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San Martín’s Companion Animals: Nature Domesticated and Blessed

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Chapter Summary

Our association with other animals in nature, and with our own animal nature, is complex. In the early modern Spanish empire, domesticated animals kept for their meat walked side-by-side with tame animals who became full-fledged animal companions. Empathy with other animals had to compete with the reduction of animals to their use value alone. Early modern Spanish Christianity recognized a place for animals in the world, so that even hardened conquistadores, who might use their dogs to brutalize Amerindians without mercy, could mourn those dogs sympathetically as fallen comrades when they died. In the midst of imperial expansion and brutality, Spaniards interacted with tame animal familiars and companions. To understand San Martín de Porres, who was lauded for this behavior, one must first understand the place of acceptable animal companion in Spanish culture and religion. In Spanish culture, animals other than humans might be either cursed or blessed.

Keywords: animal nature; companion animals; humanity; San Martín de Porres; Spanish culture



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