Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Hispanic Studies


Marjorie Ratcliffe


In 1688 a legal text, Renovación, was printed in Mexico City, the capital of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, that explains a twelve year trial that focuses on determining if a 16th century sculpture miraculously renewed itself. The final decision came from the Archbishop of Mexico City. A year after the book’s publication, the sculpture was recognized as miraculous. In 1699, ten years after this event, the author of Renovación wrote another book that narrates the same sculpture's history, Exaltación, but addressed a wider audience, and from a religious and pious perspective. The Exaltación was republished a dozen times throughout the two centuries of colonial era, and two centuries of modern Mexico. It offers an opportunity to study how the book was changing though time, altering the title and some internal elements that involve the transformation of mentality and technology. Alonso Alberto de Velasco (1635-1704), the author of these two works and of another dozen texts, was recognized as a very important figure of his era: he was a priest, a lawyer, and vice chancellor of the Pontifical and Royal University of Mexico City. His importance was, nevertheless, altered by modern readers as the implications of his works were not comprehended, his last name was sometimes erased and his first name changed. The first bibliographers did not appreciate the value of Alberto de Velasco's names, hence decontextualizing his family origins. Furthermore, some scholars have mistaken Renovación with Exaltación as if they were the same text. This dissertation seeks to re-establish the figure of the author of these two books, by analyzing Alonso Alberto de Velasco's family, the history of the two books and the subsequent editions of one of them, and it's legal, literary and visual analysis. Providing a better understanding of the social and cultural context, allowing for the preservation and dissemination of these books over four centuries. This dissertation contributes to a better understanding of the written culture of New Spain and what a book reveals of its society.