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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 3—Intertextuality: Tracing DPI’s Geneology of Discourse


← 58 | 59 → CHAPTER 3


The prologue often reveals the author's intentions for writing a text, as well as specific contextual situations that motivate his attention to specific problems. Acosta's prologue also revealed several strategies that he used to legitimize and authorize his positions and solutions. His missionary manual unifies a broad array of themes that had received varying degrees of scholarly attention in both the immediate and remote past. De Procuranda Indorum Salute contains an intersection of different discourses employed by Acosta to rebut the opposition and defend his methods for the evangelization in Peru.55 In addition to the discourses employed, DPI also assimilated structures already empowered by earlier canonical texts. Though Acosta's text is didactic in appellation, the list of textual descendants goes well beyond the specific genre of the manual. The different discourses of philosophy, theology, history, ethnology, and political theory flow through DPI in an attempt to synthesize an approach to the Christianization of Native Americans. It also incorporates the structures of the philosophical treatise, the instructional manual, and the catechism into its six books. The text does not explicitly trace the pedigree of Renaissance European thinking regarding the nature of the Amerindians, evangelization of pagans, and the role of the converted Indian within the Church; however, many discourses and structures used to treat similar philosophical and evangelical problems intersect in the fabric of DPI to address “new” American issues. In writing DPI, Acosta deploys these discourses...

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