Latin America colonial times
Latin America colonial times BY rvrn246 4. How does colonialism engage with notions of spirituality, witchcraft, and/or (ritual) intoxication? You may analyze how the distinctions between orthodox and unorthodox practices were distinguished (and oftentimes blurred). You may look at Staden, the readings on witchcraft and “superstition,” etc. Beginning in 1492 when the Spanish under the crown of Castile invaded the Americas, where their first settlement was in Santo Domingo, their main motivations were trade and the spread of the Catholic faith through indigenous conversions and conomic gain.
Due to these objectives they intervened and attempted to change every facet of the indigenous way of life including their ‘notions of spirituality, witchcraft, and intoxication’. The indigenous population had formally been removed from the Jurisdiction of the inquisition by order of King Phillip the second in 1571, however the native people of Mexico and other invaded lands of the Americas were still prosecuted on accounts of witchcraft or being Nauatil (witches).
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Colonialism engaged with notions of spirituality and witchcraft by asserting their dominance in ttempts to completely annihilate these practices. They attempted to make sense of what they did not understand by attributing these happenings to witchcraft and condemning those prosecuted as witches. Further, as previously mentioned, they attempted to spread the Catholic religion by deeming the religious practices previously ‘inherited’ (treatise on Heathen superstition) by the indigenous population as acts of witchcraft.
In his letter to Reverend Don Francisco Manso de Zunga, Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon a Spanish navigator of the sixteenth centaury wrote that he reasons behind attempting to completely eradicate the superstitious ways of the people he regarded as Indians was that some of their practices such as “drunkenness was not permitted to them even in their heathen state” and was punishable by death. 39) His reasons behind “scraping of drunkenness from the memory of humanity’ (39) is that even to those who are believed to be Pagans or non believers (heathens) (39) it was prohibited, therefore once baptised and accepted as Christians it is was a sin to indulge in these acts. To increase the spread and onversion to Catholicism within the Indians, Alarcon, validates the eradication of their customs. Further in his letter Hernando Ruiz de Alarcon explains how by indulging in these superstition practices the Indians are harming themselves.
He states “This (their drunkenness) is the cause of the total destruction of the health of their bodies, and consequently the sufficient and principal barrier to their preservation and increase” (39). Alarcon explains that the deepness with which these practices have fastened into the native American culture leads him to believe that the ministers have entered late into their parishioners’ language. ” (40). Here we get an indication that despite their conversion to Christianity, Alarcon believes there is no hope to change the Indians’ superstitious ways.
In light of the Spaniards determination to spread the Christian faith they attempted to eradicate all other religious practices within the Americas. In his letter Alarcon states in his letter “others (superstitions) have a weak foundation, because a traditions of their false no concrete roots, they worshiped false gods’ and it was illegitimate; therefore, all ituals and practices for this cause were superstitious.
It is important for us to note that the work of finding and documenting the acts of superstition in Mexico was bestowed on Alarcon and therefore it was in his best interest to exaggerate the evidence he supposedly finds. Further, he admits that he is not fully capable to undertake this task because of his “defective intellect and small experience with writing” (40). In his Treatise on the Heathen Superstition Alarcon explores many aspects of the Mexican native population’s way of idolizing their god’s or goddesses, e attributes this act to an act of worshiping the devil.
This is another example of how the Spanish used the notion of witchcraft to propel the spread of Christianity. In his treatise Alarcon states “and by this means they usually communicate with the devil, because he usually communicates with them when they are deprived of judgement with the said drink and deceives them with different appearances” (48). In this example we can see how Alarcon uses Christianity and the threat of the devil to abolish drunkenness. Alarcon also uses the Devil to explain phenomenons that were beyond the scope of the Spanish understanding.
He states in his treatise, “they (the sages in Mexico) are always deceitful and ceremoniatic and seek to persuade people that they are consummate in knowledge, since they profess to know what is absent and to foresee what is in the future, which, it may be, is revealed to them by the Devil, who can, through knowledge and conjecture, foresee many future events. ” (45). Due to the fact that Alarcon and other Spaniards at that time could not make sense of why he prophecies or futuristic readings of the native Mexican sages were holding true, they declared it an act of the Devil and therefore a form of witchcraft.
Another example of the Spaniards condemning the unexplainable acts in the Americas is in the document “On her Deathbed, Maria de la Candelaria Accuses Michaela de Molina of Casting Spells” produced in Guatemala in 1696. In this text different testimonies of various people that witnessed the sickness of Maria de la Candelaria a girl servant. In the testimony of Dona Juana Gonzalez a Spanish woman and mistress of Maria, she tates, “the reason that she presumes this (that Michaela de Molina had casted spells on Maria) is because her servant, Maria had some fights with [Michaela] and not with anyone else. (170) The Spaniards and even the natives of Guatemala could not fathom why or how Maria was dispelling such large amounts of blood and various objects like stones, rags and hair from her mouth and nose therefore attempted to reason it by condemning Michaela in the act of witchcraft. It is important to understand why the Spanish were interested in Maria’s sickness. In Spain and other arts of Europe the acts of witchcraft were highly condemned.
People were afraid of loosing their power and therefore they feared the unknown. They condemned it by illegalizing all forms of witchcraft. Further, the act of ‘drunkenness’ and other practices not coherent with the beliefs of Christianity were also attributed to witchcraft therefore abolishing witchcraft became a means to spread the Christian faith specially since the indigenous population had formally been removed from the jurisdiction of the inquisition by order of King Phillip the second in 1571.