Institutional Scholarship

Utopian Visions, Apocalyptic Dreams, and Indigenous Reactions: Feather Art and the Construction of a New Colonial Culture in Sixteenth-Century Michoacán

Show simple item record

dc.contributor.advisor Saler, Bethel
dc.contributor.advisor Krippner, James Lehman, Steve 2019-08-08T15:48:55Z 2019-08-08T15:48:55Z 2019
dc.description.abstract Before the Spanish invasion of the 1520s, the feather artisans of the Purhépecha Empire in modern-day Michoacán crafted sacred objects that held value for their religious and social significance. By the 1550s and 1560s, however, Purhépecha featherworkers were producing elaborate mosaics depicting Christian iconography in a Renaissance style for use in new European contexts. Examining how the different inhabitants of sixteenth-century Mexico valued feathers and feather art is just one method of studying the dynamic cultures of New Spain, and how these cultures interacted with one another. The Purhépecha and other Mesoamerican indigenous societies valued feathers as highly sacred objects, going back generations before the Spanish conquest. Feathered items were reserved for the nobility, religious ceremony, ritual sacrifice, and war, all of which were intricately connected in indigenous societies before the arrival of the Spanish in the early sixteenth century. Franciscan friars such as the compiler of the Relación de Michoacán seemed to value feather art only insofar as it allowed other Franciscan missionaries to better understand Purhépecha culture, and thus facilitate the conversion of the indigenous population to Christianity in order to bring about the apocalypse as foreseen in the bible. Spanish colonial elites such as Bishop Vasco de Quiroga, one of the most powerful men in early colonial Michoacán, valued indigenous labor such as featherwork as a means to bring the indigenous population of New Spain closer to the Christian God. Through labor, prayer, and European-styled political organization, Quiroga attempted to implement a new, utopian society in the Lake Pátzcuaro region of Michoacán. Finally, religious figures such as the Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas valued featherwork for its potential use in the Catholic Church. Many feathered objects created after the conquest were made specifically for Catholic contexts outside Mexico, intended to be worn or used by European clergy totally removed from their indigenous origins. From the initial Spanish contact with Mesoamerica in the 1520s to the consolidation of colonial power through the 1560s, indigenous art and labor practices were irrevocably changed by the forced shifting of power from indigenous to European elites. Examining the feather art of sixteenth-century Michoacán is just one method to measure these changes, and the ways that Spanish colonizers altered traditional indigenous art forms in order to represent entirely different values and motivations. Feather artisans were not without agency in this process, but Spanish colonialism forever altered the role and context of indigenous traditions such as featherwork for centuries to come.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of History
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh Featherwork -- Mexico -- Michoacán de Ocampo
dc.subject.lcsh Spain -- Colonies -- America
dc.subject.lcsh Catholic Church -- Mexico -- Michoacán de Ocampo -- History
dc.title Utopian Visions, Apocalyptic Dreams, and Indigenous Reactions: Feather Art and the Construction of a New Colonial Culture in Sixteenth-Century Michoacán
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Bi-College users only

Files in this item

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show simple item record Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as



My Account