Founded in 1565, St. Augustine was the multicultural, and often embattled, outpost of the Spanish empire. St. Augustine’s economic, political, and religious power was reflected in other towns and villages that stretched across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Scholars frequently refer to this broad swath of territories as the “Spanish Borderlands.” Of those who accompanied the Spanish to these lands, it was members of the Franciscan Order who, as missionaries, had the most direct contact and interaction with the diverse populations of American Indians.
As the 450th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine drew near, scholars from the Americas and Europe gathered on Mar 13-15, 2014, for the conference, “Franciscan Florida in Pan-Borderlands Perspective: Adaptation, Negotiation, and Resistance” at Flagler College in St. Augustine. The expressed intent of the gathering was, as David Hurst Thomas writes in the Introduction, to “address issues of acculturation, political and economic relations, religious conversions, and the nature of multiethnic relationships across the Spanish Borderlands.”
The result is a rich collection of essays from anthropologists, archaeologists, linguists, historians, and theologians. Diverse contributions of the Navajo, Hopi, and California tribal members in attendance was a reminder of the complexity of the thematic and an on-going challenge to continue research into new, and yet unexplored territories.
Timothy J. Johnson is the Craig and Audrey Thorn Distinguished Professor of Religion at Flagler College in Saint Augustine, Florida.
Jeffrey M. Burns is the Director of the Academy of American Franciscan History at the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, California.
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