The massive sixteenth-century mission churches of the mendicant orders dotting the central Mexican landscape even today cannot help but impress, emblematic of the early and, as traditional mission historiography would have it, hegemonic presence of the church in the lives of native peoples who labored to erect these monuments to Catholicism. These structures indeed stand as powerful statements, but, as Ryan Dominic Crewe argues, their meaning may be something quite different than what earlier histories portrayed. Crewe's work reconsiders the sixteenth-century mendicant efforts in ways that go beyond their primarily religious aims; rather, he argues that these enterprises are better considered as illuminating the social and political worlds that met, contested, and mingled on the Mesoamerican stage. In his telling, they are neither purely “testament[s] to Spanish power” nor “monuments to indigenous persistence” but something much more nuanced and complex (p. 1)....

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