Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2017

Access Restrictions


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Mentzer, Raymond A

First Committee Member

Brian, Amber

Second Committee Member

Komisaruk, Catherine

Third Committee Member

Nabhan-Warren, Kristy

Fourth Committee Member

Supp-Montgomerie, Jenna


My dissertation is about forms of locally-based piety, especially religious devotion within the population of eighteenth-century Spanish descendants in Monterrey, Mexico. This study takes the reader through the structure of the colonial last will and testament, identifying its principle parts, analyzing its formulaic language, and discerning ways to hear the voice of its testator. Reineros, or colonial residents of Monterrey, entrusted scribes to write their wills in order to care for their souls in the afterlife and bequeath their possessions to family members, friends, and the church. Testators demonstrate their piety by issuing directives concerning their burials and funerals and making pious bequests to benefit church adornment, chapels, charities, and devotions to images. I identify trends in piety over time and offer a proposal for understanding the context of these variations.

I propose that Monterrey’s distance from other urban centers made it a distinctive frontier town in northeast Mexico, where a baroque-infused piety dominated local religious practices even after the creation of the diocese in 1777. However, I demonstrate that late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century testators, although still concerned for their individual souls, requested fewer masses for the dead to benefit their souls and the souls of others, made fewer charitable gifts, and disregarded showy funerals for the sake of humility. What emerges, then, is a blend of baroque practices and pious reforms. “En el Nombre de Dios” is a case study about the staying power of traditions and the enduring flexibility of religion.

Public Abstract

My dissertation is about local religion in Monterrey, Mexico during the years 1700-1810. This study offers a close reading of the colonial will and incorporates information from other historical documents, such as burial records, city council records, pastoral visits, and other legal documents written by scribes. Wills, in particular, provide valuable information about the everyday lives of ordinary people, including unique insights into local religious practices. Those who asked scribes to write their wills were not only interested in transferring their assets to others once they died, but also they were concerned with their souls and the souls of others. For this reason, in their wills they asked for masses to be celebrated in order to benefit their souls in the afterlife, they requested specific places of burial and often in the habit of a Franciscan friar, and they made charitable gifts to support their local parish church, Franciscan convent, and other local places of worship and veneration.

In this dissertation I describe and analyze the types of pious directives made by those making their wills just prior to death. Data from wills before and after the establishment of the diocese are compared and contrasted to identify trends among testators. Many examples of how ordinary Catholics prepared for death and fostered a sense of community are shared. A blend of traditional religious practices and new ways to foster religious commitment and devotion emerge over time.


Colonial Mexican Wills


ix, 301 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 282-301).


Copyright © 2017 John R. Kennedy

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