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Writing the Advertencias
Introduction to the Advertencias: who wrote it, how it was written, what it's about.
The purpose of this page is to introduce the author of the Advertencias. To do this, however, we must first ask: What did it mean to be an author in sixteenth-century Mexico? In the words of Kathryn Burns, the author during this period is perhaps better understood as a "blended, composite agency" (4) than as an autonomous individual. As we will see, the compositor of the book was just one of many figures who participated in the production of the written text.
The title page of the Advertencias attributes the book to "El padre Ioan Baptiſta, de la Orden del Seraphico Padre Sanct Franciſco, Lector de Theologia, y Guardian del Conuento de Sanctiago Tlatilulco." Born in New Spain in 1555, Fray Juan Bautista (as the name is written today) taught philosophy and theology at the convent of Mexico City, then moved to serve as guardian of Tezcoco before appearing near the end of the century as the guardian of the convent at Tlatelolco, where he wrote his confessional manual. Though the date of his death is uncertain, we know he was at Tacuba in 1605 and Tezcoco in 1606, and that he died no later than 1613.
In addition to the two-volume Advertencias, Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta provides the following bibliography of Bautista's works, drawn from Bautista's own Sermonario, though he does express doubt over some of the texts:
As this list shows, Bautista was a prolific composer of religious texts dedicated primarily to the spiritual education of indigenous converts, or to the missionaries (both peninsulares from Spain and criollos born in the New World) responsible for their souls. The presence of Nahuatl is unique to the sixteenth century; by the seventeenth century, thanks to changes in Spain's policies of domination and indigenous education, indigenous language print production would decrease significantly. Bautista's body of work also highlights the rising importance of intellectual work by criollos in the second half of the sixteenth century. We'll discuss this further in the next section.
- Indulgentiae ac peccatorum remissiones a Summis Pontificibus concessae Regularibus et iis etiam qui eorum gaudent Privilegiis. (1602?)
- Catecismo breve en lengua mexicana y castellana
- Tepiton Amuxtli, a brief treatise on the erasure of sin
- "Hieroglificos de conversion"
- Teoyoticatezcatl, Espejo Spiritual
- Las indulgencias que ganan los cofrades del cordon
- La Vida y Muerte de tres niños de Tlaxcalla
- La Doctrina Cristiana dividida por los días de la semana
- Oraciones muy devotas a la Santisima Trinidad
- La Vida y Milagros del glorioso y bienaventurado S. Antonio de Padua
- De la Miseria de brevedad de la vida del hombre y de sus cuatro postrimerías
- Confesionario en lengua mexicana y castellana
- Sermonario en lengua Mexicana
To attribute the Advertencias to Bautista alone, however, is to erase a complicated process of textual production - the "scene" of its writing. In fact, authorship of the Advertencias is complicated by two factors: the prior texts that Bautista draws on, and the scribes or translators who Bautista employed at Tlatelolco. As García Icazbalceta writes, "Dió el fruto de sus conocimientos en las numerosas obras ... pero de los datos conocidos se desprende que no fueron enteramente originales, sino que se sirvió de los trabajos inéditos de otros padres, y en Tlatelolco sacó gran partido de los estudiantes indios más aprovechados, á quienes hacía traducir de castellano á mexicano lo que le convenia" (356).Pre-textsVerónica Murillo Gallegos, editor of a new translated (Spanish) edition of the Advertencias, has written a careful study of the sources on which the Advertencias is based, drawing particular attention to the influence of American writers Juan Focher, Bernardino de Sahagún, Alonso de la Veracruz, and Miguel de Gornales. When Murillo Gallegos writes about influence, however, she doesn't just mean the passing down of ideas; she's writing about the kind of influence that might, today, be a violation of copyright law.Consider, for example, Bautista's use of Bernardino de Sahagún's Historia general. As Murillo Gallegos writes, "El texto de Sahagún que aparece en las Advertencias es una transcripción casi completa del «Apéndiz del quinto libro, de las Abusiones que usaban estos naturales»" (362). The transcription appears on folios 105-112; it draws on a manuscript from the Historia General. Importantly, the Advertencias doesn't plagiarize Sahagún; it's very explicit about the process of copying, titling the section "Abusiones antiguas que estos Naturales tuvieron en su gentilidad, segun que escrive el Padre fray Bernardino de Sahagun, en el libro segundo de su Bocabulario [sic] Trilingue." Furthermore, this explicit copying of other texts is not unusual for Bautista's Advertencias. Instead, it is the norm. The Advertencias is a pastiche, a document made up of other documents, and Bautista is a compiler as well as author.Indigenous WritersWhen describing the production of early colonial Mexican books, it has become common to read them as a collaboration between Spaniards and indigenous Mexicans. This is particularly true for books produced at places like Tlatelolco, which were centers of indigenous scholarship. In the prologues to his Historia General, Bernardino de Sahagún describes in some detail his relationship with indigenous collaborators, explaining in the prologue to Book Two that he worked with a team of ten or twelve "principales ancianos" (leading elders), along with "hasta quatro latinos" - four Latinists, former students at the Colegio at Tlatelolco. Later, he collaborated with friars and students at Tlatelolco, and later at San Francisco de Mexico.Though Bautista's method is less clearly articulated, we know that he was not a native speaker of Nahuatl, and that he used student translators while director at Tlatelolco. In the prologue to his Sermonario en lengua mexicana, he writes, "He me [sic] ayudado en eſta obra de algunos naturales muy ladinos, y habiles," offering a brief biography of each of the eight men who provided particular support along with a description of their contribution: Hernando de Ribas, Don Iuan Berardo, Diego Adriano, Don Francisco Baptista de Contreras, Estevan Bravo, Don Antonio Valeriano, Pedro de Gante, and Agustin de la Fuente. Though some of these men were no longer living by the time the Advertencias was composed (notably Hernando de Ribas), others may have been involved in its composition. The full Sermonario can be accessed through the Internet Archive.We consider this significant for two reasons. First: the designation of authorship to the criollo author consolidates knowledge in the name - and hands - of the Spaniards, effectively erasing the contribution of indigenous scholars in the early colonial period. Second, this erasure in turn impacts our ability to interpret the texts. As Louise Burkhart described in her 1989 book The Slippery Earth, early colonial religious texts must be understood as sites of cultural contact. This is seen not just in the hybrid language of these books, but also in the scene of their production. As we reframe the authorship of the Advertencias, we open new analytic possibilities for reading the text.