Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Social Sciences


Social Sciences

First Reader/Committee Chair

Dr Teresa Velasquez


My thesis, building on over two centuries of scholarly research on colonialism and evangelism in Mexico, seeks to heighten the visibility of the Franciscan order in New Spain. I intend to clearly establish how the Virgin de Guadalupe’s influence on native conversions was mediated through, and controlled by, the Franciscan institutional systems between 1523 and 1572.

Many scholars have argued that the most influential factor in converting the Nahua populations was the apparition of the Virgin de Guadalupe, in 1533. These scholars have argued that at the time of her appearance the conversion of the country had been incomplete, but following her appearance Guadalupinist Catholicism spread rapidly in Central Mexico and became the “focal value of Aztec culture” (Madsen 1967, 378), resulting in some nine million baptisms by 1537.

Although the Virgin de Guadalupe proved to be a substantial contributing factor for conversion in New Spain, I will argue that these scholars have given disproportionate emphasis to the Virgin, in the process neglecting the institutional systems implemented by the Franciscans between the years of 1523 and 1572.

This thesis will discuss the desire of the Franciscan administration to establish a moral order, defined by leading scholar of Globalization Christopher Chase-Dunn as, people’s agreements about definitions of right and wrong, obligations, and legitimate conflicts (Chase-Dunn 2014, 176). Using Michel Foucault’s theories about power and the subjected I will expand on this definition and argue that the moral order helped define the relationship and the roles of the Franciscans and the Natives; the Franciscans becoming the administrators of a new society that they largely defined and managed, while using the institutions they developed as tools of social regulation and control to produce docile native subjects, deprived of a unique cultural heritage.