Tuesday, February 22, 2022
https://events.uiowa.edu/58767

March 1, 2022, 6:30 pm, Art Building West

https://events.uiowa.edu/58767

In the middle of the sixteenth century, Indigenous communities in Mexico built 251 missions (conventos) at a moment when drought and disease devastated Native populations by 80%. The conventos are among the largest buildings ever constructed in colonial Latin America. They were once considered to be manifestations of the ‘spiritual conquest’ – the forcible conversion of Indigenous peoples by Spanish missionaries. Scholars using Indigenous sources have recently revealed that Native artists, patrons, and labor regimes were critical to the development of monumental Christian art and architecture in Mexico. But what happened inside the conventos after the vaults were set and the paint had dried? Taking us inside the convento’s literary, pictorial, and architectural spaces, this talk explores two intertwined phenomena: the ongoing intervention of Indigenous peoples in the institutional and ritual life of Franciscan missions, and the concurrent settler-colonial strategies that displaced Indigenous presence from the historical record. It argues that Franciscan representations of Indigenous peoples register unexamined notions of spiritual crisis among the missionaries. Considering how images of Native peoples emerged out of settler-colonial crisis, rather than conquest, stresses not only the limits of Spanish domination but is also vital for re-territorializing conventos as Indigenous spaces in the past and present.

Savannah Esquivel received her B. A. in Art History and Religious Studies at the University of Iowa and is Assistant Professor of the History of Art at the University of California, Riverside, and the Fletcher Jones Foundation Fellow in The Huntington-UC Program for the Advancement of the Humanities, an innovative partnership designed to advance the humanities at public universities. Her research focuses on the artistic and sociopolitical interventions of Indigenous communities within Christian spaces in colonial Mexico. She is currently working on a book project, tentatively titled Indigenous Insiders: Architecture, Experience and the Politics of Sacred Space in Colonial Mexico, which examines how Indigenous communities used their convents—its spaces, imagery, and institutional structure—to challenge settler-colonialism in colonial Mexico.