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The Destruction of the Jesuits in Mexico
The Destruction of the Jesuits in Mexico

by Joseph Toone

The Jesuits' arrival in Mexico (or New Spain as it was called then) in 1572 was a triple threat to the established order.

1) Their work in education was unparalleled. Their educational institutions allowed sons of Spanish and Creole families to be thoroughly educated close to home. However, since their allegiance was to the Pope and not the King, the Jesuits introduced, in those they educated, the thought of breaking free from Spain in those they educated.

2) Through conversion, they also educated the enslaved indigenous peoples in the arts and sciences forming in them thoughts which were independent of their masters.

3) They were brilliant business men. The Jesuits firmly believed in owning property and they adored receiving gifts of land. As an example, their ownership and management of the mines in nearby Pozos was financially staggering for the time. The ruins of smelters and mines called St. Bridget, in nearby Pozos, are remnants of the Jesuits’ business savvy.

By the mid 1600s, the 336 Jesuits in Mexico administered the most admired colleges and seminaries. By 1767 there were 678 Jesuits. They owned and operated 24 colleges, 11 seminaries, 102 missions and 27 strategic haciendas that provided income for their various projects.

However, in that same year, 1767, King Carlos the Third signed secret decrees against the Jesuits. The plan was executed across the country overnight. It was carefully coordinated to surprise and thereby prevent efforts by Jesuit supporters to protect them. It was successful.

Jesuits were forced to leave Mexico immediately with no more than the clothes they wore. Soldiers pillaged their churches, schools and businesses. Those who resisted were put to death.

Many Jesuits fled to the mountain caves around Guanajuato. On the feast day of St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuits, I used to join my daughter in a pilgrimage up the mountain to those caves. The procession is an act of gratitude, thanking the Jesuits for planting the seed of an independent Mexico, an idea that came home to roost in San Miguel making town the cradle of Mexican independence.


Joseph Toone is Amazon's bestselling author of the San Miguel de Allende Secrets series of books and TripAdvisor's best rated historical walking tour guide. For more information contact or visit History and Culture Walking Tours or, also on FaceBook.

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