The transformation of the Empressas apostólicas (1739), a manuscript history of the Jesuits' missions in Lower California written by the novo-Hispanic Jesuit Miguel Venegas, into the Noticia de la California (1757), a thoroughly revised version of Venegas's original prepared by the Spanish Jesuit Andrés Marcos Burriel, provides a case study in how the enactment of the Jesuit ascetic ideal exercised on the Spanish-American mission frontier was closely linked to Enlightenment natural history and ethnography. Through an analysis of both works, as well as Burriel's correspondence with his Jesuit confrères in New Spain, this article aims to demonstrate the underlying tension in eighteenth-century Jesuit writing between traditional, providential narratives and the skeptical, scientific discourse of secular natural histories. Burriel's work, which was widely translated and disseminated throughout Europe, aimed to bridge these two discourses by employing the Society's apostolic-ascetic vocation and global missionary network in the service of natural histories that would appeal to a secular reading public and inform Spanish colonial administration.
- Andrés Marcos Burriel
- Miguel Venegas
- natural history
- New Spain
- Noticia de la California (1757)