Stop for a moment to imagine her: Francisca de los Ángeles, a daughter of a poor creole-mestizo family, commanded the spiritual energies of a thriving provincial city, blessing religious images, opining on the mysteries of the faith, and traveling vast imaginative distances to save heathen souls. Hers was an extraordinary life. Lucky for us, this laywoman’s incredible story fell into the hands of a talented and dogged historian. Gunnarsdóttir’s work is biography at its best, highly attentive to the central protagonist’s historical context. The visionary who founded a thriving beaterio shares the pages with European mystics and nuns; local curanderas, witches, and beatas; the famous Fray Antonio de Marjil and the determined friars of Propaganda Fide; provocative excursuses into Counter-Reformation historiography; and Querétero’s lavishly sensual religious art and architecture. The deft blend of intellectual, social, and cultural history makes this an...

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