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

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

Abstract

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.

Notes

Acknowledgment

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

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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

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

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