“We of the Indian Nation”: Indigenous Identity at the Guadalupe School in Mexico City, 17531811

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 3:50 PM
Salon 1 (Palmer House Hilton)
Jessica Criales, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
In 1753, Jesuit priest Antonio Herdañona founded a school for indigenous girls in Mexico City, named after Our Lady of Guadalupe. The purpose of the school was to form indigenous girls in the Catholic faith and Spanish literacy, as well as Western gender norms and domestic skills, in an attempt to help root these cultural practices and perspectives more deeply within the indigenous Mexican population.

Nevertheless, the school also served to reinforce indigenous identity. The school’s connections with other indigenous institutions and communities, such as the boys’ school of San Gregorio or the convent of Corpus Christi, were subtle but constant, and understood not only by Spanish colonial officials, but the indigenous population of Mexico City as well. Students drew on their identity as both indigenous women and members of the school in order to try to influence colonial policies, and the operations of the school itself. Finally, in the early 19th century the students banded together in support of a proposal to transform the school in a convent, which they believed would make it more prestigious.

By analyzing school archives, student letters, and local histories, this paper seeks to better understand the interactions between ethnic identities and colonial institutions in late 18th century Mexico. While on the surface, the school was a vehicle for Spanish ideology, further investigation reveals the school stood as a nexus in an intricate network of indigenous support, mobility, and identity that undergirded life in the Mexican capital.