Franciscan Beginnings in Colonial Peru

Franciscan Beginnings in Colonial Peru

Franciscan Beginnings in Colonial Peru

Franciscan Beginnings in Colonial Peru

Excerpt

In the evangelization of the empire of the Incas the Franciscans played a most important role. This fine study of those earliest efforts -- efforts which were not lacking in either drama or heroism -- is a scholarly and rewarding examination of some of the main points of that story. It is gratifying for me, as one long interested in studying the relations of these missionary undertakings to the national consciousness of Peru, to note that the author of this work has succeeded admirably in the task which he set himself. This investigation of the early labors of the Franciscans clarifies many points for that general history of the spiritual conquest of Peru which all scholars hope will be compiled in the not too distant future.

From the very first moment of their arrival toward the end of 1531, the Franciscans adapted themselves to the land and to the atmosphere of Peru. They recognized the existence of a national soul and spirit. They sought to obtain the co-operation of the natives, whether creoles or mestizos, or (what is called in a general way) the colored people. Fray Diego de Medellín -- who was provincial in the 1570's -- had a set policy of utilizing Peruvians for the missions and the doctrinas. It is true, indeed, that this same policy was also adopted by other religious Orders in educating the middle and the lower classes, these latter constituting the so-called colored classes. However, it is equally certain that of all the Orders none was closer to the popular classes than the Franciscan.

Of special interest to me is that section of this book which describes, with an abundance of detail and through an exhaustive study of the best sources, the difficulties encountered by the Franciscan friars in the beginning of their labors among the Indians. With a keen sense of satisfaction I perceive that the author confirms in some way the conclusions I put forth in my own work, La Evangelización en el Perú y la Formación de la Conciencia Nacional. In the first period of evangelization the work was performed by itinerant missionaries. Setting out from the main centers, in their travels through the territory of the natives they would bring the Indians together. The venerated lay brother, Fray Mateo de Jumilla, was an outstanding type of this wandering missionary. The original method which he employed to teach the doctrine, using . . .

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