Antonio de Gouveia was a Portuguese American priest who lived during the 16th century. Gouveia was born in 1528 and went to Lisbon at age twenty, where he was ordained to the holy priesthood. In 1553 he sailed to Italy to study theology and medicine and turned to medicine for income when he became shipwrecked on his return home. He was received into the order of the Jesuits in 1555 but walked out the following year. Gouveia was arrested and charged with superstition, divination, witchcraft, and commerce with the Devil, a judgment that lasted four years. After spending a decade in and out of Inquisition jails, Gouveia was deported to Brazil for two years.
At age thirty-nine Gouveia arrived in Salvador where he was embraced by governor-general Mem de Sa, and ordered to preach and celebrate Mass. Gouveia later left north for the opulent captaincy of Pernambuco. Gouveia squabbled with the Jesuits in Pernambuco due to their beliefs as defenders of the Indians against the settlers. His behavior was notoriously reprehensible, such as shackling and beating the hosts of friendly Indian villages he encountered. Gouveia was eventually arrested and returned to Portugal in 1571. Gouveia lived an adventurous life due to his resistance to conformity and the unparalleled changes that occurred during the Age of Discovery.
Catarina de Montay Sinay was a Portuguese American nun and entrepreneur who lived in Bahia in Brazil during the 17th and 18th century. Bahia had been the world’s leading producer of sugar but competition from the islands of the Caribbean drove down prices and jeopardized Bahia’s economy. In 1696 she entered the Desterro Convent of Bahia which was the only one in Brazil. She was familiar with the life as a nun having lived in the nunnery six years as a pupil. Catarina looked up to fellow nun, Madre Victoria de Encarnacao, who shared a similar background and found satisfaction in self-denigration. Catarina’s life as a nun gave her great contentment; it gave her companionship with her sisters, allowed her time for solitude, and gave her life purpose and a sense of mission.
Catarina’s first income was from money she placed on a loan, although many of her loans were never repaid. She owned five substantial residences which garnered a considerable amount of income compared to the other religious. The business of preparing and selling sweets kept Catarina most occupied. She maintained six male and six female slaves for the preparation and sale of sweets. During the end of her life Catarina spend enormous sums of money on the chapel and requested to the archbishop that her sisters live in comfort after her death. All of Catarina’s business affairs had been carried out without permission of the archbishop and were in direct violation of church law. Would, in the end, Catarina be rewarded with salvation after her contributions to the church intermingled with her business dealings?
Diego Vasicuio was a Spanish American native priest who lived during the 17th century in Salamanca, Peru. He was the chief priest of his cult and practiced preconquest religious beliefs, worshiping the god Sorimana. They also worshiped with a sacred stone called a guaca which bore the image of Sorimana. The Spanish had a difficult time converting Indians to Catholics during the time period. The Native Americans were required to abide by the mita system, or forced labor, which was unfair and brutal. Diego realized he could live a better life away from Salamanca, but he could not leave his family and the comfort of the cave where they held their ceremonies.
In 1671 Diego, at the age of 90, was ordered to appear before the parish priest to answer charges of heresy. Father de Prado demanded the guaca and ordered his men to search for more. His men returned with twenty guacas, none of which were probably the true guaca that had been passed down for generations. Diego and others guilty of heresy agreed to praise the true God and denounce Sorimana. Diego and his followers laid low but eventually resumed their secret ceremonies. His rituals, religion and god survived due to his ability to survive through adaptation.
A mulatta and Spanish American, Beatriz de Padilla was a mother and a mistress who lived during the mid 17th century in Lagos, Mexico. Beatriz was a descendant of one of the best families in Guadalajara, unmarried and had four children. She was charged with having caused dreadful and mysterious things to her two lovers and put on trial. One was a priest who had died, Diego Ortiz, and the other was the lord mayor of Juchipila, don Diego de las Marinas. At the time of her arrest she was the housekeeper and mistress to the de las Marinas. During her testimony she pointed out the folks back home were jealous that her lovers were important men.
When the family of Ortiz found out the estate would go to Beatriz and her illegitimate son, they plotted a conspiracy against her. Having a colored mistress of low social standing was common, but making her heir to one’s estate was unheard of. After the testimony Beatriz was acquitted and allowed to return home. Beatriz had the freedom of movement in her favor which other white women did not. The women of color in New Spain played a fundamental role in Mexican society. The mixed raced women who fought for their children’s freedom plays a large role in the diversity of races in America today.
Born in Mexico city in the middle of the 16th century, Miguel Hernandez was a second generation Mexican and a free mulatto. Miguel’s history can be traced by his frequent visits to notaries in town and his original signature. His signature implies he was literate which placed him in a select group for the time period. Most mulattos lived for the service of others and on the edge of the law. Miguel’s main work was that of a muleteer where he developed relationships with people of wealth. Eager to avoid the politics of Mexico City, Miguel left for the town of Queretaro.
After moving to Queretaro Miguel began building his own freighting business. In 1600 ranchers sold maize, wheat and mutton which transformed Queretaro into a transportation center requiring freighters. By 1604 he owned twenty mules, which was worth the same as a wheat farm or several thousand acres of grazing land. The facts imply Miguel was aggressive, but never over expanded or overextended his credit. Miguel also profited from property he bought and sold. Many of Miguel’s relationships crossed racial and social boundaries and his life exemplifies his dedication to succeed in the face of difficult circumstances.
Enrico Martinez was a Spanish American in his 30’s who arrived in Veracruz, Mexico from Seville in 1589. His European travels and scientific knowledge helped him establish himself in Mexico City. Enrico grew up in a community of printers and traveled to Northern Europe to learn astronomy, astrology, physics, and mathematics as well as German. In 1598 he was able to obtain a confiscated press to compliment his stock of printing equipment and published his first book a year later. The colonial scientists of 17th century New Spain acceptance of new ideas lagged behind that of Northern Europe which can be displayed in Enrico’s own book – the Reportorio.
In 1607 Enrico halted his career as a printer to address flooding of Mexico City by Lake Texcoco. The decision was made to end reliance on dykes and small canals and build a large canal or desague. At the time, the conception and initial completion of the desague was a tremendous achievement. In 1623 the desague became blocked and deemed a fiasco and was not put into working order until 1900. After the worst flooding in the colony’s history, Enrico’s proposals were largely ignored. Enrico’s shortcomings in all aspects of his career were due not only to his ineptness, but also to the political and social structure of the colony.