Empire, Enlightenment, and the Time Before: Global Contexts for Writing the History of Mexico
This article examines the different trajectories and works of two Mexican Creoles, separated by the Jesuits’ exile in 1767 in two different sides of the Atlantic. Francisco Javier Clavijero (1731–1787) wrote the monumental Storia antica del Messico (1780–1781) in the papal states, then a major center of antiquarian knowledge in Europe. José Antonio de Alzate y Ramírez (1737–1799) edited his Gazeta de literatura de México (1784–1795) in Mexico City and wrote notes on Clavijero’s history for a never published Spanish edition. This article shifts attention away from the “dispute of the New World” opposing European and American voices and concentrates instead on the very rich but still unstudied debate between Mexican Creoles. It suggests that the exile placed Clavijero and Alzate within different imperial configurations, and this had significant implications on their political agendas and epistemological approaches. By investigating the strategies that they employed for shaping their international credibility as local experts of Mexico’s pre-colonial history and architectural remains, this article also explores the fluctuating reception of Clavijero’s and Alzate’s works in a period characterized by significant imperial transformations.