Jason Dyck


"Are our oldest heroes only to be found in the colonial history of the "Thirteen Original States?""1 Jose Manuel Espinosa posed this question in 1935 in a brief article on the Jesuit Francisco de Florencia (1620-1695), one of the most prolific sacred historians of Spanish America. As a student of Herbert E. Bolton-a pioneering historian of the borderlands-Espinosa argued that Florida should be considered part of the colonial history of the United States even if it was mostly under Spanish rule until 1821.2 Since Florencia was born in Saint Augustine, Espinosa debunked what he called the "Brooke legend," the belief that Robert Brooke (1663-1714) of Maryland was the first American-born Catholic priest. By including the borderlands in his vision of colonial U.S. history, Espinosa gave Florencia the boast of precedence and transformed him into an early "hero" of America. A few years later, in 1939, Francisco Zambrano categorized Florencia as "Mexican" in his historical guide to the Society of Jesus in New Spain.3 Indeed, several scholars have represented Florencia as a true Mexican patriot given his account of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a Marian image that became a symbol of Mexican nationalism ever since Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (1753-1811) raised her banner in the wars for independence in the early nineteenth century.4