Specìfic areas were assigned to the Order of Saint Augustine: to the south, the present Mexican states of Morelos, Guerrero and Puebla; to the north, between the Otomis Indians of Hidalgo; and to the west, the regiòn of Michoacán inhabited by the Tarascos Indians.
One region of focus was Michoacán, in the west of Mexico, where the local people had a right not to be trusting of all men from Spain.
In Mexico City in 1529, the leader of the ruling elite was the cruel bete noir of the Spanish colonial era, Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán.
The reign of corruption and terror of Guzmán in Mexico City was ended by its courageous Bishop, Juan de Zumárraga.
He managed to smuggle a message to the king by entrusting it to a sailor on a ship bound for Spain.
Royal agents were sent to arrest Guzmán. In an attempt to avoid detention and to deflect criticism by achieving fame as a conqueror, he organised an expedition and set off to the west.
His first destination was Michoacán, where he left a trail of pillage and murder in his wake.
In the course of this rampage, a Tarascan king was dragged behind a horse and then burned alive because Guzmán thought he was withholding information regarding a gold treasure.
A man whom the local people came with affection to call "Tata Vasco," Vasco de Quiroga (1470? - 1565) was appointed Bishop of that province in 1537.
Quiroga had a dream of an ideal community that he wished to bring into practice. Utopia, the most famous book by (Saint) Thomas More of England, had been published nineteen years earlier in 1516.
Quiroga believed that applying its principles among the local Indian population would be a perfect way to counteract the memory of the cruelty of Guzmán.
He developed local arts and crafts, and added additional Spanish skills to them.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photo (above): This church at Yecapixtla, Mexico was begun by the Franciscans in the year 1535, and later completed by the Augustinians.