Latin America •  Southwest and History

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A Jesuit Missionary in Eighteenth-Century Sonora: The Family Correspondence of Philipp Segesser

Edited by Raymond H. Thompson
Translated by Werner S. Zimmt
Translated by Robert E. Dahlquist

In the very last year of the seventeenth century a ten-year-old boy in the city of Lucerne, Switzerland, announced to his parents that he wanted to become a Jesuit missionary and save souls in faraway lands. Philipp Segesser got his wish when he was sent to northwestern Mexico in 1731. For the next thirty years he carried on an active correspondence with his family and religious affiliates. His letters home, translated and edited in this fascinating book, provide a frank and intimate view of missionary life on the remote northwestern frontier of New Spain. The editor’s introduction sets the letters in biographical and historical context.


Raymond H. Thompson is the director emeritus of the Arizona State Museum and Riecker Distinguished Professor emeritus in the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona.


“An excellent resource for anyone interested in life as a Jesuit missionary or life in the far reaches of the eighteenth century Spanish Empire. . . . Thompson’s introductions and comments are incredibly useful for providing context, without obscuring the original letters themselves.”



“Thompson’s well-researched edition of Segesser’s letters written to his family over more than four decades provides a rich new source for scholars who work on the colonial mission enterprise in the Iberian borderlands and the Jesuits’ early-modern global network in the shadow of the Counter-Reformation.”


The Catholic Historical Review

“A wonderful archive that combines the details of a diary with the broad sweep on an autobiography in presenting missionary life on the far northern frontier of New Spain.”


The Journal of Arizona History

“What is remarkable about this collection . . . is that (the letters) allow a reader to follow one individual throughout the entirety of his Jesuit life.”


Journal of Jesuit Studies

Published in association with The Southwest Center at the University of Arizona

6 x 9 in. 376 pages 2 drawings, 5 halftones, 6 maps