Eighteenth-century actor and playwright Eusebio Vela, long thought to be born in Mexico but actually born in Spain, dominated Mexico City’s Coliseo theater for decades and has been variously interpreted as a creole patriot or as a Spanish propagandist. Vela’s four extant plays, which treat the fall of Spain, Telemachus’s wanderings in the Mediterranean, the spiritual conquest of Mexico, and the life of Saint Francis, complicate overly rigid distinctions between Spanish and Mexican playwrights. They do not simply impose imperial ideologies; rather, they demonstrate Vela’s engagement with Mexican history and social reality while simultaneously reenacting the playwright’s own emigration from Spain and subsequent rooting in Mexico. The Francis play in particular, which was considered lost for centuries and has never before been analyzed critically, echoes the millennial apocalpticism of the first Franciscan missionaries while simultaneously questioning the institutionalization of Franciscanism in eighteenth-century Mexico. Vela’s attunement to the themes of disaster, fluidity, and conversion reveals that his surviving corpus is complex, nuanced, and worthy of further study and inclusion in the colonial Mexican theatrical canon.


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pp. 589-599
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