Don Pedro Moya de Contreras had a long and distinguished record of colonial service. In the years 1571-91, he served variously as inquisitor, archbishop, visitor, and viceroy of Mexico, finishing his career as president of the Council of the Indies. In 1584-85, he served simultaneously as archbishop, visitor, and interim viceroy. Yet, his career has heretofore attracted the attention of only a small number of specialists.
Stafford Poole has skillfully synthesized a tantalizingly brief account of the major events of Moya de Contreras’s illustrious career. Poole’s purpose is to rescue his subject from undeserved historical obscurity, and to reconcile the caring pastor depicted by Moya’s first biographer, Cristóbal Gutiérrez de Luna, with the rather austere, legalistic, and harsh administrator often reflected in the documents.
Poole amply makes his case for Moya’s place in history. He focuses on two pivotal events of Moya’s career: the visita of 1583-89 and the Third Mexican Provincial Council of 1585. Each of these accomplishments would be worthy of a book-length study on its own, given their far-reaching effects and broad ramifications. Poole is less successful in explaining the motivations which made Moya both a harsh legalist and a humanitarian who died poor and was buried on royal charity. The absence of any personal papers proves to be a serious obstacle to understanding the inner man.
Moya emerges in this study as a strong regalist who was a key transitional figure in the Mexican church. As a representative at times of both the church and the state, Moya had to deal with the tensions inherent in the patronato. Poole sees Moya as in many ways a summation of the disparate currents of his time, but particularly highlights him as a representative of the Catholic reform in New Spain.
The author provides a polished synthesis of published sources and unpublished materials from European and North American repositories. Somewhat surprisingly, there is no use of unpublished Mexican archival sources, including the Archivo Capitular de la Catedral Metropolitana de México. In summarizing the important work of this long-neglected figure, Poole gives the reader an excellent illustration of the broad interests and involvements of sixteenth-century churchmen, as well as outlining the dynamics of church-state relations. Both aspects make this work worthy of attention.