All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Chris Ck Kyle

Advisory Committee Members

Peter Pv Verbeek

Andrew Ak Keitt

Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences


In 1521, the destruction of Aztec leadership created a disjointed network of native communities in what is now Mexico but would come to be known as New Spain. Until 1572 New Spain was an open and contested space for political, economic, and religious dominance among various Spanish factions. This dominance was predicated upon an evangelical mission in service to the conversion of native people from “pagans” to Christians. Religious education and evangelization by mendicant friars may have, either as a deliberate or consequential outcome, promoted or enforced collaboration and minimized direct and violent conflict during this period. Some religious friars regarded this as an opportunity to put into practice theories that had been developed in Europe based on just war, democratic consent, and political liberty. In addition to native conversion, they worked toward a transformation of native people, as they perceived them as free and rational people living outside the Church, to rights bearing citizens subject to a Christian nation. These theories were informed and shaped by their practical experience and were recorded in their writings. By analyzing selections of these writings, primarily those of Fray Alonso de la Vera Cruz between 1536 and 1572, I will assess to what extent the friars may have functioned as peacebuilding actors. Vera Cruz argued that native people showed evidence of political organization and that they held legitimate claims to collective ownership over the land. In New Spain, native elites strategically aligned themselves with religious schools and convents to navigate Spanish violence and build new alliances. In this way and in specific locations, the friars created the conditions for negative peace. During this period across the Caribbean and Central America native people were subject to enslavement, pandemics, and the systematic destruction of their religious, political, and cultural institutions. However, within these conditions of extreme violence, we can also track the development of European humanist political thought. These ideas would inform both the Enlightenment and contemporary human rights theory.



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