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Fray Martin de Porres and the religious imagination of Creole Lima

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ABSTRACT This dissertation explores the roots and meanings of the creation of saints in seventeenth-century Lima, particularly the case of a mulatto servant of the Dominican convent, Fray Martin de Porres. It studies the ways in which creole enthusiasm for local saints reflects an unacknowledged, perhaps even unconscious, reconciliation by the clerical and lay elite of certain aspects of Andean, African, and Spanish religious traditions. In the first chapter I describe the contradictory Spanish attitudes towards the Andean sacred. In the early seventeenth century outraged clerics vigorously and systematically set about eradicating what they saw as the persistence of Indian "idolatry." At the same time, the laity displayed a decided ambivalence toward Andean magic. In the second and third chapters I trace the evolution of Lima's public religious devotions from the clergy's rather unsuccessful attempt to popularize Spanish Marian cults to their sponsorship of local candidates for beatification and canonization. Over the course of the century the individuals selected represented increasingly uncommon models of piety, especially when compared to prevailing European standards. An examination of the beatification testimony for Martin de Porres in Chapter Four and Chapter Five finds that a series of witnesses shaped and molded the legend of the mulatto barber into a narrative of piety and miracles which simultaneously joined him to Christian hagiographical traditions and commented on social complexities and geographic anxieties specific to colonial Lima. The sixth chapter documents the importance of relics to the cult of Fray Martin de Porres and the other putative Peruvian saints. I conclude that traditional Andean and African views of the significance and power of the sacred body played a decisive role in the creole devotion to local saints, the predominant form of nonliturgical religious expression in mid-colonial Lima.

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