Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art & Art History

First Advisor

James Córdova

Second Advisor

Arturo Aldama

Third Advisor

Kirk Ambrose


This study examines the participation of historically erased Taínos and West Africans in the construction and meaning of La Catedral Primada de América, not simply as "contributors," but as active agents and creators of its form and meaning in the culturally plural place of Hispaniola during the sixteenth century. A critical review of literature on La Catedral reveals how the early configurations of Imperio-Christian narratives of colonizer/colonized helped to shape later art-historical configurations of nationalism by carrying forward models of racial superiority from the time of Imperial Christian expansion to the nationalisms of the postrevolutionary period of independence. This is important because it demonstrates how the Dominant Narrative leaves no room for peoples and meanings outside of the Imperio-Christian worldview. A close reading of colonial slave records reveals interesting clues about the colonial society of Hispaniola and the substantial numbers of Taíno and West African co-participants of the church. To consider how these individuals understood, or imagined, their new center of worship, I consider the most salient aspects of their sacred-aesthetics and apply them to an analysis of the church. West African, Taíno, and Euro-Christian perspectives reveal La Catedral as an architectural composite of meanings that has not previously been discussed in the literature.