chapter  3
26 Pages

The tricky concepts of ‘Hispanicization’ in Peru and ‘accommodation’ in China

The missions that the Society of Jesus established around the globe inevitably exposed it to alterity. Broadly speaking, the equality between Europe and China in terms of their cultural, economic, institutional, intellectual and material complexity was a key element that marked the encounter between them. Another characteristic of the European-Chinese contacts that came about through Christianity is the fact that external power was extremely reduced. Although the missionaries remained dependent on material support from ecclesiastical institutions and the colonial administration, it was the Ming administration – and later the Qing – that ultimately decided whether or not they could enter and stay (Standaert 2001b: 83-85; Standaert 2002: 2). As the missions expanded, encounters with different cultures gained in

complexity. The Columbus voyage – or rather the date 1492 – sparked the Catholic monarchs’ claim to sovereignty, riches and mission in America. The claim set off a rush towards European imperial rivalry and indigenous disaster, and towards the building of power and prosperity on foundations of racial dominance and violence (Stern 1992: 4). That moment marked the beginning of – paraphrasing de Certeau – a ‘hermeneutics of the Other’ (de Certeau 2006a: 217-18). One of the natural outcomes of the conquest was ‘Occidentalization’, meaning the setting up of European institutions, beliefs and practices in the ‘New World’, which went alongside both the exploitation of its resources and energy and the transformation of its natives (Gruzinski 1999: 502 onward). The process of Occidentalization that started in 1492 enabled an expansion of the space for enunciation; that is, it extended the ‘legitimate’ space for the relocation of other imaginary constructs, such as Orientalism and the Far East (Mignolo 1995: 39). Of course, the process of Occidentalization was far from linear and unidirectional, and ran parallel with other processes. As Indian communities were continuously exposed to Western practices, these elements were in turn adapted to or integrated into a local logic. At the same time, the Spaniards were subject to local contingences, such as biological and cultural interbreeding. Nevertheless, overall, the conquest was imposed on a decimated Indian population that became a minority while being the majority (Gruzinski and Wachtel 1997). This chapter focuses on one – of the many – specific ways in which

Occidentalization unfolded, with the indelible imprint of the conquest: the Hispanicization of the Indians, which was intimately connected to their Christianization. Right from the beginning, in the first instructions by General Borja for Spanish America, the General advised working first with the Indians who were ‘officially Christian’ (MP I: 122). In the first years in Peru, Acosta envisioned Hispanicization in his own way, laying the foundations for a gradual Hispanicization of the Indians, thus preserving certain customs and traditions, as will be shown in this chapter. Meanwhile, as shown in Chapter Two, in his Sumario de las Cosas de Japón

(1583) – Japan Summary – Alessandro Valignano clearly expresses the improbability of the Japanese accommodating to the Jesuits, so accommodation had to work the other way around. Apart from it being constitutive of the Ignatian spirit, another of the founding members of the Society, Francis Xavier, was the first to realize that some sort of accommodation was necessary in Japan. And it was Valignano, a true disciple, who envisioned this adaptation in the missions where both Portuguese military presence and ecclesiastical administration were weak or inexistent, and where Christianization was not identical to ‘Portugalization’ (Zupanov 2003: 20). Last but not least, accommodation was the alternative – probably the only one – that the Jesuits had in those missions where they had neither political nor coercive power on their side. As already mentioned, in the Japan Summary, Valignano conveyed a realistic notion of accommodation, distant from attitudes like those shown by Cabral in Japan.1 Time and experience would give concrete meaning to Valignano’s general directive of accommodation when carried out in China. Ruggieri and Ricci were the first to implement it, each in his own way. This chapter examines their different ways of interpreting and implementing Valignano’s directives, when time, experience and personal appraisals would deal with the rest. Finally, this chapter proposes to analyse an intersection point in which Hispanicization and accommodation, as envisioned by Acosta and Ricci respectively, meet. As two religious men in the sixteenth century, they were both concerned – or obsessed – about idolatry, ‘finding’ its specific manifestations in their respective missions.