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Boturini Benaduci, Lorenzo

BOTURINI BENADUCI, LORENZO

Historian and collector of Mexican antiquities, devotee of Our Lady of Guadalupe; b. Sondrio, Lombardy, Italy, 1702; d. Madrid, Spain, apparently in 1755. Little is known of Boturini's early life. He studied in Milan and spent some time in Vienna and Lisbon. In Madrid, he met the Countess of Santibáñez, a descendant of the Aztec Emperor Montezuma, who in 1735 ceded to Boturini a yearly stipend of 1,000 pesos paid her from the royal treasury of Mexico City. By February of 1736 he was in Mexico City collecting the pension. Boturini became interested in the pilgrimages to the shrine of Our Lady of guadalupe at Tepeyac and in the tradition that the Virgin Mary had appeared there in December of 1531. To find documentary evidence of this miracle, he began intensive research into the native North American past. He learned Nahuatl so that he could converse with the natives in their own tongue and collected native codices of historical events. In his enthusiasm, he spent six years accumulating a fine collection of documents, even though few of them bore direct testimony to the apparitions. By then he planned to use the material to write a new history of colonial Mexico.

In the meantime, he wished to contribute to the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe by placing a golden crown over her head on the miraculously painted image. In July of 1740 he obtained permission from ecclesiastical authorities in Rome to do so, and he began to solicit funds for the coronation. Late in 1742 the new viceroy, the Count of Fuenclara, ordered an investigation, and on November 28 Boturini was charged with both coming to the colony and promoting devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe without royal authorization. He was accused of collecting alms without the necessary permission and of including on the crown the coat of arms of the Vatican as well as that of a noble Italian family that had contributed toward the coronation. On Feb. 4, 1743, he was imprisoned, and his collection of documents and antiquities was seized by local authorities. His answers to the charges, sent to officials in Spain on April 16, 1743, were to no avail. In the Archives of the Indies in Seville are letters from 1743 in which Viceroy Fuenclara wrote in great detail to Philip V of the Boturini affair.

Boturini was sent to Spain under special vigilance at the end of 1743, but he was put ashore at Gibraltar by English corsairs who plundered and sunk his vessel, the Concordia. At the beginning of 1744, he arrived in Madrid, penniless, and received assistance from the Mexican historian Mariano Veytia. The Council of Indies exonerated Boturini of all charges. He was given a yearly pension, and on July 10, 1747, he was named official chronicler and historian of the New World.

Boturini never returned to Mexico and therefore did not repossess his collection of antiquities. He did, however, attempt to write the history of the Indies, and by April of 1749 he had finished the first volume of Historia general de la América septentrional. It was an account of the physical features of the valley of Mexico, its indigenous tribes, their customs, and way of life. Even though approved by the crown, the work was never published. In a letter of March 6, 1755, Boturini reminded officials of this and asked that his stipend be increased to 5,000 pesos yearly so that he could return to Mexico and continue the writing of the other volumes. Apparently Boturini died shortly afterward; no further documentation is found concerning the petition or his work. In Madrid and in Mexico his personal papers and collection of ancient MSS, amounting to some 40 volumes, disappeared in time. However, copies of many of the documents are to be found mainly in archives and libraries of Spain, Mexico, and the United States.

Besides writing his Historia general, Boturini outlined the general division of New Spain's history in the Idea de una historia general de la América septentrional (Madrid 1746). This was reedited in Mexico in 1871. It contains an appendix, Catálogo del Museo Histórico Indiano, that lists some of the materials the author had gathered when he lived in Mexico. Boturini also wrote a short treatise in Latin on the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Bibliography: j. garcÍa icazbalceta, Diccionario universal de historia y de geografia, 10 v. (Mexico City 185356) 1:676677. j. torre revello, "Lorenzo Boturini Benaduci y el cargo de cronista de las Indias," Boletín del lnstituto de Investigaciones Históricas 5 (192627) 5261.

[n. f. martin]

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