Thesis: New Spain, Mexico the Culture

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[. . .] She was speaking in his own native language, Nahuatl -- not the language of the conquering Spanish. What she said astonished him: she wanted a church built on that site -- and it was then that Juan Diego recognized her as the Virgin Queen Mary, Mother of Christ. Juan Diego ran to the local Spanish Archbishop, Juan de Zumarraga, and told him of what he had seen and heard. The Archbishop was reluctant to believe that the Mother of God would appear in a vision to a man like Juan Diego -- a peasant in Mexican society. The Archbishop demanded a sign. So the story goes -- Juan Diego returned to the site. He asked for a sign, and the Mother of God told him to retrieve the flowers at the top of the Hill waiting for him. Even though it was December, when flowers were not known to bloom, Juan Diego climbed the Hill. There he found Castillian roses -- which only grew in Spain. The Mother of God put the flowers in Juan Diego's cloak, called a tilma, and bid him return to the Archbishop. When Juan Diego displayed the gift he had received, in his cloak were not only the flowers but also the image known today as the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Lee).

This story had a great impact on Mexicans, who prior to this time were ambivalent in their approach towards Catholicism. They still referred to the Mother of God as Tonantzin, who was a mother-goddess in the Aztec religion. With the appearance of our Lady of Guadalupe, the Mexicans began to develop a strong devotion to the Christian mother. Miracles were reported and the pagan practices were gradually done away with. Our Lady of Guadalupe became a cultural icon for the Mexicans and would be used by them throughout their various revolutions and wars with the Spanish Empire in the later years.


In 1810, Hidalgo led the war against the Spanish in Mexico, representing an independent Mexico. Hidalgo used the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a sign of Mexican identity. Her icon appealed to the heart of all Mexicans. The religion of Catholic Spain had taken root in Mexico, but primarily because of the legend of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mexicans to this day take great pride in the Mother of God who is said to have appeared to them so many centuries ago.

Mexico's independence did bode way for the Mexican culture, however. Mexican culture from 1500 onward had been heavily dependent upon Spanish culture (Catholic culture). With the rise of the revolutionaries, the Catholic and agrarian world of Mexico would become less localized and more corporatized -- less Catholic and more pagan.

From the end of the 19th century on, the U.S. became increasingly imperialistic. It took to invading Central American nations, instigating revolutions so as to install puppet regimes which would then do the bidding of U.S. corporations like United Fruit. In Mexico, millions of acres of land were acquired by U.S. businessmen like William Hearst, who used it to establish Big Agra (Stone, Kuznick xxix). U.S. businesses became rich off of Mexico's destabilization. Mexican culture became poor, its citizens cut off from both the past (by way of political revolution) and its own land (by way of U.S. ownership).

The nation has since degenerated into drug warfare with numerous drug cartels violently competing for market share. It is in one sense a return to the days of old, when savage human sacrifice could be found in the temples of Tenochtitlan.


It may be concluded, therefore, that Mexican culture has come full circle -- but not in a good way. At the height of its power, the Aztec Empire had a functioning civilization in spite of a number of ills (like slavery and human sacrifice). Today, it has a barely functioning civilization. It is a culture bereft of the benefit of religion (the icon of Our Lady remains but the spirit of Catholicism is missing mightily) and of stability. Its leaders are pawns of NAFTA, which has done much to ruin the Mexican economy and rob the average Mexican worker of any real chance at profitable labor (Shirk 4). For a few centuries, New Spain reigned powerfully in Mexico. Its culture replaced that of the Aztecs. Mexico, like all of South America, became Catholic. But the nation to the north, which had been so insignificant in terms of power, began to rise as the Age of Industrialization took place. The new industrialized superpower emerged to spread its empire all over the world, including Mexico, whose land was ripe for pillaging. Mexico's Catholic culture had already been undermined by political revolution. With the interference of U.S. powers in Mexico in the early 20th century, Mexican culture became increasingly secular, materialistic, demoralized and immoral. Today, it represents not so much a glorious pre-conquest Mexico as an inglorious pre-conquest Mexico struggling to find its identity.

Works Cited

Engstrand, Iris. "How Cruel Were the Spaniards?" OAH Magazine of History, vol. 14,

no. 4 (Summer, 2000), pp. 12-15. Print.

Fitch, Nancy. "The Conquest of Mexico." Web. 20 Jun 2013.

Lee, G. "Shrine of Guadalupe." Catholic Encyclopedia. NY: Robert Appleton

Company, 1913. Print.

Pratt-Chadwick, M.L. Cortez and Montezuma. Boston: Educational Publishing, 1890.


Rabasa, Jose. Inventing America: Spanish Historiography and the Formation of Eurocentrism. OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993. Print.

Shirk, David. The Drug War in Mexico: Confronting a Shared Threat. NY: Council on Foreign Relations, 2011. Print.

Stone, Oliver; Kuznick, Peter. The Untold History of the United States. NY: Gallery

Books, 2012. Print.

Vickery, Paul.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

New Spain, Mexico the Culture.  (2013, June 20).  Retrieved May 20, 2019, from

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"New Spain, Mexico the Culture."  20 June 2013.  Web.  20 May 2019. <>.

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"New Spain, Mexico the Culture."  June 20, 2013.  Accessed May 20, 2019.