In 1758, Pedro Sánchez de Tagle (1695/96-1774) arrived in Michoacán as the new bishop of that see. Already in his 60s, he held his position during a period of chronic economic depression, encroaching royal centralization, increasingly secularist and anticlerical bureaucracy, unrest, and even rebellion among the local populace that was almost a dress rehearsal for 1810. His brave, and ultimately futile, defense of his flock and the church’s rights in the face of Bourbon reforms, especially as implemented by the visita of José de Gálvez, brought him royal disfavor and a personal crisis of conscience.
Óscar Mazín has written a thorough, well-researched monograph on Sánchez de Tagle’s years in Michoacán. He portrays a bishop who, while basically conciliatory, was caught in conflicting loyalties to church and crown, the two majesties of the title. His thesis is that under the Bourbon reforms the two were incompatible, and in the end the bishop had to choose his church and flock over the obligations of the patronato. His picture of Sánchez de Tagle is that of a man of the protoEnlightenment, dedicated to the reforms of the Council of Trent, an educator and builder. Clearly sympathetic to the church, he is critical of the Bourbon reforms as contrary to traditional Spanish kingship and a move toward despotism. Gálvez emerges as a villain, especially in his ruthless repression of the disturbances of 1763 and his murky role in the crown’s hostility to Sánchez de Tagle.
Mazín makes a strong case for his interpretation. It is based on comprehensive research, and his conclusions, while clearly favoring one side, are not extreme. His work is particularly valuable for its picture of creole consciousness and anti-Spanish feeling in Michoacán precisely at the time that the young Miguel Hidalgo was reaching manhood. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the colonial church (especially the patronato under the Bourbons) and the colonial background of the revolution of 1810.