Schools and universities were established early in the course of Spanish colonization. Generally speaking, they were similar to those of the mother country, insofar as they were controlled by the church or state. In New Spain public education was organized essentially by religious orders, bishops, viceroys, audiencias, church or municipal councils, and cofradías. The colonial school system was composed of primary, monastery, and convent schools, colleges, seminaries, and universities. This system, it was hoped, would prepare the necessary church and public functionaries and it educated mainly Spaniards and criollos. On the other hand, Indians and mestizos could not hope to reach the higher education levels, except with rare exceptions, such as those described by Fr. Lino Gómez Canedo in the Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco, or in the Colegio de San Juan de Letrán.

It is within this framework that we find the present book. The author set himself the goal of writing the history of educational institutions for Indians and mestizos in New Spain. Gómez Canedo employs the word marginados (“deprived people”) to designate Indians and mestizos, so that the reader can get a better idea of the social and economic situation of both groups in New Spain. But the word marginados is really used only in the title.

Based on a rereading of the chronicles written by the friars, and including a great amount of documentation from the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, the book describes the schools for Indians in part one and the colleges for mestizos in part two. Gómez Canedo amply reconstructs the particular histories of a single school and three colleges (Escuela de San José de los Naturales, Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, Colegio de San Juan de Letrán, and Colegio de Nuestra Señora de la Caridad). The bias of the author in favor of the work of the religious in their efforts to create schooling for Indians and mestizos is evident. Such an enthusiasm leads the author into certain historical imprecisions. For example, Gómez Canedo does not mention that the schools for Indians were established only for “los hijos de los señores y principales.” In this case, the author is not aware of the discriminatory ruling that regulated the access to schools.

Lino Gómez Canedo is known for his valuable work on the subject of historical archives and the archives of the Franciscan order. He has previously published other studies on the process of evangelization and the conquest of Spanish America. In this field Gómez Canedo produces his best fruits, and this book shows it. The schools that Gómez Canedo describes are good examples of the church’s intention that they serve more as a means to spread the gospel than as a way to instruct the native population. From this point of view, I recommend the book for historians interested in the process of acculturation. For them the book offers a very valuable contribution on the subject of schools in the colonial era.