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THREE FRIARS, A QUEEN AND A CARDINAL AND NEW SPAIN CHAPTER VI ZUMÁRRAGA, THE ADMINISTRATOR In 1527, when appointed first bishop of Mexico, Fray Juan de Zumárraga was the guardian of the monastery of Abrojo, near Valladolid, the then capital of the kingdom of Castile. The young Emperor, Charles V, only twenty-seven years of age, had come that Spring to the city in connection with the administrative affairs of the realm. He was still there when the sacred ceremonies of Holy Week, the most august of the Christian year, were carried out in full at the monastery. The Emperor attended them, stayed at the monastery for the week, and was deeply impressed by the simple austerity of the religious life of the Franciscan community, and especially by that of its guardian, Zumárraga. Before the end of that year, on December 12, the youthful Emperor named the sixty-year old Friar guardian, the Bishop-elect of Mexico City. The ruddy, barrel-chested, bow-legged Emperor proved a keen judge of men throughout his life. As for the selection of the first bishop of Mexico City, he had made a splendid choice in Zumárraga, a man of rugged honesty, thorough kindliness and unswerving devotion to the highest spiritual ideals. Fray Juan lived poorly. As a friar, he had been accustomed to poverty. When the Emperor, at the end of Holy Week, provided a generous alms for the monastery, the guardian refused it at first, and when pressed to accept it, did so only to turn it all over to the poor, reserving none of it for himself or the other friars. Y como por mandado se S. M. se hiciese muy larga limosna al monasterio de comida y de todo lo demás necesario al sustento de los religiosos, de ninguna cosa de cuantas le dieron se quiso el buen prelado aprovechar para sí ni para sus frailes, más todo lo mandó repartir entre pobres, y él y sus frailes se pasaron con su acostumbrada pobreza.1 This incident aptly characterizes Zumárraga. Without a passing acquaintance with his life, one might suspect him of trying to impress 1 Fray Gerónimo de Mendieta, ed., Joaquin García Icazbalceta, Historia Eclesiástica Indiana (Mexico, 1870), 629; Carlos E. Castañeda, Fray Juan de Zumárraga and the Indian Policy (Austin, Texas, 1949), 298. 24'355 356S. A. JANTO the Emperor. He died, not penniless, but in debt. It is told that once, not having anything else to give to a begging Indian, he forthwith gave him a cloth with which he was wiping his face.2 He was not one to choose an easy life or the path of least resistance. His life among the Observantine Franciscans was hard enough. But he desired an even stricter rule. Consequently, he joined the Recollects in the province of Concepción. Further, he must have been a man of sound judgment and capable in administration of community life and its problems, for among the Recollects he became, at various times, guardian and definitor and once the provincial. . . . pero deseando mayor aspereza y soledad se pasó á la recoleta de la concepción, en la qué fue muchas veces guardian y definidor, y una provincial . . .3 He went to Mexico, therefore, with what might be normally termed a lifetime of experience, and inured to austerity. At an age when others might be thinking of retiring, he was undertaking, as an act of obedience, a new task in a New World, in the newly discovered Aztec Empire. The last twenty years of his life were consecrated to the cause of the Indians in the land that is now Mexico. He died there on June 3, 1548. He arrived in the land in 1528. His policy towards the Indians during those years is our present concern. Unfortunately, Zumárraga left Spain and went to the New World without actually being consecrated. He became, therefore, upon his arrival, the Bishop-elect of Mexico City. More than once, those opposed to his defense of the Indians reminded him of this. The Emperor had done all he could in presenting him for appointment as bishop. There...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1945-9718
Print ISSN
0080-5459
Pages
pp. 355-384
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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