Mexico V: Expulsion of Jesuits From Spanish America
Program InformationSeries: A Moment in Time
Year Produced: 2010
Following the Spanish invasion and conquest, the Roman Catholic Order of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, were a powerful and sometimes intrusive force for education and evangelism in Mexico.
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Lead: Following the Spanish invasion and conquest, the Roman Catholic Order of the Society of Jesus, or Jesuits, were a powerful and sometimes intrusive force for education and evangelism in Mexico.
Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.
Content: In the 1520s, following the Spanish Conquest, Catholic religious orders--Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians--began arriving in the Americas as part of a vast missionary movement. Their purpose: the conversion of indigenous peoples to Roman Catholicism. The Spanish Crown justified the conquest in part by insisting that the occupation of the Americas would expose and convert the native population to Christianity. Naturally, the Jesuits were among the last to arrive; their order was not founded by Ignatius Loyola until 1534--nor did the Order receive Papal blessing until 1540.
Nevertheless, after the arrival of the first Jesuits in Mexico City in 1572, their order--considered by many scholars to be more zealous and intellectual in this time period--began to take the lead in aggressive evangelism and education of the native population. The Jesuits built schools and missions and taught agriculture to the natives, moving northward out of Mexico City into the distant branches of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Native Mexicans came to trust the Jesuits, who intervened and tried to protect them from exploitation by other Spanish who needed cheap labor for cruel and back-breaking work in the silver mines.
The success of the Jesuits in education and evangelism was so powerful that they came to be seen as a threat to those in authority, both secular and sacred, in both the Old and New Worlds. In addition, their zeal and devotion to traditional Catholicism clashed with fashionable new ideas of the European Enlightenment, and as such they were repudiated by philosophical thinkers who advocated the use of reason in challenging ancient Church doctrine. Pressure began to grow to take the Jesuits down.
In 1767 King Charles III expelled the Jesuits from Spain and all of its colonies, including Mexico. Seven years later, Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Jesuit order. So influential and popular were the Jesuits among the natives that there were uprisings in the Americas after the Jesuits were expelled. The order was restored by Pope Pius VII in 1814, and it remains an influential teaching order in Mexico into the 21st century.
Research assistance by Ann Johnson. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.