Gerónimo de Mendieta

Last updated

Fray Gerónimo de Mendieta (1525–1604), alternatively Jerónimo de Mendieta, was a Franciscan missionary and historian, who spent most of his life in the Spanish Empire's new possessions in Mexico and Central America.

Spanish Empire world empire from the 16th to the 19th century

The Spanish Empire, historically known as the Hispanic Monarchy and as the Catholic Monarchy, was one of the largest empires in history. From the late 15th century to the early 19th, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory in the New World and the Asian archipelago of the Philippines, what they called "The Indies". It also included territories in Europe, Africa and Oceania. The Spanish Empire has been described as the first global empire in history, a description also given to the Portuguese Empire. It was the world's most powerful empire during the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries, reaching its maximum extension in the 18th century. The Spanish Empire was the first empire to be called "the empire on which the sun never sets".

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fourth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 129 million people, Mexico is the tenth most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states plus Mexico City (CDMX), which is the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the country include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, and León.

Central America central geographic region of the Americas

Central America is a region found in the southern tip of North America and is sometimes defined as a subcontinent of the Americas. This region is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The combined population of Central America is estimated to be between 41,739,000 and 42,688,190.


His main work is the Historia eclesiástica indiana, written in the late sixteenth century, but not published until 1870 by Joaquín García Icazbalceta, which recounts the history of Franciscan evangelization in the colony of New Spain in the Americas and abuses of the indigenous by Spanish civil society.

Joaquín García Icazbalceta Mexican academic

Joaquín García Icazbalceta was a Mexican philologist and historian. He edited writings by Mexican writers who preceded him, wrote a biography of Juan de Zumárraga, and translated William H. Prescott's Conquest of Mexico. His works on Colonial Mexico continue to be cited today.

New Spain kingdom of the Spanish Empire (1535-1821)

The Viceroyalty of New Spain was an integral territorial entity of the Spanish Empire, established by Habsburg Spain during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. It covered a huge area that included territories in North America, South America, Asia and Oceania. It originated in 1521 after the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the main event of the Spanish conquest, which did not properly end until much later, as its territory continued to grow to the north. It was officially created on 8 March 1535 as a Kingdom, the first of four viceroyalties Spain created in the Americas. Its first viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, and the capital of the kingdom was Mexico City, established on the ancient Mexico-Tenochtitlan.


Gerónimo de Mendieta was born in Vitoria, Álava, in the Basque country of (Spain), in 1525. When he was twenty years old he entered the Franciscan order in Bilbao. In 1554 he traveled to New Spain to live in Tochimilco where he was taught the local Nahuatl language. He was later moved to Tlaxcala where he became a friend of fellow Franciscan Toribio de Benavente "Motolinia". [1] "Mendieta learned Nahuatl from Motolinia," and Motolina's optimism about indigenous conversion influenced Mendieta. [2]

Vitoria-Gasteiz Municipality in Basque Country, Spain

Vitoria-Gasteiz is the seat of government and the capital city of the Basque Country and of the province of Araba/Álava in northern Spain. It holds the autonomous community's House of Parliament, the headquarters of the Government, and the Lehendakari's official residency. The municipality — which comprises not only the city but also the mainly agricultural lands of 63 villages around — is the largest in the Basque Country, with a total area of 276.81 km2, and it has a population of 242,082 people (2014). The dwellers of Vitoria-Gasteiz are called vitorianos or gasteiztarrak, while traditionally they are dubbed babazorros.

Álava Province of Spain

Álava or Araba, officially Araba/Álava, is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the Basque Country, heir of the ancient Lordship of Álava, former medieval Catholic bishopric and now Latin titular see.

Basque Country (greater region) Cultural and historic land of the Basque people

The Basque Country is the name given to the home of the Basque people. The Basque country is located in the western Pyrenees, straddling the border between France and Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Euskal Herria is the oldest documented Basque name for the area they inhabit, dating from the 16th century.

He returned to the Iberian peninsula in 1570, bringing with him the first copies of the works of Bernardino de Sahagún to the Spanish authorities. [3] He returned to Mexico again in 1573, this time never to return to Europe. He returned under order to compose a history of the work of evangelizing the Americas. From his return to Mexico until 1597 he lived in the monastery of Tlatelolco, working on the history that would make him famous, [4] the Historia eclesiástica indiana, a chronicle of the early evangelization history of the New World. The publication of the work was prohibited, as it was deemed to contain "unsound," millenarian, Joachimite ideas, [5] and it was only published for the first time in 1870, when it was brought to light by Joaquín García Icazbalceta.

Bernardino de Sahagún Spanish mesoamericanist

Bernardino de Sahagún was a Franciscan friar, missionary priest and pioneering ethnographer who participated in the Catholic evangelization of colonial New Spain. Born in Sahagún, Spain, in 1499, he journeyed to New Spain in 1529. He learned Nahuatl and spent more than 50 years in the study of Aztec beliefs, culture and history. Though he was primarily devoted to his missionary task, his extraordinary work documenting indigenous worldview and culture has earned him the title as “the first anthropologist." He also contributed to the description of the Aztec language Nahuatl. He translated the Psalms, the Gospels, and a catechism into Nahuatl.


  1. Martínez 1980:131-33
  2. Viviana Díaz Balsera, The Pyramid under the Cross, Tucson: University of Arizona Press 2005, p. 241, fn. 25.
  3. Martínez 1980:133
  4. Martínez 1980:135
  5. Martínez 1980:189-191

Further reading

Crivelli, Camillus (1911). "Jerónimo Mendieta". The Catholic Encyclopedia . vol. X (New Advent online reproduction ed.). New York: Robert Appleton and Company. Retrieved 2007-01-30.
Díaz Balsera, Viviana. "Historia eclesiástica indiana or Writing the Crisis of Providentialism", chapter 9 of The Pyramid under the Cross: Franciscan Discourses of Evangelization and the Nahua Christian Subject in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press 2005.
Phelan, John Leddy (1970) [1956]. The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World: A Study of the Writings of Gerónimo de Mendieta (1525-1604) (2nd revised ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN   0-520-01404-9. OCLC   88926.
Martínez, Jose Luis (1980). "Gerónimo de Mendieta". Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl. Mexico D.F.: UNAM. 14: 131–197.
Reinhard, Wolfgang (1992). "Missionaries, Humanists and Natives in the Sixteenth-Century Spanish Indies - a Failed Encounter of Two Worlds?". Renaissance Studies. 6 (3–4): 360–376. doi:10.1111/1477-4658.00124.
Washburn, Wilcomb E.; Phelan, John Leddy (July 1958). "Review of The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World: A Study of the Writings of Gerónimo de Mendieta (1525-1604) by John Leddy Phelan". The William and Mary Quarterly . 3rd Series. 15 (3): 404–406. doi:10.2307/1915640. JSTOR   1915640.

Related Research Articles

Hernán Cortés Spanish conquistador

DonHernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of what is now mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers who began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

Moctezuma II 9th tlatoani of Tenochtitlan and ruler of the Aztec Triple Alliance

Moctezuma II, variant spellings include Montezuma, Moteuczoma, Motecuhzoma, Motēuczōmah, Muteczuma, and referred to in full by early Nahuatl texts as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, was the ninth tlatoani or ruler of Tenochtitlán, reigning from 1502 to 1520. The first contact between indigenous civilizations of Mesoamerica and Europeans took place during his reign, and he was killed during the initial stages of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, when conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men fought to take over the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan.

Chimalpopoca King of Tenochtitlan

Chimalpopoca or Chīmalpopōcatzin (1397–1427) was the third Emperor of Tenochtitlan (1417–1427).

Pedro de Gante Franciscan missionary

Fray Pieter van der Moere, also known as Fray Pedro de Gante or Pedro de Mura was a Franciscan missionary in sixteenth century Mexico. Born in Geraardsbergen in present-day Belgium, he was of Flemish descent. Since Flanders, like Spain, belonged to the Habsburg Empire and he was a relative of King Charles V, he was allowed to travel to the colonies of New Spain as one of a group of Franciscan friars. Gante's group in fact arrived before the 12 Franciscans normally thought of as the first friars in New Spain. In Mexico he spent his life as a missionary, indoctrinating the indigenous population in Christian catechism and dogma. He learned Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, and composed a Christian "doctrina". One of his most significant contributions to Mexico was the creation of the School of San Jose de los Naturales. This was the first school set up by Europeans in the Americas.

Fray Juan de Torquemada Spanish scholar

Juan de Torquemada was a Franciscan friar, active as missionary in Spanish colonial Mexico and considered the "leading Franciscan chronicler of his generation." Administrator, engineer, architect and ethnographer, he is most famous for his monumental work commonly known as Monarquía indiana, a survey of the history and culture of the indigenous peoples of New Spain together with an account of their conversion to Christianity, first published in Spain in 1615 and republished in 1723. Monarquia Indiana was the "prime text of Mexican history, and was destined to influence all subsequent chronicles until the twentieth century." It was used by later historians, the Franciscan Augustin de Vetancurt and most importantly by eighteenth-century Jesuit Francisco Javier Clavijero. No English translation of this work has ever been published.

Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco 16th and 17th century school of higher learning in Mexico

The Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco, Mexico, the first European school of higher learning in the Americas, was established by the Franciscans on January 6, 1536 with the intention, as is generally accepted, of preparing Native American boys for eventual ordination to the Catholic priesthood. Students trained in the Colegio were important contributors to the work of Franciscan Bernardino de Sahagún in the creation of his monumental twelve-volume General History of the Things of New Spain, often referred to as the Florentine Codex. The failure of the colegio had long-lasting consequences, with scholar Robert Ricard saying that "[h]ad the College of Tlatelolco given the country even one [native] bishop, the history of the Mexican Church might have been profoundly changed."

<i>Vocabulario en lengua castellana y mexicana</i> book by Alonso de Molina

Vocabulario en lengua castellana y mexicana is a bilingual dictionary of Spanish and Nahuatl by Alonso de Molina, first published in 1555 originally entitled Aquí comiença un vocabulario en la lengua castellana y mexicana, edited by Juan Pablos. It was the first dictionary to be published in the New World. However the most relevant and most famous edition was the one made in 1571, edited by Antonio de Spinosa, which then came to be named Vocabulario en lengua castellana y mexicana. This new edition included the Nahuatl-to-Spanish section that the original didn't.

Agustín de Vetancurt, also written Vetancourt, Betancourt, Betancur (1620–1700) was a Mexican Catholic historian and scholar of the Nahuatl language. Born in Mexico City, Vetancurt became a Franciscan in Puebla, where he spent 40 years amongst the indigenous. He was official chronicler of the Order, so much of his most important work Teatro Mexicano deals with matters of interest to its members. But it is not only a history of the Franciscans in Mexico, but also a wide-ranging discussion of indigenous history and customs, topics of great interest to Franciscans of the first generation in Mexico. He drew upon the works of fellow Franciscans Gerónimo de Mendieta and Juan de Torquemada. Although he recapitulates some material from his sources, there is considerable material on prehispanic and colonial indigenous not found elsewhere and particularly valuable for the seventeenth century. He was helped in his work by Don Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora, and it is possible that some information on prehispanic indigenous culture came from him. Vetancurt accused his Franciscan predecessor Fray Juan de Torquemada, author of Monarquia Indiana, of plagiarizing the work of Geronimo de Mendieta,

Toribio de Benavente Motolinia Spanish Friar Minor, Catholic missionar in Mexico, Novohispanic mesoamericanist

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. Motolinia supported the subjugation of the Indians as savages and did all he could to vilify Las Casas, who tried to protect the Indians' natural rights and full humanity.

Martín de Valencia was born in Valencia de Don Juan, in the bishopric of Oviedo, Spain, ca. 1474. He died Tlalmanalco, Mexico, 21 March 1534. He was a Spanish Franciscan missionary, leader of the Twelve Apostles of Mexico, the first group of mendicants in New Spain.

Domingo Betanzos was a Spanish Dominican missionary to New Spain, who participated in the "Spiritual Conquest", evangelizing the indigenous.

Twelve Apostles of Mexico

The Twelve Apostles of Mexico, or Twelve Apostles of New Spain, were a group of twelve Franciscan missionaries who arrived in the newly-founded Viceroyalty of New Spain on May 13 or 14, 1524 and reached Mexico City on June 17 or 18. with the goal of converting its indigenous population to Christianity. Conqueror Hernán Cortés had requested friars of the Franciscan and Dominican Orders to evangelize the Indians. Despite the small number, it had religious significance and also marked the beginning of the systematic evangelization of the Indians in New Spain.

Juan Bautista was a Mexican Franciscan theologian and writer.

Quetzalcoatl a deity in Mesoamerican culture

Quetzalcoatl is a deity in Mesoamerican culture and literature whose name comes from the Nahuatl language and means "feathered serpent" or "Quetzal-feathered Serpent". The worship of a Feathered Serpent is first documented in Teotihuacan in the first century BC or first century AD. That period lies within the Late Preclassic to Early Classic period of Mesoamerican chronology, and veneration of the figure appears to have spread throughout Mesoamerica by the Late Classic period (600–900 AD).

Ce Acatl Topiltzin Mexican priest

Cē Ācatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl is a mythologised figure appearing in 16th-century accounts of Nahua historical traditions, where he is identified as a ruler in the 10th century of the Toltecs— by Aztec tradition their predecessors who had political control of the Valley of Mexico and surrounding region several centuries before the Aztecs themselves arrived on the scene.

Juan Diego Mexican saint

Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, also known as Juan Diego (1474–1548), a native of Mexico, is the first Roman Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas. He is said to have been granted an apparition of the Virgin Mary on four separate occasions in December 1531 at the hill of Tepeyac, then outside but now well within metropolitan Mexico City.

John Leddy Phelan was a scholar of colonial Spanish America and the Philippines. He spent the bulk of his scholarly career at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Following his death, his notable former graduate student, James Lockhart, wrote a candid obituary of his mentor.

John Frederick Schwaller is an American historian of Latin America, specializing in colonial Mexico, religion, and indigenous peoples. He has written monographs on religion in Mexico, edited scholarly editions of important colonial Mexican texts, and has coordinated and edited anthologies of articles on religion. His administrative service includes being President of State University of New York at Potsdam from 2006-2013 and Director of the Academy of American Franciscan History, 1993-95. He is currently professor of history at University of Albany, State University of New York.