Katherine DeFonzo, a History and Spanish major in the Fordham Honors College of Rose Hill, is writing her senior thesis on the life of a Spanish priest from the colonial period named Vasco de Quiroga. DeFonzo came across Quiroga’s name by chance when she was doing a general reading on the Colonial period. Intrigued, she decided to research him more. Though she did not know what approach she was planning to take, she was fascinated by him and his background. DeFonzo’s interest in Quiroga was solidified when, she “read an article about the… political nature of the [architectural] renovations going on in Madrid at the time [for a Spanish course]… I saw some parallels in the way that Quiroga and some of the later Spanish kings were trying to centralize their authority.” With this realization in mind, DeFonzo knew that this was an interesting topic for her to research. In undertaking this project, DeFonzo hoped to integrate her passion for both History and Spanish while exploring a topic that could enrich her spiritual growth. Therefore, DeFonzo states that her intense connection to her spirituality sparked her interest in this topic because, Quiroga “was a priest, [and] I am a spiritual person, so it gave me a [unique] way to look at that time period as well”.
Quiroga was around 65 years old when he came to the New World as a member of the Second Audiencia, which was the Spanish governing body of Mexico during the colonial period. “While this role gave him the authority to try and found a town that was akin to those in Thomas More’s Utopia,” DeFonzo states, “he was also able to continue his efforts after later being named the bishop of the new diocese of Michoacan.” The product of Quiroga’s efforts include the two major hospital pueblos of Santa Fe de Mexico and, as a part of his jurisdiction as a bishop, the pueblo of Santa Fe de Laguna. However, DeFonzo says that “it is important to keep in mind that Vasco de Quiroga came to Mexico not long after the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. During this time, Spanish identity came to be very closely connected with Catholicism, and those who came to the New World believed that part of their mission was to bring the true Catholic faith to those whom they encountered there.” Quiroga had an astute background in canon law, which was a useful tool to fulfill his key goal: to convince the native peoples of the value of being Catholics and convert them into Catholic subjects of Spain. Quiroga, DeFonzo says, “hoped to show these native people a less brutal and more compassionate side of Spanish influence than many had previously known, and for him… a model similar to that presented by More would help him to do this while still ensuring that Spanish authority could be enforced.”
To establish a form of historical continuity, DeFonzo is not merely analyzing the life of the priest and those he worked with but is undertaking a comparative analysis between his work of founding settlements in Mexico and the city of Madrid about 100 years later. In undertaking her comparative analysis, DeFonzo observes “how [Quiroga’s] towns and Madrid in general were both organized so that the inhabitants would be very aware of public spectacle and ceremony. Laws called for a sense of uniformity among families living in Quiroga’s pueblos just as architectural consistencies contributed to an overall sense of uniformity in Madrid.” While the dynamic associated to the towns that he founded may not have necessarily influenced the city of Madrid, these similarities can provide a greater understanding of how the Spanish colonial empire maintained control over their subjects and, with the themes of uniformity and architectural consistency, establish a historical continuity within the time period.
In her research, DeFonzo was confronted with very few historical records surrounding the life of this priest. However, she is is working to integrate Quiroga’s own work, including the Informacion en Derecho and his Ordenanzas, along with the modernized editions of his writings contained in Juan Moreno’s 1766 biography of Quiroga, which was one of the first accounts written after Quiroga’s death in 1565. Despite this challenge she faces in her access to historical accounts, DeFonzo finds that she has “generally been able to find versions that preserve the original Spanish to such an extent that I believe my analysis will still be one that accurately takes into account the views expressed by Quiroga and Moreno.”
DeFonzo’s research is in its early stages, but she hopes to have her work finalized by the end of April 2018 under the guidance of history professor Dr. Sarah Penry.