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José de Acosta’s «De procuranda Indorum salute»

A Call for Evangelical Reforms in Colonial Peru


Gregory J. Shepherd

José de Acosta’s De procuranda Indorum salute: A Call for Evangelical Reforms in Colonial Peru contextualizes and analyzes the deployment of Catholic missionary forces in the Andes. Its exhaustive approach to the ecclesiastic and political reforms of late-sixteenth-century Peru exposes the philosophical and legal underpinnings of Spain's colonial policies. As this book analyzes José de Acosta’s De procuranda Indorum salute, one of the most important treatises of the colonial period, it explores influences and intentions and reveals context and subtext. Comprehensive in its appraisal of Acosta’s intellectual achievement, this book is essential for scholars and students of this early period of Christian and European expansion in the Americas. Not only does Gregory J. Shepherd examine Acosta’s missionary manual against the controversial backdrop of Las Casas and Sepúlveda, but he also reconstructs the political atmosphere surrounding Toledo’s massive and intrusive transformation of Andean life. Most importantly, this text carries out a thorough study of the ideologies – Christian, Jesuit, and European – underlying Acosta’s appeal for political, social, and ecclesiastic reform.
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[L]os principios de la religión cristiana requieren especial sabiduría, industria y diligencia, como vemos que sucede en las nuevas plantas.

[The principles of Christian religion require a certain wisdom, hard work and diligence as can be seen in nurturing plants.] (DPI IV, 11, 522)

In 1572 José de Acosta, a Jesuit theologian known for fiery sermons and intellectual diplomacy, arrived in Peru to begin an apostolic mission in Spain's most cherished Viceroyalty. The early 1570s were formative years for Spain's establishment of a colonial presence in Peru. Pizarro's defeat of the Inca leader, Atahualpa, at Cajamarca in 1532 was a prelude to forty years of executions, uprisings, civil wars, and general unrest as Spanish conquerors and administrators attempted to “pacify” and “stabilize” the region. When Acosta arrived to join a community of over forty Jesuits in Peru, the recently appointed Viceroy, Francisco de Toledo, was in the process of implementing a number of major reforms. Toledo used reducciones and the mita to control the political, social, and economic aspects of Amerindian life. Reducciones were forced resettlements of Native Andeans into villages and the mita was a tributary system of forced labor moving workers and their families to mines and construction sites. Acosta's arrival coincided with these massive state-based efforts to control the native population. Also in 1572, Toledo's troops captured and publically executed the last autonomous Inca, Tupac Amarú, whose stronghold in the Eastern foothills of the Andes had resisted Spanish...

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