Baroque Sovereignty

Baroque Sovereignty: Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora and the Creole Archive of Colonial Mexico

Anna More
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Baroque Sovereignty
    Book Description:

    In the seventeenth century, even as the Spanish Habsburg monarchy entered its irreversible decline, the capital of its most important overseas territory was flourishing. Nexus of both Atlantic and Pacific trade routes and home to an ethnically diverse population, Mexico City produced a distinctive Baroque culture that combined local and European influences. In this context, the American-born descendants of European immigrants-or creoles, as they called themselves-began to envision a new society beyond the terms of Spanish imperialism, and the writings of the Mexican polymath Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645-1700) were instrumental in this process. Mathematician, antiquarian, poet, and secular priest, Sigüenza authored works on such topics as the 1680 comet, the defense of New Spain, pre-Columbian history, and the massive 1692 Mexico City riot. He wrote all of these, in his words, "out of love for my patria." Through readings of Sigüenza y Góngora's diverse works, Baroque Sovereignty locates the colonial Baroque at the crossroads of a conflicted Spanish imperial rule and the political imaginary of an emergent local elite. Arguing that Spanish imperialism was founded on an ideal of Christian conversion no longer applicable at the end of the seventeenth century, More discovers in Sigüenza y Góngora's works an alternative basis for local governance. The creole archive, understood as both the collection of local artifacts and their interpretation, solved the intractable problem of Spanish imperial sovereignty by establishing a material genealogy and authority for New Spain's creole elite. In an analysis that contributes substantially to early modern colonial studies and theories of memory and knowledge, More posits the centrality of the creole archive for understanding how a local political imaginary emerged from the ruins of Spanish imperialism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0655-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[viii])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [ix]-[x])
  3. Introduction: Sigüenza y Góngora and the Creole Archive
    (pp. 1-28)

    The Museo Franz Mayer in Mexico City houses a decorative standing screen (biombo) whose magnificent double-sided painting strikingly evokes the tension between the imaginary order of seventeenth-century New Spain and the region’s violent origins (Figure 1). On one side, the Spanish conquest of Tenochtitlan unfolds as a series of battles erupting simultaneously throughout the pre-Columbian city. Although a legend in the lower left-hand corner labels key moments of the conquest depicted in the painting, the composition itself is geographical and spatial rather than chronological. A strong chiaroscuro marks the events represented: while light bathes the depiction of the Spanish approach...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Allegory, Archives, and Creole Sovereignty
    (pp. 29-56)

    In what was the most important seventeenth-century summary of Spanish colonial legislation, Política indiana (Indian Politics) (1648), the Spanish jurist Juan Solórzano Pereyra ends his discussion of legislation on indigenous subjects with the juridical problem of new lineages in the Americas. Considering first the case of Creoles, he asserts: “There can be no doubt that those who are born in the Indies of Spanish parents, commonly referred to there as ‘Creoles,’ are true Spaniards and as such should enjoy all corresponding rights, honors and privileges, and be judged as Spaniards, given that the provinces of the Indies are replicas of...

  5. CHAPTER 2 “Nostra Academia in Barbara . . .”: Building an Archive on the Imperial Frontier
    (pp. 57-109)

    In 1682 and 1683 the Royal University of Mexico celebrated the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with an array of festivities, including a procession and an auto (mystery play), an atrium decorated with altars, and two poetic jousts (certámenes). Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, since 1672 a professor of mathematics at the university, was entrusted with describing the events and publishing the winning entries for the poetic competitions. Printed in 1683 under the title of Triunfo parthénico (Parthenic Triumph), the resulting catalogue is one of the most complete collections of Baroque poetry in viceregal Mexico.¹ Most of the work reproduces...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Mexican Hieroglyphics: Creole Antiquarianism and the Politics of Empire
    (pp. 110-157)

    Throughout the seventeenth-century Habsburg world, highly orchestrated urban spectacles provided one of the most public faces of political and ecclesiastical power. Combining parades, theater, music, and ephemeral visual art, including elaborate allegorical floats and firework displays, Baroque festivals broke the routine of daily life by providing mass entertainment in a carnivalesque atmosphere.¹ In the urban centers in Spanish America, as in Madrid, public festivals commemorated religious and state celebrations throughout the year. The extent to which these spectacles dominated urban life is nothing less than astounding: it has been estimated that at the height of spectacle culture in Mexico there...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Counterhistory and Creole Governance in the Riot of 1692
    (pp. 158-201)

    From the early sixteenth century onward, the specter of popular rebellion had haunted the colonial administration of New Spain. Although arguably in the years after the conquest the Crown feared an uprising by disgruntled encomenderos more than it did rebellion by indigenous subjects, as the viceroyalty matured the growth of a nonindigenous urban population fueled fears of a general plebeian revolt.¹ Yet although insurrections in rural and provincial areas occurred regularly during the seventeenth century, prior to 1692 Mexico City witnessed only one large-scale disturbance when in 1624, protestors sacked the viceregal palace and trampled the portrait of the viceroy,...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Creole Citizenship, Race, and the Modern World System
    (pp. 202-249)

    The final years of Habsburg rule in Spain coincided with the perception, both inside and outside the peninsula, that the empire was in steep decline.¹ Whether or not this perception was accurate, at the very least the rule of Carlos II, the “invalid king,” greatly weakened centralized administration from Madrid. During this period, Spain also lost its grasp over commercial routes and failed to prevent lucrative trade in contraband within its empire. At the same time the Dutch surpassed much of the Iberian trade in Asia and, despite attempts to circumvent interviceregal trade, a steady flow of bullion and goods...

  9. Conclusion: The Afterlife of a Baroque Archive
    (pp. 250-262)

    In an obituary dated August 22, 1700, the Mexico City chronicler Antonio de Robles announced the death of his friend Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora:

    the Licenciado Don Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora has died; a lay priest, native of this city, great mathematician, [and] emeritus professor of the same discipline, he was in the Society of Jesus for seven years, leaving it in the year 1667. He printed several very erudite works, had acquired all the histories and reports of the Indies, [and] by royal decree and commission of the viceroy, Conde de Galve, went to the Bay of...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 263-316)
    (pp. 317-336)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 337-346)
    (pp. 347-350)