At Chicago museum, Mexican Catholic history emerges

My article “At Chicago museum, Mexican Catholic history emerges” appears in National Catholic Reporter. Here’s a selection:

In a recent interview, Cesáreo Moreno, the National Museum of Mexican Art’s visual arts director and chief curator, told a tale of two Spanish waves. Early Franciscan, Dominican and Augustinian missionaries were comparatively compassionate and brought technologies, such as the pottery wheel and aqueducts, to Mesoamerica.

Following the Protestant Reformation and the Counter Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition’s moral policing influenced subsequent missionaries. From the 1560s until the late 18th century, Catholic missionaries erased traditional Mexican culture and life, particularly symbols and rituals that drew upon Mesoamerican cosmology.

“They came up with a pantheon of icons, in other words, ‘If you’re going to paint St. James the killer of Moors, this is how he is to be depicted. If you’re to paint an image of the Nativity of Christ, these are the elements,’ ” Moreno said. “They really came down hard. Nothing was left to interpretation. Everything had to be copied exactly and believed in this one firm way.”

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