248 pages, 6 x 9
6 b&w illustrations
Release Date:15 Feb 2013

Indigenous Writings from the Convent

Negotiating Ethnic Autonomy in Colonial Mexico

The University of Arizona Press
Sometime in the 1740s, Sor María Magdalena, an indigenous noblewoman living in one of only three convents in New Spain that allowed Indians to profess as nuns, sent a letter to Father Juan de Altamirano to ask for his help in getting church prelates to exclude Creole and Spanish women from convents intended for indigenous nuns only. Drawing on this and other such letters—as well as biographies, sermons, and other texts—Mónica Díaz argues that the survival of indigenous ethnic identity was effectively served by this class of noble indigenous nuns.

While colonial sources that refer to indigenous women are not scant, documents in which women emerge as agents who actively participate in shaping their own identity are rare. Looking at this minority agency—or subaltern voice—in various religious discourses exposes some central themes. It shows that an indigenous identity recast in Catholic terms was able to be effectively recorded and that the religious participation of these women at a time when indigenous parishes were increasingly secularized lent cohesion to that identity.

Indigenous Writings from the Convent examines ways in which indigenous women participated in one of the most prominent institutions in colonial times—the Catholic Church—and what they made of their experience with convent life. This book will appeal to scholars of literary criticism, women’s studies, and colonial history, and to anyone interested in the ways that class, race, and gender intersected in the colonial world.
This superbly researched study of Mexico’s indigenous female religious should be read by any scholar interested in gender, race, and conventual writing.”—Colonial Latin American Historical Review
“One of the great strengths of this study is Díaz’s detailed discursive analysis of the numerous examples of religious literature that proliferated during the period . . . which have often been neglected by historians and literary scholars alike. Mónica Díaz’s fascinating and highly interdisciplinary study will be of great interest to specialists in the history and literature of colonial Latin America.”—Chasqui
“Contributes significantly to colonial studies, women’s and religious history, as well as to a more nuanced understanding of late colonial Hispanic American (especially Mexican) institutions and peoples. More specifically, it provides a context for and analysis of the written record surrounding the establishment and running of the Corpus Christi convent for indigenous women. Mónica Díaz’s study of a richly complex society provides a clear theoretical framework, brings together useful material about colonial religious discourses, and paves the way for further research and investigation.”—Hispanic Review
“[Díaz] has forged new interpretations by correlating her re-reading with knowledge from little-known sources. Her book is an elegant and well-written exploration of the complexities of colonial discourse about gender and ethnicity.”—The Americas
“A welcomed addition to the growing research on the adaptations and transformations of Indian elites in colonial society, as well as the study of convent writings in Colonial Spanish America.”—South Atlantic Review
“Díaz has done a very good job of acknowledging precursive and pioneering works in history, literature, and ethnic studies while establishing her own critical originality. Her occupation of a cultural studies viewpoint is in contrast to previous studies by both historians and literary critics, supporting her conclusions and opening new lines of dialogue.”—Jennifer L. Eich, author of The Other Mexican Muse: Sor María Anna Águeda de San Ignacio (1695–1756)
Mónica Díaz is an assistant professor at Georgia State University, where she teaches colonial Latin American literature and culture.
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