Convents of Morelos, Mexico

Adapting to the New World

Arq. Carlos Chanfón Olmos

Cross The experiences that new territories offered to the Europeans would give missionaries an ideal place. As a matter of fact, in Europe they had never found such an environment, where everything was in favor of large scale indoctrination, not only because of the amount of land to be covered but because there were so many possible converts.

Even more so, the missionary dislike of worldly possessions was perfect in this New World where missionaries could live in accord to their beliefs. Sleeping outdoors was normal for traveling indians, so the missionaries could relate to them. In these new land building monasteries was not their main goal. Any hutcould meet their living requirements in this new world where living outdoors was a norm.

The devotion and spirit of the missionaries are often mentioned, but very rarely do you hear about the real factor in their success: the indian who was always willing to learn and their extraordinary manual skills. Motolinia would often refer to the important part that new converts played in the indoctrination. This Franciscan historian talked about the indians building huts they did not need for the missionaries to stay in overnight.

Monastery It is important to point out that, against common belief, the great indoctrination of the New Spain did not take place in the convents we know. Those convents were built after the majority of the population had been converted to the new religion. Before this the monks spent their time traveling, trying to cover as much land as possible.

When a missionary preached in Europe he shared the same language, clothes,religion and customs with his listeners. In America everything was different. So it was necessary to set a common context to establish communication through concepts comprehensible to both cultures.

The mesoamerican culture had its way of living; foods, languages, writing,hospitality, amiability, music, law, belief in the respect of others, and many social customs, all of these were essential to their heritage. The monks were the great alchemists of the clash between the two cultures.

BackForwardMain PageEspañolMuseums Menu

©Todos los derechos reservados, se prohibe la reproducción salvo permiso por escrito del autor.
©All rigths reserved, material duplication is prohibited without written authorization by its author.