The Medieval Heritage of Mexico

The Medieval Heritage of Mexico

The Medieval Heritage of Mexico

The Medieval Heritage of Mexico


The Medieval Heritage of Mexico is the result of more than thirty years' intensive research. This work examines, more thoroughly than any other, the medieval legacy that influences life in Spanish-speaking North America to the present day. Focusing on the period from 1517--the expedition of Hernandez de Cordoba--to the middle of the seventeenth century, Weckmann describes how explorers, administrators, judges, and clergy introduced to the New World a culture that was essentially medieval. This culture was, in some respects, a flowering--a rebirth, even--of the ideals and institutions of medieval Europe, at a time when Europe itself was in the throes of the religious, political, and cultural upheavals of the early modern period. That the transplanted culture differentiated itself from that of Spain is due to the resistance of the indigenous cultures of Mexico.


The present work is the product of an extremely extensive examination of primary and secondary sources of the history of New Spain, understood in its broadest geographical sense, and is concerned with the period that stretches from Hernández de Córdoba's expedition (1517) to the middle of the seventeenth century. This chronological frame responds to a simple demand of the method, for it is obvious that many medieval usages, brought from the New World by some of our ancestors (or imposed by their governors, either spiritual or temporal), possess currency even today—though they may have undergone adaptations or transformations—almost equal to the currency they had at the time when Europeans first set foot on the land which is now ours.

For this study I have also used modern historical literature on New Spain covering the same period, 1517–1650. Hence the Bibliography at the end of the present volume appears in two different sections: Sources and Modern Works. Obviously, this book is fundamentally based on the first of these. To emphasize this hierarchy of basic documentation, the sources appear in the footnotes in capital letters, and the modern works in capitals and small letters.

I must offer my most sincere thanks to those who have aided me in this investigation, which with a few forced parentheses has occupied me for more than thirty years. In the first place, to the librarians of El Colegio de México, the Central Library of the University of California at Berkeley, the New York Public Library, the National Libraries of Madrid and Mexico City, and the Ibero-American Library of Berlin, as well as to the archivists of Mexico City, Seville, and El Escorial. Also, and with equal warmth, to my students in courses or seminars of the College of Philosophy and Letters of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, of the old Mexico City College, and especially to the students who passed through my Seminar of Historical Research at El Colegio de México during the winter semester of 1980–1981.

Brussels, February 1988

The publisher gratefully acknowledges a subvention from The Program for Cultural Cooperation Between Spain's Ministry of Culture and United States Universities.

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