Escolios: Folio 1, Side 2: Lines 21–25
In this passage, Ximénez likens his native parishioners to children, calling them “níños, con barbas.” He characterizes their disposition by citing Saint Paul (“como S. Pablo deçía de sí de su hedad pueril”), in an allusion to 1 Corinthians 13:11:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”
This moment in the text sheds light on Ximénez’s attitude toward Mayan rituals (which he refers to in escolios folio 2, side 1 as “bobería”) and his evangelization strategy in extirpating them, which he describes in terms of persuasion rather than outright physical destruction. For Ximénez, this childishness leaves native people incapable of full responsibility for their “evils”: “no son sus malíçías de tanto peso como lo son las de otros hombres de otras naçíones.” Instead, he blames poor instruction by previous generations of missionaries for native “herrores”—as well as the manipulations of “el demonío.”
While Ximénez’s approach to evangelization is laid out in terms of ethnography followed by peaceful argumentation, this discourse of native innocence or childishness did have physically violent consequences. Similar language was employed in legal contexts to suppress indigenous agency and subjugate them as perpetual minors within the Spanish colonial state. Susan Kellogg describes how the Leyes nuevas de Indias of 1542, which nominally reformed the encomienda system of forced indigenous labor, “grew out of medieval elements of Spanish law granting protection to miserables (or the poor and wretched)” (4). This legal system positioned indigenous people as the easily exploited subjects of the Crown’s “protection,” made explicit in the administrative office of the “Protectoría de Indios.” Members of the Dominican Order, particularly reformers such as influential former encomendero Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, had a significant role in the passage of the Leyes nuevas. In practice, they simply led to the renaming of slavery: the encomienda shifted into the repartimiento system, which technically “redistributed” rather than owned indigenous labor.
Meanwhile, this same language of “protection” was leveraged to justify priests’ policing of their parishioners’ lives beyond the scope of a pastor’s standard duties. Deborah E. Kanter described the practice of depósito in eighteenth-century Mexico, as “a loosely regulated practice whereby women were sequestered in private houses or with parish priests, for punishment or for protection.”