El imperio de la virtud. Grandeza mexicana (1604) de Bernardo de Balbuena y el discurso criollo novohispano is the product of several years of intense research by Prof. Terukina on one of the most canonical pieces of Mexican literature. During this process, Prof. Terukina was fortunate to receive invaluable assistance from W&M alums Katherine Brown (’13), who gathered key documents related to Balbuena at the Archivo General de Indias (Seville), and Michael J. Le (’15), who designed some of the illustrations that accompany the volume.
Against the normative proto-Mexican and criollista reading of Grandeza mexicana (1604), El imperio de la virtud positions Bernardo de Balbuena’s work in an Atlantic context and hence interprets it as a political assertion of the natural right of peninsular émigrés to rule New Spain.
The book offers an updated biography of Balbuena that reminds us of his ties to the Iberian Peninsula, and traces the pre-modern rhetorical, scientific, geopolitical, and economic paradigms upon which Grandeza mexicana is designed. Thus, the work analyzes Balbuena’s encomium of Mexico City as a political prise de position in favor of peninsular émigrés like Balbuena himself, who are allegedly endowed with the moral and intellectual virtues needed to direct the spiritual and temporal life of the viceroyalty, and against the morally deficient criollos and the barbaric Indians.
El imperio de la virtud invites us to reassess the role that Balbuena and Grandeza mexicana play in the cultural history of present-day Mexico.