The Inquisitor of the Anahuac

Enrique Barón shows the world of wonders and lowliness in the very dynamic and lively society of the New World through the Inquisition
El inquisidor del Anáhuac Enrique Barón


The Inquisition, contrary to general popular misconception, was not a Spanish invention, although it was the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, who endowed it with its important political power. This "most intelligent and terrible institution", as the magistrate Tomás y Valiente described it, far from having been cornered, has been copied by all states, especially by those that have led to totalitarian regimes. After all," says Enrique Barón, "from Myanmar to Nicaragua, via Belarus, they all want to ensure the control of the population and its submission, by degree or by force, to dictatorial power. These totalitarian regimes have ended up degenerating and prostituting the role of their own security services, which exercise their dominion over lives and property in an arbitrary manner, degenerating to the limit of secrecy but with the rules of the Inquisition from which they have all been inspired.

The Inquisitor of Anáhuac, published by the Autonomous University of Mexico, 274 pages, has taken the former President of the European Parliament, Enrique Barón Crespo, twenty years of work, starting in the 1990s and the numerous debates held with many American intellectuals, but especially with the Mexican Carlos Fuentes. 

Baron decided to undertake the production of this novel on the basis of the synthesis that Fuentes made in his book 'El espejo enterrado' (The Buried Mirror) on our common dimension, published on the occasion of the 5th Centenary of the Discovery of America. "I believe, Fuentes said, that despite all our economic and political ills, we do have something to celebrate. Something that in the midst of all our misfortunes remained standing: our cultural heritage... that which we have been able to create as descendants of Indians, blacks and Europeans in the New World".

El inquisidor del Anáhuac, Enrique BarónA career in the Inquisition

The central character in the novel, the young Gabino, who becomes Fray Servando, sets off for New Spain to pursue a career as an inquisitor in defence of the faith. He takes part in the great process known as the "great complicity" against the Jews, which began in Peru and continued in Mexico. Baron discovers and describes in great detail, thanks to a wealth of documentation, how the men and women who made up the societies of that great Spanish empire in which the sun did not set lived, dressed, fed and felt all kinds of passions. As the first global power in history, Spain (then equivalent to what is now the United States), faces the ambitions of the powers that aspire to grab what morsels they can. Philip IV, the Planet King, penultimate of the House of Austria, and his valide, the Count-Duke of Olivares, thus see how the European wars reach America.  

Accustomed to and boxed into the debate on the conquest and subsequent emancipation of the peoples of America, Enrique Barón brings them a new dimension of their own history. The Inquisition in America will have the same political mission as in Spain: the detection of spies and agents responsible for undermining its power and facilitating its defeat. And in this role, the designated enemy would be the Jews, expelled in 1492, and whose dispersion throughout Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean and America would give rise to the creation of a powerful commercial network of support and solidarity that the Netherlands, Portugal, England, France and the Ottoman Empire aspired to put at their service against Spain. In the discovery, arrest and handing over of the "Judaisers" to the civilian authorities for execution, the most refined techniques of espionage and torture were developed. 

At the presentation of the book at the Centro Sefarad Israel, by Esther Bendahan and Eva Levi, Enrique Barón declared his pride that today's Spain has given nationality to 150,000 people who want it because of their Sephardic origin. And he believes that all empires have their own black legend, not just Spain, whose global domination ended in 1640 with the Peace of Westphalia.

El inquisidor del Anáhuac, Enrique Barón

The state of a world in upheaval

It was in Münster that the negotiation of this treaty was concluded, watched over from the Louvre in Paris by Cardinal Mazarin. The Netherlands and Portugal finally gained their independence from Spain. Meanwhile, in the grandiose Mexico City it was dawning while, in the midday of Amsterdam, an industrious young Spinoza was busy perfecting the technique of lens polishing, his neighbour Rembrandt was sketching the Casta Susana, René Descartes was arguing with the intransigent Protestant theologian Voët, in the Moluccas the Spanish and Dutch were still fighting, uninformed of events, Oliver Cromwell was preparing in London the trial and execution of Charles I with the ex-Dominic Thomas Gage in his troops. In Sicily Alesio and in Naples Massaniello were rebelling against Spain, in the Alcázar in Madrid Velázquez was beginning one of his many portraits of a hesitant Philip IV, in Peking the Qing dynasty was settling, and in San Miguel Nepantla Juana Asbaje was born into the century and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz into eternity. 

Anáhuac, that which lies between the waters in the Nahuatl language, designates the valley of Mexico or the whole of Mesoamerica. One precision among many others in the book's final glossary of the rich indigenous vocabulary incorporated into the Spanish language, "the only one in the world that has a federative structure", concludes Enrique Barón at the end of this first presentation of his novel in the Old World, after the one held at the UNAM, "a cross between the Sorbonne and Salamanca", as he himself puts it. A book that shows the eternal struggle between overwhelming power and freedom. It is a direct cause for the author to pay homage to the countless victims of intransigence, oppression and fanaticism.