Academic Monograph by Dr. Cornelius Conover Published
The University of New Mexico Press, which specializes in scholarly and trade books on subjects including Southwestern and Western American history and literature, has published the academic monograph, “Pious Imperialism: Spanish Rule and the Cult of Saints in Mexico City,” written by Dr. Cornelius Conover, Augustana University associate professor of history.
Conover’s study analyzes Spanish rule and Catholic practice from the consolidation of Spanish control in the Americas in the sixteenth century to the loss of these colonies in the nineteenth century by following the life and afterlife of an accidental martyr, San Felipe de Jésus.
Using this Mexico City native as the central figure, Conover tracks the global aspirations of imperial Spain in places such as Japan and Rome without losing sight of the local forces affecting Catholicism. He demonstrates the ways Spanish religious attitudes motivated territorial expansion and transformed Catholic worship.
Using Mexico City as an example, Conover also shows that the cult of saints continually refreshed the spiritual authority of the Spanish monarch and the message of loyalty of colonial peoples to a devout king. Such a political message in worship, Conover concludes, proved contentious in independent Mexico, thus setting the stage for the momentous conflicts of the nineteenth century in Latin American religious history.
Dr. Conover's lifelong fascination with the Latin American region started in college, and his study research into this particular topic began back in 2002. “I was first enchanted by the story of a ne’er-do-well saint. It was only later that I realized San Felipe offered insights into the inner workings of the entire Spanish Empire.” Conover credits earning his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and teaching experience at Augustana University with giving him the perspective needed to finish the monograph. “I love to get lost in historical details, but an audience learns most from a story told with charm and meaning.”
Although the book centers on an era centuries in the past, it also provides some lessons for today: “I’m extremely excited to share this unique approach to understand how religion impacts people’s lives. Moreover, discovering new knowledge is something that I encourage in my students,” said Conover.