"I Do Not Know How to Fulfill Those Demands": Rethinking Jesuit Missionary Efforts in La Florida, 1566-1572

Saber Gray

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts, Department of Florida Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida St. Petersburg, June 30, 2014.


Florida was the first Jesuit destination in the Spanish Americas. At the time of the enterprise (1566-1572), the Society of Jesus was under increasing pressure to provide Jesuits for both foreign missions and colleges. Jesuit correspondence and letters from Florida and Cuba officials reveal the regional nature of the Florida Jesuit enterprise and the colony’s role within the Society as a whole. The Florida Jesuits moved frequently and freely between Florida and Cuba and planned to found a college in Havana to benefit both the children of Florida caciques and Havana residents. However, due to the lack of local support for the college and poor progress in the missions, the Florida Jesuits relocated to Mexico, where plans to found a college were already underway. Ultimately, the Jesuit experience in Florida influenced subsequent Jesuit enterprises in the Spanish Americas away from dangerous missions and towards educational institutions in urban areas.