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Domesticating Empire

Enlightenment in Spanish America

Karen Stolley

Publication Year: 2013

Why has the work of writers in eighteenth-century Latin America been forgotten? During the eighteenth century, enlightened thinkers in Spanish territories in the Americas engaged in lively exchanges with their counterparts in Europe and Anglo-America about a wide range of topics of mutual interest, responding in the context of increasing racial and economic diversification. Yet despite recent efforts to broaden our understanding of the global Enlightenment, the Ibero-American eighteenth century has often been overlooked.

Through the work of five authors--Jose de Oviedo y Banos, Juan Ignacio Molina, Felix de Azara, Catalina de Jesus Herrera, and Felix de Arrate--Domesticating Empire explores the Ibero-American Enlightenment as a project that reflects both key Enlightenment concerns and the particular preoccupations of Bourbon Spain and its territories in the Americas. At a crucial moment in Spain's imperial trajectory, these authors domesticate topics central to empire--conquest, Indians, nature, God, and gold--by making them familiar and utilitarian. As a result, their works later proved resistant to overarching schemes of Latin American literary history and have been largely forgotten. Nevertheless, eighteenth-century Ibero-American writing complicates narratives about both the Enlightenment and Latin American cultural identity.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-13

History shows us that eighteenth-century projects are often left unfinished (Juan José de Eguiara y Eguren’s Bibliotheca Mexicana, for example), and this one might well have been too, were it not for the many colleagues, friends, and family members whose insightful guidance and unflagging support can never be sufficiently acknowledged here but to whom I am deeply grateful. To...

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Introduction: An Insufficient Enlightenment?

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pp. 1-10

Why don’t we read eighteenth-century Spanish American literature? This project began more than two decades ago as a meditation on this one central question. More precisely, how do we explain the almost universal omission— at least, until recently—of eighteenth-century texts and authors from the Spanish American...

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1. Domesticating Conquest: José de Oviedo y Baños’s Historia de la conquista y población de la provincia de Venezuela (1723)

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pp. 11-48

In book 5 of his Historia de la conquista y población de la provincia de Venezuela (1723), José de Oviedo y Baños describes an unsettling moment that serves as a cautionary tale for would-be conquistadors and for eighteenth-century historians of imperial conquest as well.1 He traces the route of a Spanish expedition led by Diego de Losada that set forth to conquer the Caracas Valley in 1567 in...

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2. Domesticating Indians: Juan Ignacio Molina’s Compendio de la historia civil del reyno de Chile (1795)

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pp. 49-83

Oviedo y Baños’s Historia de la conquista y población de la provincia de Venezuela, the focus of the preceding chapter, deals with one particular place on the map of Spain’s eighteenth-century viceroyal periphery. Chile represents an even more distant and contested point on that map. Initial Spanish efforts to conquer Chile in the sixteenth century were an expansion of Francisco Pizarro’s...

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3. Domesticating Nature: Félix de Azara’s Viajes por la América meridional and Other Writings

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pp. 84-113

In 1781 the Spanish Crown dispatched the Aragonese military engineer Félix de Azara to the Río de la Plata as part of a commission charged with resolving an ongoing border dispute with the Portuguese in that region.1 Azara would spend two decades in South America, during which time he compiled a wealth...

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4. Domesticating God: Catalina de Jesús Herrera’s Secretos entre el alma y Dios (1758–1760)

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pp. 114-144

Cloistered behind convent walls in mid-eighteenth-century Quito, a Dominican nun labored over the time-honored exercise of writing a spiritual autobiography, an account of her struggles to overcome sin and vanquish doubt on the path to salvation. As she wrote, Catalina de Jesús Herrera’s solitude was often interrupted...

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5. Domesticating Gold: José Martín Félix de Arrate’s Llave del Nuevo Mundo (1761)

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pp. 145-174

In 1803 Alexander von Humboldt made a visit to the Zócalo, the principal plaza of New Spain, where he witnessed for himself the cultural and economic vitality of Mexico’s viceregal capital. Adjacent to the Royal Palace, which housed the Mining Courts and the Consulate of Commerce, the Casa de Moneda (Mint) ...

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Conclusion: Unfinished Projects, Recuperated Remains

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pp. 175-178

The relationship between the Spanish American Enlightenment, the Enlightenment more generally, and modernity as it has come to be understood today represents a genealogy that is often contested, when it is remembered or acknowledged at all. The closing line of John Sayles’s film...


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pp. 179-236


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pp. 237-270


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pp. 271-284

E-ISBN-13: 9780826519405
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826519382
Print-ISBN-10: 0826519385

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2013