In the late 1750s and early 1760s, the foundress of the new convent of La Purísima Concepción (San Miguel el Grande) and her abbesses struggled to ensure that their vision of a rigorously communal way of life (the vida común) and a strict observance of the vow of poverty would become a reality. Less than a decade later, the bishop of Puebla and the archbishop of Mexico initiated a movement that eventually forced nuns throughout the viceroyalty to give up unseemly luxuries and adopt the vida común. Throughout New Spain, then, from midcentury to about 1775, reform efforts insisted that female convents adopt a more austere, disciplined, and community-centered lifestyle—a movement that one scholar described as “a veritable revolution” in the lifestyle of Mexican nuns.1

But in the late 1780s and early 1790s, the bishop of Michoacán, Fray Antonio de San...

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