Sacred in the Making: Context and Content of Two Earliest Marian Accounts of the Americas

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 2:10 PM
Room 201 (Colorado Convention Center)
Rosario Inés Granados, Blanton Museum of Art
The first chronicle written in the Americas about a miraculous Marian image is the one composed in 1616 by the Mercedarian friar Luis de Cisneros on the cult of Our Lady of Remedios, first patroness of Mexico City. Significantly, it was published only five years later, in 1621. That same year Augustinian friar Alonso Ramos Gavilán’s history of Our Lady of Copacabana was printed in Lima, after a much shorter writing period. The coincidence in time for the appearance of these two chronicles clearly shows a desire to strengthen the Catholic faith. Both of these early sacred histories included reflections on the material character of the statues and paid attention to the miracles performed by them, as a way of sustaining their popularity. This paper, however, focuses on the differences that these two founding accounts had in their patronage. Ramos Gavilán was strongly encouraged by his order to research, write, and publish his work, aiming to present the Augustinians as the most adequate custodians of the shrine. On the contrary, Cisneros wrote his piece with no support whatsoever of his order or Mexico City’s Council, the main steward of Remedios’ shrine. He even had to look everywhere to fund his project and only relied on the support of the viceroy’s wife to have it see the light. This disparity affected the reception and influence of each of these chronicles: whereas Ramos Gavilán became the most cited work on Copacabana (along with a later piece by friar Antonio de la Calancha), not surprisingly, Cisneros’ failed almost into oblivion and was never reprinted, leaving Jesuit Francisco de Florencia’s account of 1685 as the most popular chronicle of Our Lady of Remedios.