Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Bishop's Utopia: Envisioning Improvement in Colonial Peru

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Bishop's Utopia: Envisioning Improvement in Colonial Peru

Article excerpt

LATIN AMERICAN The Bishop's Utopia: Envisioning Improvement in Colonial Peru. By Emily Berquist Soule. [The Early Modern Americas.] (Phñadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2014. Pp. xii, 287. $45.00. ISBN 978-0-8122-4591-2.)

Through the 1770s and 1780s Bishop Baltasar Jaime Martínez Compañón produced an extraordinary record of the people, flora, and fauna of his bishopric, Trujñlo (Peru). Eager to foment his diocese's economy and to "civñize" its people, whom he deemed stifi to languish in barbarity after two centuries of Spanish tute- läge, Martinez proposed major expansions in education, new towns, and a sweeping plan to develop the region's silver mines. He also compiled a vast natural-history collection from the jungles, highlands, and coast, and commissioned 1372 watercolors of his territory. When he was named archbishop of Santa Fe de Bogotá in 1788, he shipped these to Spain, where the specimens were dispersed among royal collections and lost. However, the watercolors, collected as the nine-volume Trujillo del Perú (Madrid, 1978-94), survive in the Spanish royal library. Emily Berquist Soule's study brings much merited attention to this intriguing man and his intellectual project.

Providing a useful biography of Martínez, The Bishop's Utopia locates the bishop's collection and watercolors in his larger reformist ambitions. For although Martinez's collections were extraordinary in their time, the bishop himself well fits the model of the Spanish enlightenment bureaucrat. A Navarrese noble who had studied law in Aragon and Guipúzcoa, Martínez gathered information and promoted order and economic development in his Peruvian see. His plans for Trujillo were far from radical: indeed, they were a late-Bourbon attempt to enact Toledan ideals, of self-governing Indian pueblos, broad rural education, and state intervention to promote silver mining. The author focuses on the bishop's efforts to found towns, build schools, and to expand mining in the bishopric without resort to a mita (enforced service)

Good use of local archives allows the author to locate these efforts in local politics, which receive more attention than the illustrations of Trujillo del Perú. …

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