Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Sherry Johnson

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Noble D. Cook

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Aurora Morcillo

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Ana M. Bidegain

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Inquisition Cuba, Catholic Church Cuba, Franciscans Cuba, Border Studies Cuba

Date of Defense



This dissertation examines the history of the Inquisition in the Diocese of Santiago de Cuba paying special attention to its leadership amid the series of reformations undertaken by the Spanish empire on both sides of the Atlantic. Through the long sixteenth century (1511 – 1611) bishops, Franciscan friars, and other government officials employed or manipulated the Inquisition in Cuba to satisfy the needs of the Spanish Empire or their personal agendas, respectively. Some clergy rightfully used the inquisitorial practices as mandated to uphold the Christian morality of the colonial society. Others, conveniently, fabricated crimes against members of the community to cover up their own wrongdoings. They used their privileges as officers of the Inquisition to protect themselves against grave accusations, to intimidate their accusers, and to prevent being prosecuted for crimes they committed. Other functionaries filed charges, arrested, and tried prominent or wealthy individuals either employing the Inquisition’s legitimate mechanisms or exaggerating the charges they fabricated to gain notoriety and advance through the ranks of the Holy Office.

Concurrently, the business of manufacturing sin in Cuba – that is charging people with fabricated and/or exaggerated religious crimes – evolved into a useful imperial tool. When inquisition personnel brought charges against those who violated, contradicted or were accused of disrespecting Catholic doctrine, it had the potential for grave consequences. Establishing (or attempting to establish) Inquisition Tribunals near contested areas, such as the frontier regions, and sending Inquisition delegates to religious underrepresented regions such as the missions and the frontier towns, served, if not as a barrier, at least as a deterrent to heretical individuals who challenged Spain’s Catholic hegemony. Along with fortifications and armed military posts, the Inquisition developed the systemic function of upholding the Catholicity of the Spanish Empire, and of protecting the colonial outskirts from foreign threats and infiltrations. The protective role of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in the Diocese of Cuba went hand in hand with the defensive strategies of the Spanish empire throughout its frontiers of heresy.





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