Event Review

Vibrant lecture - vibrant discussion: John F. Schwaller about the Third Mexican Provincial Council

June 08, 2017

On June 1st, the Max Planck Institute for European Legal History hosted the evening lecture Mexico in 1585: The Backdrop of the Tercer Concilio Provincial by Prof. Dr. John F. Schwaller, Professor of Latin American History at the University of Albany and one of the leading scholars in the study of Nahuatl and Nahua culture as well as the history of the Catholic Church in Spanish America.

In the context of his forthcoming book titled Directorio para confesores of the Third Mexican Provincial Council of 1585, which he co-edited with Stafford Poole (University of Oklahoma Press, 2018), Prof. Schwaller’s lecture focused on the historical context behind the Third Mexican Provincial Council (1585), the most important ecclesiastical council held in Mexico during the colonial period because its constitutions proved definitive, governing religious life in the viceroyalty of New Spain for the following three centuries. Prof. Schwaller gave a vivid description of the social and political realities in the years surrounding this ecclesiastical meeting, highlighting the ongoing interactions between the different civil and ecclesiastical authorities in Mexico City, the viceregal capital of New Spain. He illustrated the ongoing debates within the municipal cabildo (townhall) and the members of the cathedral cabildo to provide glimpses into policy and juridical discussions such as the abuse of Indians in silver processing plants and agricultural ventures. Before a full house, the discussion thereafter was as vibrant as his lecture. Attendees were interested in a variety of topics relevant to the history of 16th-century Mexico. Questions involving issues such as the juridical impediments for mestizos to be ordained or to become members of the municipal cabildo, the different juridical treatment of peoples of African and Indian ancestries, as well as the reasons why the Decrees were only printed 40 years after the meeting or never went to press—as was the case of the catechism and the directorio (instructions) for confessors—characterized the intense debate.