Zubiría, José Antonio Laureano de (c. 1780–1845)

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Zubiría, José Antonio Laureano de (c. 1780–1845)

José Antonio Laureano de Zubiría (b. ca. 1780; d. after 1845), bishop of Durango, Mexico. Zubiría's pronouncements outlined the canonical justification for bringing the new Mexican church back under Episcopal control and curbing aspects of folk piety that Catholic orthodoxy deemed harmful. Although Zubiría could not enforce his decrees, he laid the foundation for the reforms instituted by the first bishops of Santa Fe under American control.

Many of the criticisms that Zubiría leveled against the churches and Franciscan missions in New Mexico reflected the innovations and improvisations that New Mexicans had adopted since the 1760s, when the Spanish province found itself virtually isolated from the rest of Mexico by Comanche, Apache, and Ute raids. Symbolic of his view of New Mexican religious devotion, Zubiría criticized the crude pictures of the saints that some Franciscan missionaries had painted on animal hides because they had little access to religious art imported from Mexico. The combination of Episcopal disapproval and the rise of an indigenous style of Santos carved from pine wood and decorated with brightly colored tempera on a coat of gesso led to the loss of most hide paintings from the missions during the Mexican period. Zubiría described even the new devotional art as "ugly images."

Zubiría's denunciation of the Brotherhood of Penitentes during the 1833 visitation is one of the few descriptions of the confraternity during its formative period. He mentioned that the organization had existed "for a good number of years, but without any authorization or even the knowledge of the bishops." He ordered the clergy in New Mexico to forbid Penitente meetings and ritual, because of "the excesses of very indiscreet corporal punishment which they are accustomed to practice … even publicly."

Zubiría's condemnation of the Penitentes had little effect. The church failed in its attempt to exert control over the brotherhood until the reforms of 1851–1852 promulgated by Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, first bishop of Santa Fe under the jurisdiction of the United States.

See alsoMissions: Spanish America; Penitentes.


Elizabeth Boyd, Popular Arts of Colonial New Mexico (1974).

Frances Leon Swadesh, Los Primeros Pobladores: Hispanic Americans of the Ute Frontier (1974).

Marc Simmons, New Mexico: An Interpretive History (1977).

David J. Weber, The Mexican Frontier, 1821–1846: The American Southwest under Mexico (1982).

Thomas J. Steele, S.J., and Rowena A. Rivera, Penitente Self-Government: Brotherhoods and Councils, 1797–1947 (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Defouri, James H., and Thomas J. Steele. Historical Sketch of the Catholic Church in New Mexico. Las Cruces, NM: Yucca Tree Press, 2003.

Kessell, John L., and Rick Hendricks. The Spanish Missions of New Mexico. New York: Garland, 1991.

                                           Ross H. Frank

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Zubiría, José Antonio Laureano de (c. 1780–1845)

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