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The Franciscan Missions to the Maya were the attempts of the Franciscans to Christianize the indigenous peoples of the New World, specifically the Maya. They began to take place soon after the discovery of the New World made by Christopher Columbus in 1492, which opened the door for Catholic missions. As early as 1519 there are records of Franciscan activity in the Americas, and throughout the early 16th century the mission movement spreads from the original contact point in the Caribbean to include Mexico, Central America, parts of South America, and the Southwestern United States.
The goal of the missions was to spread the Christian faith to the people of the New World through "word and example".Their attempts, however, resulted in rebellion.
Spreading Christianity to the newly discovered continent was a top priority, but only one piece of the Spanish colonization system. The influence of the Franciscans, considering that missionaries are sometimes seen as tools of imperialism,enabled other objectives to be reached, such as the extension of Spanish language, culture and political control to the New World. A goal was to change the agricultural or nomadic Indian into a model of the Spanish people and society. Basically, the aim was for urbanization. The missions achieved this by “offering gifts and persuasion…and safety from enemies." This protection was also security for the Spanish military operation, since there would be theoretically less warring if the natives were pacified, thus working with another piece of the system.
Franciscan influence in the Yucatán can be considered unique because they enjoyed sole access to the area; no other religious orders, such as the Jesuits or the Dominicans were competing for the territory.Essentially, this meant that there was no one to defy the goings-on of the Franciscans at this time. They were able to use whatever method they deemed necessary to spread their beliefs, although at the beginning they tried to follow the "conversion program" that had already been used in Mexico.
The original method of instruction of the "new faith" to the Maya was very straightforward and simple. "Word and example" would be all they need to show these people.An example of how the Franciscans carried out this belief can be seen by the actions of Fray Martín de Valencia, one of the Twelve Apostles of Mexico. Upon arrival to his province, he kneeled before a group of assembled natives and began to speak publicly of his own sins [a form of confession], and commenced to whip himself in front of all. Thus the ideal method of teaching was to avoid "direct exercise of power."
Another means of conversion was the education of the Mayan youth. Through the aforementioned conversion programme, "sons of the nobles were taken into monastery schools and there taught until they were judged sufficiently secure in the faith to be returned to their villages as Christian schoolmasters, where they were to lead their fellow villagers through simple routines of worship."According to Fray Diego de Landa in his book Relación de las cosas de Yucatán , this program was quite successful, and an “admirable thing to see."
The early success through peaceful teaching and quiet example of the Franciscan missionaries, however, was short lived. Within the first few years it became apparent that verbal teaching would not be enough, as the Mayans remained overall unmoved of the lessons of Christianity.In 1539 the heads of the three religious orders operating in Mexico met with the Franciscan bishop Juan de Zumárraga and concluded that the friars of the missionaries could legally inflict “light punishment” on the Mayans. These moderate disciplines, however, soon turned into cases of brutality. Certain Catholic officials spoke out against these crimes. For example, Vasco de Quiroga, a bishop of Michoacán: "[the regular orders] are now inflicting many mistreatments upon the Indians, with great haughtiness and cruelty, for when the Indians do not obey them, they insult and strike them, tear out their hair, have them stripped and cruelly flogged, and then throw them into prison in chains and cruel irons."
Because of extreme cruelties inflicted upon the Mayan people of the provinces Cochua and Chetumal, Quintana Roo, a rebellion broke out. The violence includes several citizens burned alive in their homes, the hanging of women from branches, with their children then hanged from their feet, and another instance of hanging virgins simply for their beauty.While de Landa does not go into details of what the Mayans did to the Spaniards, he certainly graphically explains the Spanish retribution: "the Spaniards pacified them… [by] cutting off noses, arms and legs, and the breasts of women; throwing them into deep lagoons with gourds tied to their feet; stabbing the little children because they did not walk as fast as their mothers."
An additional rebellion was executed by the Indians of Valladolid. During this rebellion, which took place in 1546, many Spaniards were killed, as well as native converts loyal to their masters. Livestock from Spain was razed, and Spanish trees uprooted.The presence and activity of the Franciscans is believed to be the cause of this riot. In one day, seventeen Spaniards were killed, and some four hundred servants were either killed or wounded.
Another form of rebellion by the Maya and other indigenous groups against the Franciscans was the murder of missionaries themselves, often just two or three at a time, though in some instances many more. Described as martyrs, these men were picked off in twos or threes throughout the years of the missionary work all through Mexico.
As with most if not all other indigenous groups that came in contact with the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century, the conquests made by Spain were successful in terms of global achievement: a religious power from a small country in Europe that governed and maintained control of a vast area of land for several centuries. In history there is no equal achievement.
Yucatán, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Yucatán, is one of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided into 106 municipalities, and its capital city is Mérida.
The Spanish conquest of Yucatán was the campaign undertaken by the Spanish conquistadores against the Late Postclassic Maya states and polities in the Yucatán Peninsula, a vast limestone plain covering south-eastern Mexico, northern Guatemala, and all of Belize. The Spanish conquest of the Yucatán Peninsula was hindered by its politically fragmented state. The Spanish engaged in a strategy of concentrating native populations in newly founded colonial towns. Native resistance to the new nucleated settlements took the form of the flight into inaccessible regions such as the forest or joining neighbouring Maya groups that had not yet submitted to the Spanish. Among the Maya, ambush was a favoured tactic. Spanish weaponry included broadswords, rapiers, lances, pikes, halberds, crossbows, matchlocks and light artillery. Maya warriors fought with flint-tipped spears, bows and arrows and stones, and wore padded cotton armour to protect themselves. The Spanish introduced a number of Old World diseases previously unknown in the Americas, initiating devastating plagues that swept through the native populations.
Champotón is a small city in Champotón Municipality in the Mexican state of Campeche, located at, about 60 km south of the city of Campeche where the small Champotón river meets the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. At the 2010 census it had a population of 30,881.
The Maya peoples are an ethnolinguistic group of indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. They inhabit southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. "Maya" is a modern collective term for the peoples of the region, however, the term was not used by the indigenous populations themselves since there never was a common sense of identity or political unity among the distinct populations, societies and ethnic groups because they each had their own particular traditions, cultures and historical identity.
Maní is a small city in Maní Municipality in the central region of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the Mexican state of Yucatán. It is about 100 km to the south south-east of Mérida, Yucatán, some 16 km east of Ticul. The village of Tipikal lies 6 km to the east.
Diego de Landa Calderón, O.F.M. was a Spanish bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Yucatán. Many historians criticize his campaign against idolatry. In particular, he burned almost all the Mayan manuscripts (codices) that would have been very useful in deciphering Mayan script, knowledge of Maya religion and civilization, and the history of the American continent.
Francisco Hernández de Córdoba was a Spanish conquistador, known to history mainly for the ill-fated expedition he led in 1517, in the course of which the first European accounts of the Yucatán Peninsula were compiled.
Cabo Catoche or Cape Catoche, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, is the northernmost point on the Yucatán Peninsula. It lies in the municipality of Isla Mujeres, about 53 km (33 mi) north of the city of Cancún. According to the International Hydrographic Organization, it marks the division point between the Caribbean Sea to the east and Gulf of Mexico to the west.
Jerónimo de Aguilar O.F.M. (1489–1531) was a Franciscan friar born in Écija, Spain. Aguilar was later involved with the 1519 Spanish conquest of Mexico, and with La Malinche he assisted Hernán Cortés in translating the indigenous language to Spanish.
The de Landa alphabet is the correspondence of Spanish letters and glyphs written in the pre-Columbian Maya script, which the 16th-century bishop of Yucatán, Diego de Landa recorded as part of his documentation of the Maya civilization. With the aid of two Maya informants familiar with the script, de Landa made an attempt to provide a transcribed "A, B, C" for the Maya script with the intent of providing a key to its decipherment and translation. Despite its inaccuracies, the information provided by him would much later prove to be crucial to the mid-20th century breakthrough in the decipherment of the Maya script, starting with the work of the Soviet epigrapher and Mayanist Yuri Knorozov.
Xelha is an archaeological site of the Maya civilization from pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, located on the eastern coastline of the Yucatán Peninsula, in the present-day state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. The etymology of the site's name comes from Yukatek Maya, combining the roots xel ("spring") and ha' ("water").
The music of the ancient Mayan courts is described through native and Spanish 16th-century texts and is depicted in the art of the Classic Period. The Maya played instruments such as trumpets, flutes, whistles, and drums, and used music to accompany funerals, celebrations, and other rituals. Although no written music has survived, archaeologists have excavated musical instruments and painted and carved depictions of the ancient Maya that show how music was a complex element of societal and religious structure. Most of the music itself disappeared after the dissolution of the Maya courts following the Spanish Conquest. Some Mayan music has prevailed, however, and has been fused with Spanish influences.
Toribio of Benavente, O.F.M., also known as Motolinía, was a Franciscan missionary who was one of the famous Twelve Apostles of Mexico who arrived in New Spain in May 1524. His published writings are a key source for the history and ethnography of the Nahuas of central Mexico in the immediate post-conquest period as well as for the challenges of Christian evangelization. He is probably best known for his attacks on the Dominican defender of the rights of the indigenous peoples, Bartolomé de las Casas, who criticized the Conquest. Though agreeing with Las Casas's criticism of the abuses of the conquistadors, he did not agree with the whole sale condemnation of the Spanish Conquest, as well as his criticisms of the Franciscan practices of baptism on mass of the indigenous people of the new world. Due to these differences he went on to vilify Las Casas.
Missionary work of the Catholic Church has often been undertaken outside the geographically defined parishes and dioceses by religious orders who have people and material resources to spare, and some of which specialized in missions. Eventually, parishes and dioceses would be organized worldwide, often after an intermediate phase as an apostolic prefecture or apostolic vicariate. Catholic mission has predominantly been carried out by the Latin Church in practice.
Francisco de Toral, O.F.M. (1502–1571) was a Franciscan missionary in New Spain, and the first Bishop of Yucatán.
The Spanish conquest of the Maya was a protracted conflict during the Spanish colonisation of the Americas, in which the Spanish conquistadores and their allies gradually incorporated the territory of the Late Postclassic Maya states and polities into the colonial Viceroyalty of New Spain. The Maya occupied a territory that is now incorporated into the modern countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador; the conquest began in the early 16th century and is generally considered to have ended in 1697.
Relación de las cosas de Yucatán was written by Diego de Landa around 1566, shortly after his return from Yucatán to Spain. In it, de Landa catalogues Mayan words and phrases as well as a small number of Mayan hieroglyphs. The hieroglyphs, sometimes referred to as the de Landa alphabet, proved vital to modern attempts to decipher the script. The book also includes documentation of Maya religion and the Mayan peoples' culture in general. It was written with the help of local Maya princes. It contains, at the end of a long list of Spanish words with Maya translations, a Maya phrase, famously found to mean "I do not want to." The original manuscript has been lost, but many copies still survive.
Mesoamerican religion is a group of indigenous religions of Mesoamerica that were prevalent in the pre-Columbian era. Two of the most widely-known examples of Mesoamerican religion are the Aztec religion and the Mayan religion.
The Spanish Missions in the Americas were Catholic missions established by the Spanish Empire during the 16th to 19th centuries in areas extending from Mexico and southwestern portions of current-day United States to as far south as Argentina and Chile.
Antonio de Ciudad Real was a Franciscan friar, born 1551, in Castilla La Nueva, Spain. At the age of 15, he joined the Convent of San Francisco, in Toledo, Spain. In 1573, he accompanied Diego de Landa, on his second trip to Yucatán, in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Between 1584 and 1589, he accompanied Alonso Ponce, the commissary general of the Franciscan Order, on his trip from Mexico to Nicaragua, visiting the Franciscan convents of New Spain. A record of this long trip is contained in his work Tratado curioso y docto de las grandezas de la Nueva España. In 1603 he was elected provincial of the Franciscan order. He died on July 5, 1617, in Mérida, Yucatán, Nueva España.