A Heretic in New Spain: Alberto Enriquez, Alias Brother Manuel De Quadros

Article excerpt

Fray Manuel de Quadros's case was much talked about in the second half of the seventeenth century, when the Holy Inquisition of New Spain had returned to its "floxedad antigua" (old laziness) once the embers of the autos-da-fe that were the culmination of the persecution of practicing Jews during the "Complicidad Grande" (Great Complicity) had died (Inquisicion). (1) Quadros's case was truly unprecedented. For fifteen years the defendant was kept imprisoned and the inquisitors and clergymen involved were perplexed, the first proceedings begun in 1663 and Quadros's surrender to secular hands as a heretic ratified in 1678. Let us familiarize ourselves with Quadros's character and the context that formed him, since only then can we begin to intuit some of the possible motives in the trajectory that sent him to the stake, even if we may not understand his unique destiny in an era and a society in which heretics were already exceptional.

Upon entering the Inquisition's jails on November 13, 1663, Quadros was "un hombre de buen cuerpo, entrecano de barba, enjuto de rostro y la nariz grande y el pelo algo crespo y la barba tambien, de edad al parecer de mas de 40 anos" (a fit man, graying beard, skinny face with a large nose and somewhat curly hair and beard, apparently over forty) (Inquisicion). (2) The property confiscated from him was pitiable: an old torn book, "Libro curioso, de phisonomia" (curious book, about physiognomy), that dealt with the properties of things such as the herb rosemary, "y tambien de experimentos" (and also experiments), which included a perpetual lunar calendar; some small papers that contained little stones, fruit, and other seeds; old and dirty rags that contained pieces of ointment, dark powders, pieces of something resembling paint, little brushes, and a larger paintbrush. Eight pages that seemed to be about judiciary astrology and a little bag in the form of an animal's paw with five claws, enveloped in a sock and containing indigo ink, were also found on him. Quadros was extremely poor and his library was composed of a few booklets of quack prescriptions and pamphlets of popular astrology. In the first hearing that Quadros had before the inquisitors, he declared that he was forty-three years old, that his name was now Alberto Enriquez but had been Brother Francisco Manuel de Quadros, and that he was a member of the Franciscan order and General Confessor of the province of Lima in Peru. He said he was born in Tlaltenango, near Zacatecas, in New Spain, and took orders in Lima fourteen years ago, which he renounced only two years earlier. His trip to Peru and his return to New Spain was a veritable odyssey and an example of the mobility characteristic of some peninsular and Creole Spaniards who lived in the two great Viceroyalties of the seventeenth century, New Spain and Peru. (3)

In fact, in 1621, when the prisoner was only one year old, his father suddenly abandoned Zacatecas in order to go to Peru, at that time at its peak in comparison with the situation that was beginning to affect New Spain around the same dates. Shortly thereafter, his mother and the children moved to Mexico, where the family lived until his father sent for them. His father was able to restore himself to a prosperous position in Peru. Accompanied by an uncle who also lived in Zacatecas, a black slave woman, and two black slave children, the family began an adventure which consisted of a trip by land--in sedan chairs and on the backs of Indians--and by sea, passing through Puebla, Oaxaca, Guatemala, Sonsonate, Realejo, Manta, Paita, Trujillo, Sana, and finally Callao, where they reunited with Quadros's father, who by that time had become the owner of ships and warehouses. The trip lasted a year, from the middle of 1632 until June 23, 1633, with interminable stops at various ports, as they waited for hypothetical departures. For reasons that were not stated, Quadros's father left his previous business to become the manager of the flour mill at the convent of Santa Clara in Lima. …