Art in Latin American Architecture

By Paul F. Damaz | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Colonial Art and Architecture

The treachery and cynicism displayed by the conquerors of the New World in the systematic destruction of the native cultures and the transplanting of their Latin-Arab civilization had no parallel in any historical precedent. While Cortés and Pizarro were razing the great cities of Tenochtitlan and Cuzco, Emperor Charles V was melting tons of precious gold jewelry into coins, and Bishops Juan de Zumárraga and Diego de Landa were deliberately burning the invaluable codices in which Mayan and Aztec history was pictorially recorded. To make sure that there was no misunderstanding, the new capitals were built on the same sites as the old, the viceroys' palaces in the locations where the emperors' palaces had stood, and the cathedrals on the foundations of the former temples. Much has been said in condemnation of leaders of the invasion. One might point out, however, that they were no different from military men of any. period or any country--brave and ignorant.

The colonial era in Latin America is remarkable for the abundance and richness of its religious architecturee, sculpture and painting. For the purpose of simplification, it may be divided into three main periods: The 16th century, when most activity took place in Mexico;

The 17th century, when the artistic center of the New World moved south to Peru and Ecuador; The 18th century, which saw the development of Portuguese baroque in Brazil.

In all three periods, art and architecture remained essentially Iberian and were only occasionally and superficially modified by climatic conditions and existing local cultures.

Throughout the 16th century, construction activity in Mexico was extraordinary. Spurred on by the fever of evangelization, Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian orders, with the help of free labor, built some four hundred monasteries in seventy-five years. A great variety of styles were used, sometimes in the same building: Romanesque decorations, Gothic structure, Mudejar and Renaissance elements given a local flavor by Indian stone carvers. This native influence is revealed by the flat technique of carving, used in church ornamentation as it had been earlier in the reliefs around Indian temples. Wood or plaster polychrome statues and gilded wood were already part of church interiors. The paintings and frescoes that covered the walls of churches and monasteries were conceived in the impersonal Valencian manner imported straight from Spain. Although Indian painters tutored by friars helped to paint them, we can discern in them none of the characteristics of the Aztec codices.

The 17th and 18th centuries saw the maturity of Latin American colonial art and the establishment of baroque architecture. The period of conversion having come to a close and the civil administration being now well organized, the major builders became the secular clergy, who needed churches and cathedrals, and the civil authorities, who required public buildings and palaces. During the first half of the 17th century, baroque remained moderate and sometimes even severe, following the style created by Juan deHerrera


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Art in Latin American Architecture


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 234

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?