Propaganda and Political Legitimacy in Early Eighteenth-Century Mexico City

Friday, January 3, 2014: 11:10 AM
Holmead Room (Washington Hilton)
Frances L. Ramos, University of South Florida
In 1711, toward the end of the decade-long War of the Spanish Succession, the cathedral chapter of the archdiocese of Mexico published an impassioned account of its many displays of loyalty on behalf of Philip V. After almost two centuries of Habsburg rule, Philip V and his advisors were under no illusions that Spanish subjects would transfer their loyalty over easily from Carlos II and, for this reason, ordered constant public demonstrations of loyalty throughout the course of the war. Mexico City’s cathedral chapter responded accordingly and opened its account with Psalm 62, verse 12: “But the king shall rejoice in God, all they shall be praised that swear by him: because the mouth is stopped of them that speak wicked things.”

Using cathedral chapter and municipal council minutes and a large body of published sermons, this paper focuses on the secular and religious elite of Mexico City’s attempts to stop the utterance of “wicked things” during the War of the Spanish Succession. Loyalty to the Habsburg house would prove hard to combat, as evidenced by several people arrested in Mexico for supposedly rooting for the Austrian Alliance. In order to combat disloyalty, the municipal council, cathedral chapter, and all of the city’s convents organized a variety of public ceremonies in support of the Bourbon house, including masses and festivities honoring the birth of crown prince Louis I, funerary honors for fallen soldiers, and, finally, masses of thanksgiving marking Spain’s imminent victory in 1711. Taken together, these commemorations helped to cast the Bourbon king as Spain’s “savior,” a trope that would continue throughout the eighteenth century and shapes the historiography of the early modern Spanish Empire to this day.

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