Accompanied by a prominent heraldic escutcheon that is larger than his face, the powerful Creole Don Juan Xavier Joachín here poses in a dazzling European-style costume and powdered wig appropriate to his station. A lengthy inscription emphasizes his court appointments, among them a lifetime position as governor of the Philippines. Spain began granting titles of nobility to elite individuals in the New World shortly after the European conquest.
Don Juan Xavier Joachín was a descendant of Luís de Velasco, New Spain’s viceroy who, in addition to inaugurating the first university in North America in 1553, freed 15,000 indigenous people from domestic servitude and work in labor camps and mines. Unlike many colonial officials of Spanish birth, the viceroy considered himself a Creole.