Feast of Souls explores native peoples' responses to Spanish attempts to challenge and replace traditional spiritual practices in Florida and New Mexico. In these two regions, Franciscan missions were the primary mechanism for both spiritual and secular colonization in the seventeenth century.
By 1700, there were only about 1,000 Spaniards in Florida and 3,000 in New Mexico; the newcomers relied on Indians for potential converts, laborers, trading partners, and military allies. But, the Spaniards' very presence among indigenous peoples created epidemiological, political, material, and economic crises in native communities.
Natives' reactions in New Mexico and Florida varied widely but they nonetheless sought to control their own destinies. Some groups embraced the conquerors' offerings on their own terms and some rejected them totally. Some even fled or rebelled, as in Florida in 1656 and New Mexico in 1680. Sifting through Spanish colonial accounts and modern archaeological and architectural investigations, Robert Galgano pays equal attention to the views of the newcomers and the natives while emphasizing the Franciscans' perspectives over those of the Spanish political leadership.