Spatial Evidence in a New World: Fray Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa’s Geography

  • Ran Segev
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 225)


This chapter explores the relationship between geography and religious sensibilities in the early modern Spanish world by exposing how spatial evidence served to promote confessional ideologies and visions. Through the example of the seventeenth-century Carmelite missionary Antonio Vásquez de Espinosa who worked in America, I examine how raw evidence recontextualized as geography was employed to propagate Catholic outlooks and to sacralize overseas, colonial space. Espinosa’s descriptive geography was the literary product of a skilled missionary who was immersed in Spanish geographical culture. My analysis of his work demonstrates how Espinosa attempted to assimilate newly observed data about the terrestrial globe into the worldview of the Church and the Carmelite Order—a religious order that became a model for the Catholic redefinition of piety and faith. I further claim that Espinosa’s recruitment of geography was tightly linked to a corporate change within the Carmelite Order, which demanded a greater involvement in the Church’s apostolic vision. By evoking Catholic images of piety and devotion, Espinosa used his geographic findings to justify the pivotal role that the Carmelites desired to play in America. As the Carmelites aspired to consolidate their presence in America, such confessional geography was a powerful tool to record and assemble new myths and legends in a virgin landscape.



I would like to thank Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra and María M. Portuondo for their insightful comments and critical reading of my work.


  1. Ackerman, Jane. 2003. Elijah, Prophet of Carmel. Washington: ICS Publications.Google Scholar
  2. Barenéchea, Raul Porras, ed. 1943. El paraíso en el Nuevo Mundo: Comentario apologe ́tico, historia natural y peregrina de las Indias Occidentales, Islas de Tierra Firme del Mar Oceano. Lima: Imprint.Google Scholar
  3. Barrera-Osorio, Antonio. 2006. Experiencing Nature: The Spanish American Empire and the Early Scientific Revolution. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bayon, Balbino Velasco. 1998. Obispos Carmelitas en América. Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia 195: 415–450.Google Scholar
  5. Bedouelle, Guy. 2008. The Reform of Catholicism, 1480–1620. Trans. James K. Farge. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.Google Scholar
  6. Bilinkoff, Jodi. 1992. The Avila of Saint Teresa: Religious Reform in a Sixteenth-Century City. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bleichmar, Daniela, et al., eds. 2009. Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brosseder, Claudia. 2014. The Power of Huacas: Change and Resistance in the Andean World of Colonial Peru. Austin: University of Texas.Google Scholar
  9. Buisseret, David, ed. 1992. Monarchs, Ministers, and Maps: The Emergence of Cartography as a Tool of Government in Early Modern Europe. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cañizares-Esguerra, Jorge. 1999. New World, New Stars: Patriotic Astrology and the Invention of Indian and Creole Bodies in Colonial Spanish America, 1600–1650. The American Historical Review 104: 33–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. ———. 2006a. The Colonial Iberian Roots of the Scientific Revolution. In Nature, Empire, and Nation: Explorations of the History of Science in the Iberian World, ed. Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra, 14–46. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 2006b. Puritan Conquistadores, Iberianizing the Atlantic, 1550–1700. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 2009. Typology in the Atlantic World: Early Reading of Colonization. In Soundings in Atlantic History, ed. Bernard Bailyn et al., 237–264. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Christian, William. 1989. Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Cormack, Lesley B. 1994. The Fashioning of an Empire: Geography and the State in Elizabethan England. In Geography and Empire, ed. Anne Godlewska and Neil Smith, 15–30. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  16. Davids, Karel. 2011. Dutch and Spanish Global Networks of Knowledge in Early Modern Period: Structures, Connections, Changes. In Centres and Cycles of Accumulation in and Around the Netherlands During the Early Modern Period, ed. Lissa Roberts, 29–52. Berlin: Lit Verlag.Google Scholar
  17. Delano-Smith. 1990. Maps as Art and Science: Maps in Sixteenth Century Bibles. Imago Mundi 42: 65–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Earle, Rebecca. 2014. The Body of the Conquistadores. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Espinosa, Serrano, and Teresa Eleazar. 2013. Las cofradías del carmelo desclazo en la nueva España. Fronteras de la historia: Revista de historia colonial latinoamericana 18: 69–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Friedman, Elias. 1979. The Latin Hermits of Mount Carmel: A Study in Carmelite Origins. Rome: Edizioni del Teresianum.Google Scholar
  21. Girava, Gerónimo. 1556. Dos libros de cosmographia: compuestos nueuamente por Hieronymo Giraua Tarragones. Milan: Por Maestro Iuan Antonio Castellon, y Maestro Christoual Caron, junto à la Yglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Escala.Google Scholar
  22. Godlewska, Anne, and Neil Smith. 1994. Geography and Empire. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  23. Gómez, Nicolás Wey. 2008. The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to The Indies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Goodman, David C. 1988. Power and Penury: Government, Technology and Science in Philip II’s Spain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Gorman, Michael John. 2004. The Angel and the Compass: Athanasius Kircher’s Geographical Project. In Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything, ed. Paula Findlen, 229–249. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Grafton, Anthony. 1992. New Worlds, Ancient Texts: The Power of Tradition and the Shock of Discovery. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Graziano, Frank. 1999. The Millennial New World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Headley, John M. 2000. Geography and Empire in the Late Renaissance: Botero’s Assignment, Western Universalism and the Civilizing Process. Renaissance Quarterly 53: 1119–1155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Horn, Rebecca. 1997. Postconquest Coyoacan: Nahau-Spanish Relations in Central Mexico, 1519–1650. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Huddleston, Lee E. 1967. The Origins of the American Indians: European Perspectives. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  31. Johnson, Trevor. 2005. Gardening for God: Carmelite Deserts and the Sacralisation of Natural Space in Counter-Reformation Spain. In Sacred Space in Early Modern Europe, ed. Will Coster et al., 193–210. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Jotischky, Andrew. 2002. The Carmelites and Antiquity: Mendicants and Their Pasts in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kagan, Richard L., and Benjamin Schmidt. 2007. Maps and the Early Modern State: Official Cartography. In The History of Cartography, Vol. 3, Ed. J.B. Harley and David Woodward, 661–679. 3 vols. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  34. Melvin, Karen. 2012. Building Colonial Cities: Building Colonial Cities of God: Mendicant Orders and Urban Culture in New Spain. Stanford: Stanford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Millones Figueroa, Luis, and Domingo Ledezma, eds. 2005. El saber de los Jesuitas: Historias naturales y el Nuevo Mundo. Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert.Google Scholar
  36. Mullett, Michael A. 1999. Catholic Reformation. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Mundi, Barbara E. 2000. The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geográficas. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  38. Padrón, Ricardo. 2003. The Spacious Word: Cartography, Literature, and Empire in Early Modern Spain. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  39. Parry, John Horace. 1981. The Age of Reconnaissance. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  40. Phelan, John. 1970. The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World, 2nd ed. rev. Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  41. Pimentel, Juan. 2008. Baroque Natures: Juan E. Nieremberg, American Wonders, and Preterimperial Natural History. In Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, ed. Bleichmar et al., 93–111. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Pinelo, León, and Antonio de. 1636. Question moral: si el cbocolate quebranta el ayuno eclesiástico. Madrid: por la viuda de Iuan Gonçalez.Google Scholar
  43. Piñero, López, José María, and María Luz López Terrada. 1997. La influencia Española en la introducción en Europa de las plantas Americanas: 1493–1623. Valencia: Instituto de Estudios Documentales e Históricos sobre la Ciencia, Universitat de València-C.S.I.C.Google Scholar
  44. Portuondo, María. 2009. Secret Science: Spanish Cosmography and the New World. Chicago: University of Chicago.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Prieto, Andrés. 2011. Missionary Scientists: Jesuit Science in Spanish South America, 1570–1810. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Rosales, Alfonso Martínez. 1982. La provincia de San Alberto de Indias de Carmelitas descalzos. Historia Mexicana 31: 471–543.Google Scholar
  47. Rowe, Erin Kathleen. 2011. Saint and Nation: Santiago, Teresa of Avila, and Plural Identities in Early Modern Spain. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Salinas y Córdoba, Buenaventura de. Memorial, informe, y manifiesto del p.f. Buenauentura de Salinas y Cordoua, de la orden de S. Francisco … comissario general de las de la Nueua-España. Al Rey nuestro señor en su real, y supremo Consejo de las Indias. Representada las acciones proprias … Informa la buena dicha, y meritos de los que nacen en las Indias, de padres españoles … Manifesta la piedad, y zelo con que Su Magestad gouierna toda la America. [Madrid: s.n., c. 1646].Google Scholar
  49. Shalev, Zur. 2012. Sacred Words and Worlds: Geography, Religion, and Scholarship, 1550–1700. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  50. Smet, Joachim. 1954. Some Unpublished Documents Concerning Fray Antonio. Carmelus 1: 151–158.Google Scholar
  51. Soergel, Philip M. 1996. Wondrous in His Saints: Counter-Reformation Propaganda in Bavaria. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  52. Syria, Pedro de. 1602. Arte de la verdadera nauegacion, en que se trata de la machina del mundo. Valencia: En casa de Juan Chrysostomo Garriz.Google Scholar
  53. Vázquez de Espinosa, Antonio. 1623. Confessionario general, luz y guia del cielo. Por luán González: Madrid.Google Scholar
  54. ———. 1992. Compendio y descripción de las Indias Occidentales. Ed. Balbino Velasco Bayón. Madrid: Historia 16Google Scholar
  55. ———. 2008. Tratado verdadero del viaje y navegación. Trans. Sara L. Lehman. Newark: Juan de la Cuesta.Google Scholar
  56. Velasco, Bartolomé. 1958. El P. Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa en América. Missionalia Hispanica 15: 169–217.Google Scholar
  57. Venegas, Alejo. 1983. Primera parte de las diferencias de libros que ay en el vniuerso, ed. Daniel Eisenberg. Barcelona: Puvill Libros.Google Scholar
  58. Zimdars, Benjamin Frank. 1965. A Study in Seventeenth-Century Peruvian Historiography: The Monastic Chronicles of Antonio de la Calancha, Diego de Córdova Salinas, and the Compendio Y Descripción of Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa. Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas-Austin.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ran Segev
    • 1
  1. 1.Tel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

Personalised recommendations