In the colonial theater of New Spain, multiple actors utilized the rhetoric of disease to discuss and describe the ongoing discoveries of indigenous traditional religion, which they termed idolatry. Focusing primarily on Yucatán, this article closely analyzes these usages, arguing that the two primary modes of understanding the spread of illness in the early modern world, that of miasmic factors and that of contagion, provided rationalizations for the perseverance of idolatrous practices, informed the institutionalized prevention of these heretical acts, and ultimately provided models for their possible cure. As the definition of idolatry was expanded to include all religious crimes committed by New Spain's indigenous population, it was severed from the material aspect (idol worship) that had originally defined it. The result was the conceptual conflation of two of the defining characteristics of early colonial experience: epidemic disease and ongoing idolatries.

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