This dissertation seeks to uncover the networks of Jewish surgeons interrogated and prosecuted by the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Spanish Inquisition in the seventeenth century. A 1508 decree from Ferdinand of Aragon stated that neither Jews, Muslims, converts from either faith, nor their children or grandchildren should be permitted to travel to the newly claimed territories of the viceroyalties. Given these restrictions and the historical realities of many Jewish and converso crossings to the viceroyalties, how do we unearth voices that worked to remain voiceless out of necessity?

I argue that converso surgeons relied on networks of kinship and economic connections in order to maintain their faith in secret. However, these networks proved susceptible to economic competition, ultimately placing conversos at risk for prosecution by the Holy Office.

Admission to university in the viceregal era required proof of limpieza de sangre, or purity of blood, which specifically excluded those applicants with Jewish ancestry. Using Inquisition records, I hope to determine whether the networks established by Jews and Conversos in the viceroyalties also served as a place to pass on medicinal knowledge in addition to faith-based knowledge. I will also trace their histories in limpieza de sangre documentation. My historiographic scope will contextualize Jewish and converso medical practitioners within the burgeoning studies of African and indigenous medical practitioners as well, engaging with cutting edge scholarship on the spread of knowledge in the Caribbean, more broadly across the Spanish viceroyalties, as well as similar material in Brazil. My doctoral work in the history of science situates Latin America in its rightful position as critical to the development of medicine and other fields of knowledge in the early modern and enlightenment era.


Mejor Amancebada que Mal Casada: Rhetoric and Practice of Amancebamiento in Seventeenth-Century New Spain”

Following a history tensions surrounding concubinage in medieval and early modern Spain, the Church sought greater control of religious life, particularly over the sacrament of marriage, via the Holy Office of the Inquisition. The Church exercised its strengthened restrictions and prosecuted these relationships with more frequency, as did civil courts. Still, concubinage [termed ‘amancebamiento‘ within the archive] took place in many forms and with frequency throughout the viceregal period in New Spain. This calls into question whether public perceptions of sex and sexuality reflected those imposed by the Church. Using the lenses of colonialism, gossip, and narrative, this thesis will address the following concerns: Why did these relationships persist at the risk of prosecution? Who engaged in these types of relationships? How did the courts, including the Holy Office, prosecute these offenses? What social implications did amancebados face for their relationships? Did the Church seek to control viceregal sexuality or the propagation of dissident beliefs? Based on archival research conducted at the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City, this thesis argues that in spite of attempts to regulate sexuality throughout the viceroyalties, ecclesiastical rhetoric did not sexually suppress the viceregal populace, nor did it prevent lay interpretation of Catholic doctrine.