Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Juan Ignacio Molina. the World's Window on Chile

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Juan Ignacio Molina. the World's Window on Chile

Article excerpt

Latin American

Juan Ignacio Molina. The World's Window on Chile. By Charles E. Ronan, S.J. [American University Studies, Series IX: History, Vol. 198.] (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. 2002. Pp. xvii, 318. $60.95.)

Juan Ignacio Molina was one of the more notable of the Creole Jesuits exiled from Latin America in 1767. In the Papal States he wrote several natural and civil histories of his homeland, Chile, and thus became the "World's Window on Chile." Ronan's work on the life and works of this exiled Chilean Jesuit constitutes a new and important contribution to the body of literature on the exiled Jesuits. Earlier authors who had written on the topic-Miquel Batllori, Antonello Gerbi, and Ruben Vargas Ugarte-covered the exiled Jesuits in a general way. With the exception of the Peruvian Jesuit Juan Pablo Viscardo y Guzman, there were few detailed works on individual figures. But Ronan himself significantly filled in that vacuum with his masterful biography on Francisco Clavijero (1977), the famous exiled Mexican Jesuit. This current study complements that work. Ronan acknowledges his indebtedness to Walter Hanisch, a Chilean Jesuit who had written considerably on Molina. But Hanisch's writings, though thoroughly academic, were generally very brief sketches on aspects of Molina and did not reach a wide audience outside of Chile. Ronan's work, much wider in scope and more thoroughly documented, will certainly reach that wide audience.

Ronan traces Molina's life from his early Chilean years to his exile in Bologna. At the same time he analyzes in depth all of Molina's various histories of Chile. Molina's natural history of Chile includes detailed descriptions of its mineral wealth, its fauna and flora, all based on the Linnaean system of classification. He describes the Araucanians (today Mapuches) in great detail, their customs and traditions, especially for the benefit of European readers, and in so doing sought to dispel many of the fantastic myths and distortions created by certain pretentious European authors who wrote about America without ever having been there. …

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