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Baroque Sovereignty

Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora and the Creole Archive of Colonial Mexico

By Anna More

Publication Year: 2012

In the seventeenth century, even as the Spanish Habsburg monarchy entered its irreversible decline, the capital of its most important overseas territory was flourishing. Nexus of both Atlantic and Pacific trade routes and home to an ethnically diverse population, Mexico City produced a distinctive Baroque culture that combined local and European influences. In this context, the American-born descendants of European immigrants—or creoles, as they called themselves—began to envision a new society beyond the terms of Spanish imperialism, and the writings of the Mexican polymath Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora (1645-1700) were instrumental in this process. Mathematician, antiquarian, poet, and secular priest, Sigüenza authored works on such topics as the 1680 comet, the defense of New Spain, pre-Columbian history, and the massive 1692 Mexico City riot. He wrote all of these, in his words, "out of love for my patria."

Through readings of Sigüenza y Góngora's diverse works, Baroque Sovereignty locates the colonial Baroque at the crossroads of a conflicted Spanish imperial rule and the political imaginary of an emergent local elite. Arguing that Spanish imperialism was founded on an ideal of Christian conversion no longer applicable at the end of the seventeenth century, More discovers in Sigüenza y Góngora's works an alternative basis for local governance. The creole archive, understood as both the collection of local artifacts and their interpretation, solved the intractable problem of Spanish imperial sovereignty by establishing a material genealogy and authority for New Spain's creole elite. In an analysis that contributes substantially to early modern colonial studies and theories of memory and knowledge, More posits the centrality of the creole archive for understanding how a local political imaginary emerged from the ruins of Spanish imperialism.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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p. ix

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Introduction: Sigüenza y Góngora and the Creole Archive

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pp. 1-28

The Museo Franz Mayer in Mexico City houses a decorative standing screen (biombo) whose magnificent double-sided painting strikingly evokes the tension between the imaginary order of seventeenth-century New Spain and the region’s violent origins (Figure 1). On one side, the Spanish conquest of...

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1. Allegory, Archives, and Creole Sovereignty

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pp. 29-56

In what was the most important seventeenth-century summary of Spanish colonial legislation, Política indiana (Indian Politics) (1648), the Spanish jurist Juan Solórzano Pereyra ends his discussion of legislation on indigenous subjects with the juridical problem of new lineages in the Americas. Considering...

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2. “Nostra Academia in Barbara . . . ”: Building an Archive on the Imperial Frontier

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pp. 57-109

In 1682 and 1683 the Royal University of Mexico celebrated the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception with an array of festivities, including a procession and an auto (mystery play), an atrium decorated with altars, and two poetic jousts (certámenes). Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, since 1672 a professor...

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3. Mexican Hieroglyphics: Creole Antiquarianism and the Politics of Empire

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pp. 110-157

Throughout the seventeenth-century Habsburg world, highly orchestrated urban spectacles provided one of the most public faces of political and ecclesiastical power. Combining parades, theater, music, and ephemeral visual art, including elaborate allegorical floats and firework displays, Baroque festivals broke the routine of daily life by providing mass entertainment in a...

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4. Counterhistory and Creole Governance in the Riot of 1692

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pp. 158-201

From the early sixteenth century onward, the specter of popular rebellion had haunted the colonial administration of New Spain. Although arguably in the years after the conquest the Crown feared an uprising by disgruntled encomenderos more than it did rebellion by indigenous subjects, as the viceroyalty matured the growth of a nonindigenous urban population...

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5. Creole Citizenship, Race, and the Modern World System

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pp. 202-249

The final years of Habsburg rule in Spain coincided with the perception, both inside and outside the peninsula, that the empire was in steep decline.1 Whether or not this perception was accurate, at the very least the rule of Carlos II, the “invalid king,” greatly weakened centralized administration from Madrid. During this period, Spain also lost its grasp over commercial..

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Conclusion: The Afterlife of a Baroque Archive

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pp. 250-262

In an obituary dated August 22, 1700, the Mexico City chronicler Antonio de Robles announced the death of his friend Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora: the Licenciado Don Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora has died; a lay priest, native of this city, great mathematician, [and] emeritus professor of the same discipline, he was in the Society of Jesus for seven years, leaving it in...


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pp. 263-316


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pp. 317-336


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pp. 337-346

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pp. 347-350

This book is itself an archive of influences. Its greatest debt is to Anthony Cascardi and José Rabasa, who lent to the project their dual visions of early modern Spanish imperialism, their intellectual rigor, and, above all, their constant support. I would also like to thank Emilie Bergmann, Margaret Chowning, Francine Masiello, and William Taylor for expanding my...

E-ISBN-13: 9780812206555
E-ISBN-10: 081220655X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812244694
Print-ISBN-10: 0812244699

Page Count: 448
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 824081572
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Baroque Sovereignty

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Archives -- Political aspects -- Mexico -- History -- 17th century.
  • Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos de, 1645-1700 -- Library.
  • Sigüenza y Góngora, Carlos de, 1645-1700 -- Political and social views.
  • Creoles -- Mexico -- Intellectual life -- 17th century.
  • Civilization, Baroque -- Mexico.
  • Mexico -- History -- Spanish colony, 1540-1810 -- Sources.
  • Mexico -- Intellectual life -- 17th century.
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