“quitar la raíz de tan mala memoria”: Polygraphic Dynamics of Education and Colonization in New Spain, 1521–1600

Daniel Santiago Sáenz, M.Phil

How is learning – as a process, a practice, and a project – conceptualized, written about, and visualized? How does visualization, in turn, contribute to pedagogical practice across linguistic barriers? This research project sits at the intersection of art history, cultural studies, and the history of education in the early modern world. It delves into the dynamics of pedagogy and colonization in New Spain from 1521 to 1600, focusing on the role of Franciscan missionaries in evangelizing and educating Mexica youth and the centrality of both images and the body in this process. By taking into account early colonial spaces of learning, such as San José de los Naturales and the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Santiago de Tlatelolco, where Indigenous elite children learned Latin and Christian doctrine, the project considers alphabetization, the use of images, and a variety of primary sources – letters, legal and theological writings, pictorial documents, and treatises such as Diego Valadés’s Rhetorica Christiana (Perugia, 1579) – to examine how the production and imparting of knowledge, whether doctrinal, artistic, or alphabetic, became foundational gears in the structures of invasion and colonization in the Americas.

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