Hispanic Doubts and American Dreams: The Roots of Toleration in Early Modern Latin America

Stuart B. Schwartz
George Burton Adams Professor of History
Yale University

29 March 1999

If I told you that I was presently working on a book about religious and cultural dissidence and tolerance in the early modern Hispanic world, my guess is that most of you would assume that the book was going to be short--probably very short. By the 18th century, Spain, Portugal, and their American colonies had become entrenched in most European and later in the 19th century, U.S. histories, as classic examples of intolerance whose stories provided an exemplary and cautionary tale of how fanaticism, dogmatism, and intolerance, and the Inquisition could so benight a people as to close it off completely from enlightenment and progress. What better way to explain "the backwardness" of the Latin Americans and the progressivism of the Anglo-Saxons and Germanic peoples than to look at the closing of the Hispanic mind. Imperial Spain was looked upon as a model of an absolutist state and of a "persecuting society," and there was little recognition that there may have been people who held other views of the world. Now most of you--an enlightened audience-- also know that by the 1950s the books of Lewis Hanke, Manuel Jiménez Fernández, John Phelan and others revealed that in the work and lives of Bartolomé de las Casas, Francisco de Vitoria and other theologians and missionaries of the sixteenth century there had existed a more tolerant and liberal sentiment, a willingness to accept cultural differences and to find a place within the bosom of the Church for people of all kinds. Such ideas, and the fact that Spain tended to execute its dissidents at a lower rate than other areas of Europe has led historian Henry Kamen to argue that Spain, in fact, may have been the most tolerant nation in the Sixteenth century Europe. But in truth, Kamen's arguments and most of the histories of toleration are beside the point. They all tend to be about theological disputes and intellectual debates. As historian Heiko Oberman puts it : this is one of the "last preserves still firmly in the grasp of the intellectual historians."

What I have in mind is something quite different. My remarks today are about mostly forgotten common folk, many but not all illiterate, who were skeptical, questioning, and doubting about the "givens" of their society and who then carried these ideas into a new environment in the Americas. I would not argue that they constituted the majority of the population, nor that they were able to contest the power of official institutions, but I suspect that their ideas may have been very widely-spread and that these ideas created a soil of action and thought in which various kinds of opposition flourished. Much of what we know about them comes from the records of the Inquisition, a religious tribunal which sought to eliminate and control heterodoxy, and a source that we must always use carefully, but in its files we begin to catch a glimmer of a world of dissidence and of a vibrant popular culture at odds with authority.

Rather than keep you in suspense, let me make clear that I think that this talk is about two general historical themes. The first is the transfer of cultural understandings and practices from Europe to the Americas and how the peculiar realities of the Americas opened possibilities for various ideas and practices to flourish. Thus I am drawing on material from both Spain and its New World colonies. Second, I think the material I will discuss today raises interesting questions about the much debated relationship between learned and popular culture and although this paper certainly doesn't resolve this issue it certainly will provoke some questions about that relationship.

Let me start with a case. In 1594, the Inquisition of Lima arrested Juan de las Heras for statements that he made indicating that he believed that sex between unmarried people was not a sin. The arrest was no surprise. Since the 156Os, the Inquisition had been prosecuting many people for such beliefs. Upon further questioning, however, it became clear that Las Heras held a number of other scandalous and heretical ideas--what the Inquisition called "propositions,"-- including another common belief; that "each person being good can save themselves in their own law," in other words a rejection of the exclusive validity of the Church and an acceptance of other faiths. He went even further in his condemnation of the way things were, and when questioned about the relations between Catholics and the Protestants, he had responded:

"both sides are wrong for they have torn the Faith asunder,and in Asia there are places where they know God better than in the Church."

Thought to be mad by some of his interrogators, obstinate by others, he refused to retract these "truths." For these ideas and for his refusal to recant, he paid the ultimate price. He was burned a1ive.1

Las Heras' attitudes toward both sexuality and toward other faiths were expressions of persistent and common doubts. These doubts took many forms; skepticism about the power of the saints or the symbol of the cross, doubt about the virginity of Mary, disbelief in the existence of Heaven, Hell, or the Devil, disagreement with the policies of Church or state toward minorities and dissidents, and a belief in magic, astrology, and other alternative systems of dealing with the world.2

While the Indies offered to theologians and missionaries utopian possibilities for a triumphant Church and to statesmen the fulfillment of dreams of universal imperium, to others like Las Heras- mostly forgotten Spaniards and then their mestizo descendants-- America elicited other dreams, those of carnal satisfaction, of cultural and religious understanding, and sometimes of the two together. Despite the pressures of the Church and the State to suppress these propositions, both the attitude toward sex and salvation shared common roots in practical and popular skepticism.

Let us take another paradigmatic case. Francisco de Escobar was a Peruvian mestizo of the first generation after the conquest. Born about 1543,he had grown up on his father's hacienda, surrounded by Indians and black slaves. It was said that he would sometimes stand on a cart and in a scene straight from Don Quixote he would preach to the slaves "the things of Amadis and from the books of chivalry." Educated to read and write by his father, he eventually held lands and Indian dependents. Escobar was apparently completely unrestrained in his sexual appetites. He danced and drank with the Indians, lived amancebado for many years, slept with many Indian women and was accused of telling other mestizos and Indians to take the women they desired because God had said, "cresite et multiplicamini et replete terram." What brought him to the attention of the Inquisition, however, was an argument with his neighbors. They had complained that his Indians did not attend mass and that if he cared more for their salvation his fields would be more fertile. He responded:

Shut up and leave the Indians alone. There are many in Lima before the altars who have the Devil in their hearts while others are in the mountains who have their hearts with God... Do you think it is everything to have beads around your neck or go around praying? This is hypocrisy.

To which his neighbor replied, "better to sin as a hypocrite than to wallow like a pig in the darkness of vice."3

Escobar's testimony reveals that doubts about the body and the soul, about sex and salvation both flourished in the context of the reality of the Indies and that the existence of different peoples with different ways provoked a rethinking and redefinition of basic cultural and religious understandings. Not surprisingly, Spaniards confronted these new conditions by drawing on existing understandings often already at odds with the prescriptions of Church and state. That is why it is worth turning our attention to precedents in Spain as a way of understanding and contextualizing America.

The history of tolerance in Early Modern Europe has produced a rich and varied literature, most of which is of little use to this analysis. Emphasis in the historiography of toleration falls on 18th century authors- Spinoza, Bayle, Locke, and Voltaire--These Enlightenment figures of course drew on an earlier medieval and Early Modern tradition and on the writings of men like Nicolas de Cusa, Erasmus, and Jean Bodin, all of whom had written important, if sometimes unpublished, works advocating accommodation, acceptance or toleration of religious differences. Some of the works of these authors such as Bodin's Colloquium Heptaplomeres were radical in their acceptance of dissidence or concordia discours as a means of producing social harmony and in a belief that "brothers should live in unity," but such writings circulated among a limited, highly educated public.4 The historiography of toleration then concentrated on learned discourse and on the political accommodations. The story told is one of increasing toleration, produced by political or dynastic necessity (the need for Catholics and Protestants to survive amongst each other in the 16th century), practical considerations (readmit the Jews because it was good for business) in the 17th, and then by the rational arguments and skepticism of Spinoza,Locke, Voltaire, and others.5

What has been virtually absent from these discussions is any consideration of popular understandings and attitudes and the ways in which these may have intersected with learned discourse and debate. Readers of Carlo Guinsburg's The Cheese and the Worms will remember that its protagonist, the Friulian miller, Domenico Scandella, "Menocchio," held some seemingly very modern and tolerant ideas about the possible validity of other religions. Basing himself in Boccaccio's tale of the three rings (metaphors of the three faiths), Menocchio had told the Inquisitors, "each one feels that his faith is the best but no one knows which is best." He had come to the conclusion that only God knew which was the best and that all might be valid, and he extended this idea not only to the three religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, but to heretics as well. All could be saved "in the same way," by God's grace for God loved a11.6 Menocchio's ideas on this issue it appears were neither so modern nor so singular as they first appear. In the Hispanic world there were many Menocchios.

How widespread throughout Europe these alternative ideas about the validity of all religions were is a matter for further research, but it seems clear that there existed in Spain from the Middle Ages a popular tradition that "each can save himself in his own law (cada uno se puede salvar en su ley)," a phrase repeated with slight variation in many cases brought before the various tribunals of the Inquisition both in Spain and in its overseas possessions. It was common to say, in an often repeated refrain, "Better a good Moor than a bad Christian (Mejor un buen moro que un ma1 cristiano)" and men and women of very simple background, often illiterate, workers and peasants, Old Christians as well as converted Jews and Moors and their descendants, expressed this idea but so too did some clergymen and theologians.

The sources of such ideas were varied. There was a medieval theological tradition in which the validity of natural law, "perfect ignorance (never having the true faith revealed)," and the possibility of salvation outside the Church had all been long debated.7 Aquinas' position that Christianity was the universal path that "alone" leads to the liberation of the soul had to be reconciled with the idea that salvation was available to all mankind and so a series of apologetic arguments developed recognizing that God could be recognized by natural theology and human reason but that sin prevented salvation by this path. By the late Fifteenth century, however, the position of the Church and that defended by the Inquisition was, "nulla salus extraecclesiam," that no salvation was possible outside the Church or without the sacrament of baptism. Nevertheless, Spain in the Sixteenth Century produced dissenting learned voices. The Aragonese humanist Fadrique Furio Ceriol in his El consejo y consejeros de1 príncipe (1559) argued a universalistic position that, "there are only two lands in all the world; the Land of the Good and the Land of Evil. All the Good, whether Jews, Moors, gentiles, Christians or other sects are from the same land, the same house, the same blood, and all the Evil are likewise the same." His ideas, however, were expressed at exactly the moment when the classic formulation of the condemnation of the Jews as inheritors of the crime of human and divine lesa majestas and of "infected blood" were being formulated.8

But aside from a learned discourse of tolerance, Spain's peculiar multi-religious and pluri-cultural traditions had probably contributed to a certain recognition of and accommodation to other religions over a long period of time. While relationships between these religions was by the Fifteenth century usually hostile, on the personal level, continual interaction and association between individuals, families, and communities had contributed to a sense of hostile accommodation but also of live and let live, and to feelings of cultural relativity and even of admiration. Bartolomé Espin, a middle aged cloth merchant from Córdoba, in a discussion about the bad weather and shortages in Spain said that God gave good weather and abundance to Moors and pagans because they "lived better in their law than we live in ours," and he added, "they love and care for each other well while we wish to beat each other, and if we loved each other and kept God's law, he would give us His mercy."9

We must remember that in late Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century Spain, especially in regions like Andalucia and the southeastern Levante (Valencia, Murcia) remained fluid, frontier societies in which a variety of peoples of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds interacted on a regular basis. Despite the gathering forces of political centralization and religious unification symbolized by the fall of Muslim Granada and the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, Spanish society retained significant cultural variety and after that date, a certain degree of (increasingly surreptitious) religious dissidence. Moorish slaves, the result of the wars of reconquest, were still found in significant numbers in southern Spain as were large numbers of recent Muslim converts to Christianity (Moriscos). After 1492, former Jews, those who had chosen to remain after the expulsion order, lived in virtually every city and many towns. Moreover, in places like Mallorca, Valencia, Seville, and Cádiz, thousands of Christians who had been captured and brought to North Africa or elsewhere in the Islamic world returned by one means or another to Catholic society, and while always under suspicion as renegades (renegados) they introduced into Spanish society a certain cultural understanding based on their experiences.10 There were those among them who were willing to say that the Moors were charitable, that the Moors too believed in God, and, as was commonly said, that "they could save themselves in their own law."

It is important to note the timing here. While the 1492 expulsion of the Jews, the fall of Granada, and the Columbian voyage were contemporaneous events that together marked the beginning of a triumphant imperial and Catholic Spain, they did not signal the immediate end of a Spanish society characterized by religious and cultural differences and accommodations. The establishment of the mechanisms of control and the authority of the Inquisition met with considerable opposition within various sectors of the population, and well into the seventeenth century crimes against the authority and dignity of the Inquisition continued to be a major category of the tribunal's attention, constituting about eight percent of all its cases.11 There were many who objected to the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 and even to the war against the Muslims of Granada. "How do you expect it to rain, when the king is going to take the Moors' homes away, when they haven't done him any harm," argued a Sorian farmer faced with drought in the 1480s. Reprimanded that the war would spread the Catholic faith, he responded in a not untypical fashion, "How does anyone know which of the three laws God loves best?" An almost exact paraphrase of Menocchio's be1ief.12 The same argument was made a century later in the face of what was perceived as injustice. Sympathy for traditional enemies was sometimes expressed as a means of criticizing the official policies of Church or crown. Take the case of another Francisco de Escobar, the town cryer (preqonero) of Jaen who believed that the Church was leading to the world's perdition. Why, he asked, should the "Moriscos be taken from their little homes." Like many, he believed that, "the Moor should be left in his law, and the
Jew in his."13

Who expressed these ideas of acceptance and equality? In the face of religious and political centralization and uniformity, it is not surprising to find that subjugated groups and minorities articulated intellectual defenses protecting the integrity of their past faith and the validity of the religion of their ancestors. Both converted Jews and Muslims developed an attitude that the "old law" was also valid and that the souls of their ancestors were not in hell but rather that they too had gone to heaven. Many converts, especially those from Islam were simply unwilling to believe that their ancestors had been denied access to eternal peace. Forced to accept the validity of the Church, they retained doubts about their new faith and its exclusive claim to truth. When pressed these doubts emerged. In 1584, Inés, a forty-six year old morisca slave when being told that Mohammed had deceived many people who were all going to hell responded with the traditional refrain:

"God knows who goes to heaven and who to hell, the Moor or the Christian. . Whoever made the law of the Christians, made the law of the Moors as well." Three turns of the rack could not get her to change her opinion.14

These thoughts circulated widely among the converted Muslims. Beatriz Zureda, a native of Algiers and wife of a Morsico slave had argued like many that good Moors and good Christians could save themselves in their respective laws while bad Moors and Christians went to Hell."15A popular formulation much like that of the humanist Furio Ceriol. Another Granadan morisco, García Avellan claimed that the "Christians were saved in the Law of God and the Moors of Africa and Barbary who did not know [that Law1 were saved in their own Law." He was later accused on wishing to join other Muslims because his father and grandfather had been Muslims, and he wished to be one as we11.16 But his proposition in fact paralleled the old theological argument of "perfect ignorance," that God would save those who knew no other way.

Caught between two beliefs, There were various alternatives. Gaspar Vayazan, a morisco laborer in Helche sought a practical solution. He told the Inquisitors of Murcia that he believed in all three Laws, that of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that of Mohammed, and that of Señor Moses, "because if one let him down, the others would not."17 Some Muslim converts to the Church reached a rational conclusion that the cause of their predicament was God himself. Luis Borrico Gajo who resided in Almansa was arrested in Murcia in 1567 for claiming that God himself "had sinned and had not done his craft (oficio) well by making some Christians, some Moors, and some Jews, and that all should be one."18

These cases and other like them indicate the incomplete nature of the process of conversion but also the continual contact between Old and New Christians. Let us take the case of Francisco Bocacho, a young morisco of Alicante arrested by the Inquisition of Murcia in 1597. He had been together with a group of Old Christians singing the romance of the Cid when he had lamented that the Cid had taken Valencia for "back then we were all Moors." When told there was no salvation except for Christians he responded that he did not care. "No, my mother a Moor, my father a Moor, I too a Moor." The Inquisitors were lenient for he was deemed to be a rustic of little understanding, "raised in the countryside," and he had argued that what he said was, "Never Moor a good Christian, nor Christian a good Moor," apparently the mirror refrain to the expression, "Better a Good Moor than a bad Christian."

Bocacho's case raises the image of a society in which Moriscos and Old Christians rubbed elbows continually, knew each other by name, saw each other in church, and where they might gather together to sing the verses of the Cid. Everyday associations and intimacy led to challenges, retorts, and discussions in which these opinions were expressed, leading to denunciations to the Inquisition. Close association and intimacy produced the twin results of disdain and acceptance and belligerent intimacy. The question of the validity of the Three Laws was a matter of common concern and continual discussion.

Jews presented a special problem. The expulsion of the Jews in 1492 and the conversion to Catholicism of those who remained created the conditions for an intense Inquisitorial campaign against these "New Christians" in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. The campaign consisted not only of large scale prosecutions of those who held on to their former religion but also an accompanying ideological program of the demonization and denunciation of the New Christians as a treacherous, unstable, and degenerate group within society. In both Spain and Portugal, a literature of sermons, theological treatises, and devotional works planted a broad field of potential religious fervor, mistrust, and hate against the Jews and the New Christians who were generally described as one and the same. The basic position of the Church was one of condemnation and continuing bias.

Not everyone agreed. Even within the Inquisition itself some believed that the full integration of the conversos into the Church was made impossible by policies of exclusion which set them apart.19Such ideas had popular parallels. Giraldo de Goz, an archer in the kings' service from Artois was prosecuted in Toledo in 1590 for stating that exclusion of the descendants of Moros and Jews from positions was wrong because, as he said, "the Church should be equal for all."20

Given the intense program of the Inquisition against New Christian converts and the accompanying ideological campaign, it is surprising to find expressions of sympathy toward the victims of the Inquisition and toward the Jews and New Christians in general. The autos de fe of the Inquisition were designed as spectacles and object lessons where the doctrine of the Church and its coercive power could be made obvious to the population as a whole.

The lessons of what would happen to heretics and dissenters constituted a "pedagogy of fear," which the Inquisition hoped would have an effect on all of society. Certainly, the punishments meted out were a cause of constant discussion.21There are many references to conversations about the actions taken and the punishments administered in various auto de fe. But, this "pedagogy of fear" encountered resistance for these conversations sometimes elicited unexpected opinions. There were persons who were willing to speak out against what was perceived of as a policy both practically misguided and against God's wishes and the principles of Christian charity, and not everyone agreed that the Jews were particularly evil or always responsible for Spain's ills.

Let us take, for example, the case of Fernando de Lucena, a public scribe, aged thirty-six from the town of Mahona. He had been denounced by a number of friends because in a discussion of some people tried by the Inquisition of Toledo, he had said, "that the good Moor should die as a Moor, the Jew as a Jew, and the Christian as a Christian." When someone had lamented that those condemned for judaizing had been stubborn to reject the Cross until the very end, Lucena had argued that those who had not rejected their faith had died "like good soldiers, never taking a backward step." There was admiration here for constancy to ones' belief. The idea that Jews dying for their faith were martyrs like the Christians who had died for theirs was expressed from time to time not only by conversos but by Old Christians as well.22One man in Evora, Portugal told Inquisitors he would not attend an auto de fe because when Santa Bárbara had been martyred there had been lightening bolts from heaven and that he would not go to see the Jews martyred for fear that God would do the same again. Such ideas were related to a more general acceptance of Judaism as one of God's valid Laws. In 1638, Juan Rodríguez, a twenty year old blacksmith from Cádiz and an Old Christian despite the fact he had been born in Portimão, Portugal, got into a discussion over what had happened at an auto de fe in Evora where street urchins had pelted the condemned Jews with so many stones that one had been killed. When someone had lamented that it was a shame since the condemned could have saved their souls so easily, Rodríguez had said, "Shut up, you don't understand this; how do you know they are going to hell? Each person needs to look after himself. These men and all those who die in this way die innocent and without guilt."23

By the late Sixteenth Century, even after Lepanto the Christian attitude toward Muslims and Jews, while both partaking of an official discourse of condemnation and demonization, differed in some ways. The Ottoman presence in the Mediterranean and the Barbary threat on the Spanish coasts made Moriscos a dangerous potential internal enemy, a fear shared by the state and in the popular mind. "Hay moros en la costa (there are Moors on the coast)" is still an expression that means "be careful." The Jews, despite their vilification and the fairy tales of ritual murders and desecrations, presented no such threat. In the over 400 recorded dreams of Lucrecia de León, the young popular prophetess of Madrid in the late 158Os, there are many references to the threat posed by Moors and Turks but there is virtually no mention at all of the Jews.24The Jewish "threat" was more a product of official and ecclesiastical fashioning than of popular perception.

Despite an intensification of Inquisitorial prosecution of the Jews after 1580, by the mid seventeenth century, the earlier strain of universalism and tolerance of Jews was being if not replaced then augmented by a new philo-Semitism born out of practical economic considerations and apocalyptic beliefs. The policies of the Count Duke of Olivares in Spain, Colbert in France, and Cromwell in England all reflected a leniency toward Jews and toleration of their residence within the respective countries because of the perceived mercantile and economic advantages that they might bring. In addition, apocalyptic beliefs centered on the necessary conversion of the Jews, a major step toward the new millennium, reinforced a new openness to Jewish residence in a number of Western European countries, particularly England and Holland.25In Spain and Portugal, the Inquisition and segments of the nobility held the line against such ideas.

This new practical toleration was at times accompanied but a renewed interest in Jewish liturgy and belief and a fascination with the Jews as a people. Expressions of sympathetic interest from figures as diverse as the Portuguese Jesuit Padre António Vieira, Queen Christina of Sweeden, and the Count-Duke of Olivares underlined a certain acceptance in the face of the increasingly strident opposition and condemnation of the Church through the Inquisition. Such attitudes could produce strange results. Fray Fernando Ramírez de Arellano, a Franciscan born in Oran told the Sevillian Inquisitors in 1677 the typical story of a renegado; kidnapped as a child to Algiers, travel to Constantinople, conversion and circumcision, service on a pirate ship, and escape in Sardinia where he was absolved by the Inquisition. When he was arrested in 1682, he told a somewhat different tale in which he had gone to Algiers at age fifteen and had lived there as "a Turk" for nine years. After he had returned to the Catholic faith, he came into contact with some Jews in Cádiz and there he began to read the Bible "in observance of the Law of Moses," because "he greatly wished to be a Jew, to deal with Jews and to convince Catholics to believe in the Law of Moses." At some point he was able to convince the Inquisition that he had a brother who was captive in Barbary and received a license to go to the Indies to raise money for a ransom. Imprisoned in Cartagena de Indias, he admitted discussing Cabala with Jews in Alicante and of believing that Christ was not the Messiah and that he had simply been the servant of a prophet who had given him the gift of making miracles.

Whether Fray Fernando was really an atheist at heart (ateista en lo interior) as he claimed, is unclear but his association with all three of the traditional religions seems to indicate instead a man in search of a faith, although somewhat confused by the process. Interrogated on four separate occasions, Fray Fernando eventually recanted his error and stated that "he hated the Jews so much he would prefer to throw himself into a fire than to see them." Such contrition earned him leniency.26

The traditional acceptance of the possible validity of the three faiths was in the Sixteenth Century expanded to include the Protestant heresies, usually simply lumped together as Lutheranism. If God could accept other religions as valid, why not these former Christians (Catholics) as well? Francisco de Amores told his wife after attending an auto de fe in Valladolid where Lutherans were burned that the sermon preached there was against the teachings of Christ. "Each can save himself in his own law, the Moor in his, the Jew in his, the Christian in his and the Lutheran in his." It was the old refrain expanded to incorporate more of humanity.27 As Grabiel Balester, an old man of Mallorca put it in 1580, Christ died for all men, and all would be saved who were born in his image.28 To many, the Protestants and their teachings did not seem so bad; they were religious in their way, they were charitable, and they had belonged to the Church. Understanding of the theological aspects of difference were often confused but to many the criticism of Rome, marriage of the clergy, the questioning of the saints, and rumors about permitted sexual license all resonated among those who already had doubts about Catholic dogma as defended by the Inquisitors.

In the face of these universalist ideas, the Inquisition's position was firm. There was only one religion, the Church; all others were merely sects. Salvation was only possible through baptism within the Church. This message was broadcast widely but it encountered a common sense resistance, persistent, practical and permissive, sometimes based on a reading or misunderstanding of scripture that allowed for the salvation of all humankind. The Inquisition responded subtly. The offending propositions were sometimes characterized as heretical but not always. Punishments of uneducated offenders tended to be lenient--fines, penance, instruction, and occasionally exile and whippings. Clergy and literate offenders and those suspected of heresy were treated more harshly and often subjected to torture.

Certain groups received careful scrutiny. All foreigners were watched carefully. The French merited special concern as potential Lutherans. Pedro Govion, a native of Baiiol where the sweet wine came from, told someone that the Lutherans went to Heaven if God willed it as did the Moors. Juan Viñas, a farmer from Tolouse asked those who later accused him was it possible that in France with so many honorable men, dukes, counts, doctors and ladies, all Lutherans, that all were going to Hell? When told yes, he gave the response of so many: "What do you know about who will be saved and who is lost? Only God knows."29

Such statements call into question the idea that these ideas of tolerance were a peculiarly Hispanic phenomena, the product of centuries of convivencia, shared contact that gradually disappeared under the increasing pressure of the Inquisition?. While the argument makes some sense, there is considerable evidence that popular ideas of toleration based on a common sense understanding of the Christian doctrine and perhaps on a residual of doctrinal debate could be found throughout Europe. The expressions of universalist ideas on the validity of all religions and the possible salvation of all good persons by Germans, Greeks, Flemings, Italians, and Frenchmen caught up by the Inquisition undercuts the argument that such ideas were the product of Spain's peculiar cultural situation.30Instead, these ideas seem to be widely diffused throughout Europe but became especially relevant in the context of Spain's multi-cultural reality. Moreover, the decline in prosecutions for this religious "indifference," after about 1620 did not necessarily mean that the ideas had disappeared but that either that people were less willing to speak or that the Inquisition's interests and projects had changed.

In Spain itself and in the Indies as well, foreigners as well as Spaniards and mestizos were denounced for expressions of tolerance. Let me cite three examples. Maestro Andrea, a shipbuilder from an island near Naples was denounced in Lima in 1587 for claiming that the Moors also believed in God and that "each person can save himself in his own law, and the Moors without baptism."31Juan Rixardo, called a Fleming but born near Hamburg who lived near Seville and worked as a distiller (aguardientero) had said in front of witnesses that, "there are good and holy men everywhere (even) among Turks and Moors." When told that they could not be saints, he had responded, "among them there are also saints and they can be saved without baptism or the Law of Jesus Christ." One witness reported Rixardo saying, "God is everywhere and any Moor or Turk who does good works can be saved." These propositions were considered heretical and Rixardo was arrested and his property seized. Although he claimed that his Spanish had been misunderstood, he was subjected to torture. He admitted nothing more and the case was suspended.32

The French were perhaps a special case as we have seen. Forty-five year old Juan Falcó from Narbonne expressed the universalist belief of many that, "Christians, Huguenots, Lutherans, and Jews all believed in only one God." When told that only those who were baptized and believed in Holy Mother Church could be saved, he answered with an argument based both on tolerance and common sense: "Neither you nor I can say that. . .and if everyone is going to hell the devils will have too much to do." As for the Jews, he recalled Christ's words, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." The Inquisitors of Mallorca found these sentiments smelled strongly of heresy but his defense that the words of Christ on the cross had to be respected tended to undercut his prosecution. He was sentenced to relatively light punishment and instruction in matters of the faith.33

These foreigners who had run afoul of the Inquisition seem to have been no less tolerant or accepting of the possibility of the validity of other beliefs than the Spaniards. Their interpretation of Christian doctrine or the words of the Gospel joined with a common sense practicality seem no less tolerant than their Iberian contemporaries. Whatever the lasting effects of convivencia, the ideas of toleration and the possible validity of a variety of religions seems to have been widely spread throughout Europe, even though expressions of such ideas were often dangerous.

These ideas lingered. In 1701 Inocencio de Aldama, a twenty eight year old free thinker from Alava, a vagabond with a good education and an independent spirit was denounced for saying that: "all can be saved in the law they profess," and "that we all come from the same stock, from which different shoots emerge and all of them bear fruit, and thus are all the laws and sects."

He defended himself subtly before his questioners and told them that not even the theologians of Salamanca could convince him that each person did not have his own destiny. Exasperated, they placed him in a mental hospital.34Granada had fallen long ago, the Jews had been expelled two centuries before, and few Protestants walked the streets of Madrid, but some Spaniards could still conceive of many different ways to God.

For these ideas of accommodation and of multiple paths toward salvation, the Indies had provided new tests and new opportunities. It was natural that the prejudices and pejoratives of inter-cultural contact would serve as a model for Spanish contact with the peoples of the Americas. As early as 1512 in the Laws of Burgos, the crown prohibited the use of the epithet "dogs" and other such deprecatory terms to refer to Indians, an indication that their use was already wide-spread. But the existence of many cultures and peoples presented at least to some new apocalyptic hopes which were being undermined and endangered by exploitation and a lack of understanding between peoples. In 1601, Juan Plata, chaplain of the convent of Santa Catalina de Sena in Puebla, Mexico was denounced for a number of irregularities of both a spiritual and carnal nature. In his defense before the Mexican Inquisition, Plata revealed a utopian vision of an expanding world and a warning of apocalyptic future:

after the East and West Indies and Guinea were discovered, the nations have become mixed and they have not conformed or united with each other as [the Prophet Daniel had called for, as can be seen because they say to each other, 'Indian dog,' 'mulatto dog,' 'mestizo dog,' and so they
remain in discord among themselves, and we await that which must come.35

If all could be saved in their own law, then why not the Indians as well. Ysabel de Porras, born in Cuzco but residing in Lima had told some friends that, "before the Spaniards came to these lands the Indians who died went to Heaven." When pressed by the Inquisitors, she said she had only meant that they went to "some good place." Some found her statements heretical, others, only in error and superstitious, but she was clearly voicing a kind of cultural and religious relativism in conflict with the mission of the Church.36Maesse Andrea, that Neapolitan carpinter living in Panama, was denounced in 1583 for his religious relativism. He had spent many years a captive among the Turks and had come to believe that they believed in God and could be saved. When interrogated he added the Indians to the Turks and Moors as candidates for salvation--but adding for the benefit of the Inquisitors only if they believed in Christ.37The traditional categories could be extended to accommodate American realities. Not only infideles, non-Christian believers in the monotheistic religions of the Mediterranean world, but pagani, the peoples of America, Japan, and Guinea could also be saved within God's plan.

Here the theological and popular traditions could come together. The Franciscan Fray Miguel de Bolonia, resident in a monastery in Suchipila, Mexico apparently believed that "all men can be saved in their law by the absolute power of God." and that the Spaniards should not take anything from the Indians without paying. As the Sevillian Franciscan Francisco de Martínez, told his coreligionists in 1604, "any infidel, negative or contrary to the Faith like the Moor or the Japanese, keeping natural law can be saved only needing to say to God, 'Lord, if I knew a better way or Law I would follow it."38

In the Indies, the validity of other faiths was expressed by a wide range of people, friars, foreigners, former renegados, Spanish peddlers, and mestizos.39What remains unknown is how the vast majority of the population, native American peoples, slaves, and free people of color might have incorporated such ideas. We know that various forms of syncretism persisted and developed during the colonial era and that alternate forms and variations of belief flourished. How those who ostensibly became Catholics viewed the old tradition of "cada uno se [puede salvar en su ley," is a question that calls for attention. That such beliefs might have served as a justification for heterodox practices is a possibility. We do know on the other hand that many Spaniards and mestizos, practicing Catholics, turned to Indian and African "witches," herbalists, and fortune-tellers for advice and help.

The utopian and millenarian potential that the New World with its wealth and its millions of perspective converts offered first to Columbus, and then to the Franciscans like Mendieta or the Dominicans like Las Casas are well-known and much discussed. The ideals of a benign process by which new souls would be brought into a universal Church moved the first generation of missionaries and persisted long after as a religious goal for many and a political justification of Spanish rule. The missionaries with variation among them and with varying degrees of sympathy and appreciation for indigenous cultures sought to realize the medieval programs for a restoration of Spain through an extension of its Christian faith and obligations. By bringing Indians under the yoke of faith, a great new Christian society could be constructed, and when exploitation resulted instead, they compared the Spanish destruction of the Indies to the Muslim destruction of Spain and warned of God's parallel wrath. Despite their cultural sensitivity, there was no doubt about the Christian context of the new society they projected nor about the superiority of "true" Spanish virtues.40

But theirs was not the only possible model for the incorporation of the Indies in European understanding or into God's divine plan. The transference of dissidence and doubt to the American kingdoms in the form of religious skepticism, and in religious "indifference," opened alternative possibilities. Parallel to orthodox Christian utopianism, other kinds of outcomes could be projected even one, as we have seen, in which there would be no distinction between Spaniards, mulattoes, Indians and mestizos and in which all peoples would live in harmony. Remember our first case of Juan de las Heras who had come to believe that in heathen lands they knew God better than within Christendom.

The possibilities of America were many, far more than were contained in the projects of Church and empire. The Indies could always cast up individuals like Francisco de la Cruz, the Dominican influenced by Las Casas who in the 1550s in Peru would support an Indian prophetess, father a mestizo son by her, advocate the end of clerical celibacy and a loosening of sexual constraints, and announce the coming of a new age led by the messiah he had raised, based on the new Rome to be established in Lima; or Pedro Bohorquez, the Spaniard who tried to make himself the Inca in Upper Peru in the 1660s; or don Guillen de Lampart, the highly educated Irish imposter who hoped to make himself emperor of Mexico in 1641 by promising to end tribute on the Indians, abolishing the enslavement of Blacks, denouncing the Inquisition, and opening Mexico to trade with the world. Called mad or deranged by those in power, they implied unlimited possibilities.41From the origins of the American colonies, Hispanic doubts and tolerant attitudes were officially controlled, there was no policy of toleration, but these ideas were never wholly suppressed and thus they provided a cultural base that made such alternatives--social, political, and religious- always possible and invariably dangerous.


1. Relación de causa, Lima, 1594, AHN, Inquisition 1028, 393-404.

2. There is an enormous bibliography on these matters. See, for example, Sara Nalle, God in La Mancha (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992). 56-69; William Monter, Frontiers of Heresy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); and more specifically, Maureen Flynn, "Blasphemy and the Play of Anger in Sixteenth-Century Spain," Past and Present, 149 (1995), 29156. I do not address in this paper the general problem of skepticism and atheism nor the classic problem of disbelief in the Sixteenth century. See Lucien Febre, The Problem of Unbelief in the Sixteenth Century: The Religion of Rabelais (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982); John Edwards, "Religious Faith, Doubt, and Atheism," Past and Present, 128 (1990), 152-161.

3. AHN, Inquisición (Lima), Lib. 1027, fs. 424-426 (1583).

4. Marion Leathers Kunz. "The Concept of Toleration in Colloquim Heptaplomeres of Jean Bodin,"in Beyond the Persecuting Society, John Christian Laursen and Cary J. Nederman, eds.(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998), 125-144. For interest in a parallel eiqhteenth century work of skepticism and tolerance, the Traité des Trois Impostkurs, see Silvia Berti, Francoise Charles-Daubert, and Richard Ponkin. Heterodoxy, Spinozism, and Free-Thought' in Eighteenth-Century Europe (Dordrect, 1996). A number of excellent short pieces on toleration appear in Homo reliqiosus. Autour de Jean Delameau (Paris: Fayard, 1997) but once again they concentrate on learned discourse.

5. Two excellent recent compilations of new work in this area are Beyond the Persecuting Society. Religious Toleration before the Enliqhtenment. John Christian Laursen and Cary J. Nederman, eds. (Philadelphia:Universitv of Pennsylvania Press, 1998). and Tolerance and Intolerance in the European Reformation, Ole Peter Grell and Bob Scibner, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

6. Carlo Ginsberg, The Cheese and the Worms (Baltimore, 19801, 48 50. See also Andrea de1 Col, Domenico Scandella detto Menocchio. I processi dell'Inquisizione (1583-99) (Pordenone, 1990), 205, 220.

7. Peter Byrne, Natural Religion and the Nature of Reliqion (London: Routledge, 1989), l-21.

8. Fadrique Furio Ceriol, El concejo y consejeros de1 príncipe (1559) Diego Sevilla Andrés, ed. (Valencia, 1952); Henri Mechoulan, Razón y alteridad en Fadrique Furio Ceriol (Madrid, 1973), 66-68.

9. RCC (Gracia Boix),377 (1599-1600); Cf. David Nierenberg, Communities of Violence (Princeton:Princeton University Press, 1996).

10. Bartolomé Benassar, "Frontières religieuses entre Islam et chrètiente: l'expèrience vècue par les 'renègats,'" in Robert Sauzet, ed., Les frontières religieuses en Europe du xv au xvii
siècle (Paris: Librairie Philosophiqie J. Vrin, 1992), 71-78.

11. See Francisco Bethancourt, Historia das Inquisições, Portugal, Espanha, e Italia (Lisbon, 1994), 272-73.

12. El Tribunal de la Inquisición en el obispado de Soria, 1486-1502, Carlos Carrete Parrondo, ed. Fontes Iudaeorum Castellae, ii (Salamanca, 1985), 230/ 106-7 cited in Edwards, "Religious Faith and Doubt," 16-17.

13. TIM, Gracia Boix (1983), 86. Escobar received 100 lashes and appeared as a penitent in the auto de fe in Cordoba in 1572.

14. RCC, Gracia Boix (1983), 188.

15. TIM, (1587), 90.

16. Relación de causa, Murcia, (1584), AHN, Inquisición 2022, exp. 14

17. Vayazan stated in 1567: "tenía y creyía en tres leyes, la de N. Señor Jesu Xpo, y la de Mahoma, y de1 Señor Moysen porque si la una le faltasse, no le faltasse la otra." AHN, Inquisición 2022 (Murcia) .

18. AHN, Inquisición Murcia 2022, exp. 2. Borrico Gajo had said, "que Dios no había hecho bien su oficio en hater que unos fuessen xtianos, y otros moros y otros judíos sino que todos habían de ser unos u otras blasfemias muy perniciosos. . ."

19. Henry Kamen, "Una crisis de consciencia en la edad de oro en España: Inquisición contra 'limpieza de sangre."' Bulletin hispanique , 88:3-4 (1986), 321-356.

20. AHN, Inquisición (Toledo) 221, exp. 12. Kamen provides excellent evidence of the opposition both to the expulsion and the later discrimination in "Toleration and Dissent in Sixteenth Century Spain," 7-10.

21. J-P. Dedieu, "L'Hérésie salvatrice. La pedagogie inquisitoriale en Nouvelle Castille au xvi siècle,in Sauzet, Robert, ed., Les frontières religieuses en Europe du xv au xvii siècle (Paris: Librairie Philosophiqie J. Vrin, 1992), 79-88.

22. Relación de causa, (1596), AHN, Inquisición 2022, exp. 25.

23. Relación de causa (Seville, 1638), AHN, Inquisición 2075, exp.37, f.6v.-7.

24. Maria Jordan, "Real Dreams, Created Dreams: The Prophetic Tradition in the Dreams of Lucrecia de León," (Ph.d. thesis, University of Minnesota, 1998)

25. Jonathan Israel, European Jewry in the Aqe of Mercantilism, 1550-1750 (0xford:Clarendon Press, 1985). See also David S. Katz and Jonathan Israel, eds., Sceptics, Millenarians and Jews
(Leiden: Brill, 1990).

26. AHN, Inquisición libro 1023 (Cartegena de Indias), 302-305. Fray Fernando was sentenced to a public or private auto, perpetual prison, and the wearing of the sanbenito. There was no confiscation of property since he had none.

27. Arquivo Diocesano de Cuenca, leg.210, exp. 2419 (1570).

28. TIM 14, PO.

29. AHN, Inquisición 2022, exp. 16; Relación de causas (1590), TIM, 109-110.

30. Henry Kamen argues that the acceptance of other religions was the natural result of convivencia and that under the pressure of the Inquisition it disappeared, remaining mostly as the expression of converts and other marginal groups. See Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).

31. AHN, Libro 1028 (Lima), 4v.

32. Relación de causa, Seville, 1638, AHN, Inquisición 2075, exp. 37, 12v.-14v.

33. TIM, p. 163-164 (1595).

34. ". . . que todos procedimos de la misma cepa de que salían diferentes sarmientos que daban fruto y assí eran todas las leyes y sectas y que todos se salvan en la que quisiesen profesar coma la guardasen cumplidamente." AHN, Inquisición (Murcia) 2845.

35. AHN, Inquisición Libro 1964 (Mexico), f1.232v.-242v.

36. Relación de causa, 1596 (Lima), AHN, Inquisición 1028, f. 464-464v. In a similar fashion Diego Hernández de Córdoba, a Lima merchant had intimated that the souls of Turks, Moors, and infidel Indians went to a region of air between earth and heaven. See AHN, Inquisición (Lima) lib. 1027, f. 202-203.

37. AHN, Inquisicihn lib. 1027, f. 639-40

38. Relación de causa, Seville, 1604-05, AHN, Inquisición 2075, exp. 16.

39. Jean Pierre Tardieu, L'inquisicion de Lima et les herétiques étrangers (xvi-xvii siècles) (Paris: Harmattan, 1995).

40. Georges Baudot, Utopia and History in Mexico (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1995); Cf. Alain Milhou, "Destrucción de España y destrucción de las Indias," Communio, 8
(1985), 31-57.

41. See the extensive documentation published bv Vidal Abril Castell and Miguel J. Abril Stoffels, Francisco de la Cruz, Inquisición, 2 Vo1s. to date (Madrid:CSIC, 1992-96); Bohorques' movement caused notice in Spain where he was called, "an Andalucian tyrant, native of Córdoba who has risen with some of the provinces that have called him Inca and king." See Avisos de don Jerónimo de Barrionuevo (1654-58), A. Paz y Melia, ed. Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, Vo1s. 221-222 (Madrid, 1968). There is now an excellent monograph on the incident. See Ana María Lorandi, De quimeras, rebeliones, y utopias. La gesta de1 inca Pedro Bohorques (Lima: Pontifica Universidad Católica, 1997). Don Guillen de Lampart still awaits a modern biographer. See Luis González Obregón, Rebeliones indígenas y precusores de la independencia mexicana (Mexico City, 1952).