BREACHING SPIRITUAL BORDERS: How Indigenous Religious Ontologies Colonized Christianity

Author(s): Shannon Iverson

Year: 2016


In 1524, only three years after the military conquest of central Mexico was complete, twelve Franciscan friars arrived in New Spain to begin an ambitious religious conversion program. The friars arrived in a territory where landscapes, buildings, and everyday objects (such as foodstuffs and ceramic objects) were already “mythologized”—deeply imbued with supernatural connotations. For the Spanish priests, Indigenous worlds were always potential minefields of spiritual pollution. Therefore, though they often worked very closely with and advocated on behalf of Indigenous peoples, they also attempted to maintain a boundary between their traditions and those of the “pagans.” Using Tula, Hidalgo as a case study, I investigate those attempts at boundary maintenance by comparing material culture from two very early colonial sites, a Franciscan chapel constructed in 1530 and a cathedral built in 1550. This study revealed two important points: first, creativity and innovation happened within material culture of the Indigenous tradition, rather than through imitation or importation of European goods. Second, the comparative contexts showed that Spanish friars were forced to adapt to an overwhelming tide of Indigenous religious traditions, which would permanently impact the shape of Mexican Catholicism.

Cite this Record

BREACHING SPIRITUAL BORDERS: How Indigenous Religious Ontologies Colonized Christianity. Shannon Iverson. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403892)


Colonial Religion

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;