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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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Chapter one—Context for Evangelization: Crisis and Reform in the Peruvian Viceroyalty


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A proper introduction to the evangelization of the Native Americans and the production of José de Acosta's missionary manual, DPI, begins with the work of Father Bartolomé de las Casas, particularly his missionary manual, Del único modo de atraer a todos los pueblos a la verdadera religión. Las Casas played an integral role in the formulation of evangelical practices from the very beginning of the Spanish enterprise. Las Casas's early experiments in Spanish colonization and peaceful evangelization of the Indians formed the experiential basis for the preparation of his missionary manual, Del único modo. Throughout his life he continually lobbied the Spanish kings, Charles V and Philip II, and their advisors to reform the encomienda system8 because it authorized the enslavement and continued abuses against Amerindians. He was granted several opportunities to evangelize Native Americans beyond the reach of the encomienda system. However, each attempt eventually failed due to epidemics, aggressive slavers, self-interested immigrants, Indian uprisings, or the political machinations of Las Casas's enemies. A number of projects he was involved with, including the Hieronymite mission, various peasant emigrations, and the Tierra Firme land grant or Cumaná colony, broke down and sent Las Casas into a period of disillusionment.9

← 17 | 18 → Las Casas and Del único modo de atraer a todos los pueblos

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