, and an uncritical one at that; the discovery of the New World, he adds, was accomplished not with Greek or modern geographical concepts but with mediaeval (Travel and Travelersof the Middle Ages [London, 1949], pp. 16, 18). 5 Crist6bal Col6n, 'Carta de la Cuarta Navegaci6n,' in Navarrete, I, 296-313. 6 Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 34. 7 L. Weckmann, Las Bulas Alejandrinas de 1493 y la Teoria Politica del Papado Medieval: Estudio de la Supremacia Papal sobre Islas, 1091-1493 (Mexico, Instituto de Historia, 1949). 8 'Carta Tercera de Relaci6n,' II (ed. Espasa, 1932), 50; cf. also the 'Carta Cuarta de Relaci6n,' p. 116, and the 'Carta Quinta de Relaci6n,' p. 244. 9 L6pez de G6mara, Historia General de las Indias, ch. cxliii; C. E. Chapman, Colonial Hispanic America: a History (New York, 1946), p. 58. 10C. Colon, 'Carta de la Tercera Navegaci6n,' (October 1498), in Navarrete, I, 242-264; Chapman, op. cit., p. 15. According to Cosmas, the site of Paradise was located 'beyond the Ocean' (ed. Mc-


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Crindle, Hakluyt Society, 1897, p. 33). The four streams of Paradise, which emanate from the Tree of Life are called Geon, Phison, Tigris and Euphrates by an anonymous writer of the ninth century (in Geogr.GraeciMinores, II, 513). Cf. M. L. W. Laistner, The Decay of GeographicalKnowledgeand the Decline of Exploration. 11Chapman, op. cit., p. 30; Kirkpatrick, op. cit., pp. 4-5. 12 C. Col6n,'Carta de la Tercera Navegaci6n,' loc. cit. 13 For instance, 'el primer domingo despues de Todos Santos,' as written by Diego Alvarez Chanca, Columbus' physician, instead of 'el tres de noviembre (de 1493)' (Navarrete, I, 198-224). 14 Pedro Martir de Angleria, Decadas, I, ii, 3; vii, viii, 1; vII, x, 3. 15 Hernan Cortes, Cartas de Relaci6n, II (ed. Epsasa, 1932), 84-85. 16Chapman, op. cit., p. 43. For another theory of the origin of the name 'California,' cf. R. Putnam and H. I. Priestley, California: the Name (Berkeley, 1917). 17 'Instrucciones,' in Colecci6n de Documentos ineditos de descubrimientos y conquistas en America, xxvI, 153. 18 Cf. 'Tercera relaci6n de la jornada de Nufio de Guzman,' in J. Garcla-Icazbalceta (ed.), Documentos para la historia de Mexico, II (1866), 451. 19H. R. Wagner (ed.), The discoveryof New Spain by Juan de Grijalva (Pasadena, 1942), pp. 22, 207. 20'Relacion del descubrimiento y conquista del nuevo reino de Granada,' by J. de San Martin and A. de Lebrija, cited by I. S. Leonard, Books of the Brave (Cambridge, Mass., 1909), p. 57. I am much indebted to this excellent book, which combines sound scholarship with literary attractiveness. 22 21 Ibid., p.6 Ibid. Ibid., pp. 62-63; Gomara, ch. cxlii. 24 Pedro Mirtir de 23Leonard, op. cit., p. 58. Angleria, v, ix, 4. 25 Colecci6nde documentosineditos para la historia de Espana (Madrid, 1842-95), I, 404, item 28, cited by Leonard, p. 46. 26 C. Colon, 'Carta de la Primera Navegaci6n,' in Navarrete, I, 167-175.
27 Ibid.

Columbus, for instance, writes: 'En estas islas, hasta aqui, no he hallado hombres monstrudos como muchos pensaban,' loc. cit. 29 M. Toussaint, Historia del Arte Colonial en Mexico (Mexico, 1948), p. 51. 31 Ch. xli. 30 , ,,. 32 Cf. L. Olschki, 'Ponce de Le6n's Fountain of Youth: History of a Geographical Myth,' in H.A.H.R., xxI (1941), 3, pp. 361-385. In mediaeval literature the Fountain of Youth is mentioned, among other places, in the writing of the Pseudo-Mandeville (ed. Hamelius, I, 202-203) and in the apocryphal letter from Prester John to the Emperor of Constantinople, attributed to Archbishop Christian of Mainz, Barbarossa's Chancellor (cf. Sir E. Denison Ross, 'Prester John and the Empire of Ethiopia,' in A. P. Newton, Travel and Travelersof the Middle Ages [1949], pp. 174-77, especially p.176). 3aCf. Chapman, op. cit., p. 54. a4Cf. Chapman, op. cit., p. 43, and H. E. Bolton, Coronado;in the days of Prince Henry the Navigator this legend was in vogue. 37 Ch. xxvii. 3 Ch. xi. 3aCh. iv. 38 Cortes, among other conquerors, 'saw' the Apostle St James fighting at his side: 'Carta Tercera de Relacion,' I (ed. Espasa, 1942), 218; II (1932), 31; 'Carta Quinta de Relaci6n,' II, 190. a9Pedro Martir de Angleria, I, iii 3. 40 A. Huntington, Catalogue of the library of Ferdinand Columbus (New York, 1905), cited by Leonard, op. cit., p. 21. 41Author of the Historia verdaderade la conquista de la Nueva Espana, a masterpiece of sixteenthcentury historiography, of which there are many editions in various languages. 2 Anales de la Biblioteca Nacional [Buenos Aires], viI, 124, cited by Leonard, op. cit., p. 124. 4aBernal Diaz del Castillo was a witness of those celebrations. 44 Gomara, ch. cxiii (pp. 14 and 17 of Vol. II, ed. 3941). 45 Cf. Sanchez-Albornoz, Espana y el Islam (1943), p. 191.

The Middle Ages in the Conquestof America


48Ibid., p. 277. 46Kirkpatrick, op. cit., p. 176. 47Ibid., p. 295. 49 M. Toussaint, op. cit., p. 77. 60Ibid., p. 79. 61Ibid., p. 88. 62 Ibid., p. 88. 54Ibid., p. 113. 53 Ibid., p. 82. 57Ibid., p. 91. 65 Ibid., p. 95. 56Ibid., p. 89. 68Such are, for instance, the cases of the Merida house and the public fountain of Texcoco, also mentioned by Toussaint (pp. 122, 26). 69Ibid., p. 81. 60Mudejar elements are noticeable in the 'Casa del Judio,' in the old house built in the Calle de la Amargura (today Argentina and Guatemala, in Mexico City), in the Moorish fountain of Chiapa de Corzo, etc. (ibid., pp. 122-124 and fig. 25). 61One example of this can be seen in the facade of the Dominican convent of Chimalhuacan of the second half of the sixteenth century (ibid., p. 97). 62Ibid., p. 85 and fig. 80. 63Among other constructions, where Romanesque reminiscences can be detected, it is sufficient to mention the chapel of St Gertrude in the Dominican convent of Teposcolula, the capitals of the cloister in the monastery of Amecameca; and the 'open' chapel of Tlalmanalco (ibid., pp. 97, 48). 64 C. Kubler, Mexican Architecturein the XVIth century, I (1948) 95. 65 Cf. Toussaint, op. cit., pp. 47, 48, 50. 66Ibid., p. 57, 58, 60, 61. 67 J. T. Lanning, Academic Culture in the Spanish Colonies (1940), p. 51. 68 I. A. Leonard, Don Carlos de Sigiienza y G6ngora (Berkeley, 1929), p. 182. 69 Chapman, op. cit., p. 197. 70 Both sides in the Mexican War of Independence (which in reality was a civil war) invoked the protection of the Virgin and depicted her, under different advocations, in their respective banners: the royalists had the Virgen de los Remedios and the insurgents the Virgen de Guadalupe. 1 In Spanish: 'Obedezcase pero no se cumpla.' A precedent of this may be found in Spanish mediaeval law where there was an appeal 'from the misinformed king to the well-informed king.' 2 The first-mentioned city is the capital of Paraguay; the seaport is located in Honduras. The first city-fortress ever built by Europeans in America, founded by Columbus in Espanola in 1942, was baptized 'the city of the Nativity (Navidad) of the Lord.' Religious names in American geographical nomenclature are practically boundless. 73President Abelardo L. Rodriguez, 1932-34. Other such names-Constantine, Toribius, Euphemia, Lazarus - are common. 74 In Mexico, the fairs of Acapulco and Jalapa, held in the atria of churches, were famous in colonial and early independent days.