Diego Valadés and the
Origins of Humanistic
Rhetoric in the Americas
Don Paul Abbott University of California-Davis
In 1579 the Tuscan printer Jacopo Pretruccio issued the Rhetorica Christiana, written by a Franciscan friar, Diego Valadés.1 The publication of this work was a remarkable event in the already long history of rhetoric. Valadés was born in the New World, and his Rhetorica Christiana was almost certainly the first book written by a native of Mexico to be published in Europe. More important for its place in the rhetorical tradition, the Rhetorica Christiana is the first rhetoric that is not exclusively European in conception and execution. Not only was Valadés born in Mexico, but the work graphically reflects his Mexican origins and experiences.
The Rhetorica Christiana is an extraordinary combination of old world erudition and New World anthropology. In its pages Valadés transmits the literature of the Greeks and Romans and records the customs of the Mexicas and the Chichimecas. The Rhetorica Christiana, although very much a product of European humanism, is not an entirely conventional rhetoric of its time. It is a treatise that departs in significant ways from the accepted norms of Renaissance rhetoric.____________________