ABOUT THIS BOOK
Located between Mexico City and Veracruz, Puebla has been a political hub since its founding as Puebla de los Ángeles in 1531. Frances L. Ramos’s dynamic and meticulously researched study exposes and explains the many (and often surprising) ways that politics and political culture were forged, tested, and demonstrated through public ceremonies in eighteenth-century Puebla, colonial Mexico’s “second city.”
With Ramos as a guide, we are not only dazzled by the trappings of power—the silk canopies, brocaded robes, and exploding fireworks—but are also witnesses to the public spectacles through which municipal councilmen consolidated local and imperial rule. By sponsoring a wide variety of carefully choreographed rituals, the municipal council made locals into audience, participants, and judges of the city’s tumultuous political life. Public rituals encouraged residents to identify with the Roman Catholic Church, their respective corporations, the Spanish Empire, and their city, but also provided arenas where individuals and groups could vie for power.
As Ramos portrays the royal oath ceremonies, funerary rites, feast-day celebrations, viceregal entrance ceremonies, and Holy Week processions, we have to wonder who paid for these elaborate rituals—and why. Ramos discovers and decodes the intense debates over expenditures for public rituals and finds them to be a central part of ongoing efforts of councilmen to negotiate political relationships. Even with the Spanish Crown’s increasing disapproval of costly public ritual and a worsening economy, Puebla’s councilmen consistently defied all attempts to diminish their importance.
Ramos innovatively employs a wealth of source materials, including council minutes, judicial cases, official correspondence, and printed sermons, to illustrate how public rituals became pivotal in the shaping of Puebla’s complex political culture.