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Adventurers, Emissaries and Settlers: Ireland and Latin America
27-30 June 2007, National University of Ireland, Galway

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Irish travellers judged by the Inquisition in Colonial Mexico

Lourdes De Ita (Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo)

From the 16th to the first years of the 19th Century, Mexico was under the Spanish Colonial Rule. As a reaction to the Protestant Reformation in Europe, but as well as a strategy for protecting its territoriality in its American colonies, Spain brought to America institutions such as the Holy Office of the Inquisition.

In this paper we will talk about some Irishmen who arrived in New Spain during that period. They are the first Irishmen registered to have been in Mexico. The most of them came as crew members in a commercial journey (most frequently illegal for the Spanish government) and curiously, were judged by the Inquisition rather than by the civil laws.  

Among these men we can distinguish William Cornelius of Cork (judged and ‘relaxed’ in Mexico in the Auto de Fé in 1575), Tubal of Nash, from “Guatford”, reconciled in Mexico in the Auto of 1605, Guillén de Lamport, ‘reconciled’ in 1695, and Nicolas O’Silti Valois, judged in c.1785.

We will focus particularly in the case of William Cornelius - “Cornelio el irlandés”, Guillermo Cornieles, Juan Martín or Julio Martín - who was a crew member in John Hawkins’s third slave trade journey to the Caribbean and Central America. His New Spanish experience is worth examining. He was, at the end, one of the first foreigners who had to die because of his beliefs and the intollerance of ‘the other’. We will consider as well the impact of these events in the New Spanish (Mexican) population.

Online published: 24 April 2007
Edited: 07 May 2009

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