Juan de Zumárraga
Juan de Zumárraga y Arrazola (1468 – June 3, 1548) was a
Franciscan prelate and first bishop of Mexico. He
wrote Doctrina breve, the first book published in the Western
hemisphere, printed in
Mexico City in 1539.
1 Origins and arrival in New Spain
2 "Protector of the Indians"
3 Evangelization efforts
4 Later years
5 Further reading
Origins and arrival in New Spain
Zumárraga was born in 1468 or 1469 of a noble family, in Durango in
Biscay province in Spain. He entered the
Franciscan Order, and in
1527 was custodian of the convent of Abrojo. Shortly afterwards he was
appointed one of the judges of the court for the examination of
witches in the Basque province. From his writings it would appear that
he looked upon witches merely as women possessed of hallucinations.
By this time more detailed accounts of the importance of the conquest
Hernán Cortés began to be received, and on December 20, 1527,
Zumárraga was recommended by Charles V for the post of first bishop
of Mexico. Without having been consecrated and with only the title of
bishop-elect and Protector of the Indians, he, accompanied by Fray
Andrés de Olmos, left
Spain with the first civil officials, judges
(oidores), towards the end of August 1528, and reached
December 6. Thirteen days after, two of these judges, Alonso de Parada
and Diego Maldonado, men of years and experience, died. Their
Juan Ortiz de Matienzo and Diego Delgadillo, assumed their
authority, which was also shared by Nuño de Guzmán, who had come
from his territories in the Pánuco Valley. Their administration was
one of the most disastrous epochs in New
Spain and one of great
difficulty for Zumárraga.
"Protector of the Indians"
Juan de Zumárraga, the first archbishop of
Although Zumárraga was appointed bishop on August 20, 1530, he was
not consecrated until April 27, 1533. Zumárraga, as Protector of
the Indians, endeavored to defend them. His position was a critical
Spanish monarchy had defined neither the extent of his
jurisdiction nor his duties as Protector of the Indians. Moreover, he
had not received official consecration as bishop, and was thus at a
disadvantage when he attempted to exercise his authority. The Indians
appealed to him as protector with all manner of complaints. His own
Franciscans, who had so long labored for the welfare of the Indians,
pressed him to put an end to the excesses of the auditors. It was
clear that he must have had an open conflict with the civil officials
of the colony, relying only on his spiritual prerogatives, which
commanded no respect from these immoral and unprincipled men. Some
members of other religious orders, perhaps envious of the influence of
the Franciscans, upheld the persecution of the Indians. Bishop
Zumárraga attempted to notify the Spanish court of the course of
events, but the auditors had established a successful censorship of
all letters and communications from New Spain. Finally, a Biscayne
sailor concealed a letter in a cake of wax which he immersed in a
barrel of oil.
Meanwhile, news reached
Mexico that Cortés had been well received at
the Spanish court and was about to return to New Spain. Fearful of the
consequences, Nuño de Guzmán left
Mexico City on December 22, 1529,
and began his famous expedition to Michoacán, Jalisco, and Sinaloa.
The remaining auditors retained power and continued their outrages. In
the early part of 1530 they dragged a priest and a former servant of
Cortés from a church, quartered him and tortured his servant.
Zumárraga placed the city under interdict, and the Franciscans
retired to Texcoco. At Easter the interdict was lifted, but the
auditors were excommunicated for a year. On July 15, 1530, Cortés,
now titled Captain General of New Spain, reached Vera Cruz. The Crown
appointed new auditors, among them Sebastián Ramírez de Fuenleal,
Bishop of Santo Domingo, and the lawyer Vasco de Quiroga, who later
became the first
Bishop of Michoacán.
In December of the same year, the new Audiencia, the ensemble of
Mexico and, with them, an era of peace for both
Zumárraga and the Indians. Matienzo and Delgadillo were sent to Spain
as prisoners, but Nuño de Guzmán escaped, being then absent in
Meantime the calumnies spread by the enemies of Zumárraga and the
partisans of the first auditor had shaken the confidence of the
Spanish Court, and he set sail in May 1532 under orders to return to
Spain. On his arrival he met his implacable enemy Delgadillo, who,
though still under indictment, continued his calumnies. As a result of
Delgadillo's charges, Charles V held back the Bull of Clement VII,
originally dated September 2, 1530, that would have named Zumárraga
bishop. Zumárraga, however, had little difficulty vindicating his
good name, and was consecrated bishop at
Valladolid on April 27, 1533
by Diego Ribera de Toledo,
Bishop of Segovia, with Francisco Zamora de
Bishop of Brefny, and Francisco Solís,
Drivasto, as Co-Consecrators. After another year in
for favourable concessions for the Indians, he reached
October 1534, accompanied by a number of mechanics and six female
teachers for the Indian girls. He no longer held the title of
Protector of the Indians, as it was thought that the new auditors
would refrain from the abuses of prior regimes. On November 14, 1535,
with the arrival of the first viceroy, Antonio de Mendoza, the rule of
the new auditors ended.
While bishop, he was the principal consecrator of Juan Lopez de
Bishop of Antequera,
Oaxaca (1537); Francisco Marroquín
Bishop of Santiago de
Guatemala (1537); and Vasco de Quiroga,
According to Fray Toribio de Benavente Motolinia, the number of
baptized Indians in
Mexico in 1536 was five million. The multitude of
Indians who asked for baptism, said to have greatly increased after
the apparition of
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our Lady of Guadalupe in 1531, forced the
missionaries to adopt a special form for administering this sacrament.
The catechumens were arranged in order, with children in front.
Prayers were recited in common over all, salt, saliva, etc., applied
to a few, and then water was poured on the head of each without using
the customary holy oils or chrism. The practice faced no opposition
while the Franciscans were in charge of the missions, but as soon as
members of other religious orders and some secular ecclesiastics
arrived, doubt began to be cast upon the validity of these baptisms.
To put an end to the dispute
Bishop Zumárraga submitted the case to
Rome, and on June 1, 1537,
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III issued the bull Altitudo
divini consilii, which declared that the friars had not sinned in
administering baptism in this form, but decreed that in the future it
should not be thus administered except in cases of urgent need.
Another difficulty arose regarding marriage. The pre-Columbian
religions had permitted polygyny and the taking of concubines, and
when Natives were converted the question arose as to which were
legitimate wives and which were concubines, and whether any of the
marriages had been valid at all. The Franciscans knew that certain
rites were observed for certain unions, and that in some cases, where
separation or divorce was desired, it was necessary to obtain the
consent of the authorities, while in other cases the consent of the
interested parties sufficed. These customs, they argued, meant that
there were valid marriages among the Indians. Others denied that this
was the case.
Bishop Zumárraga took part in all these discussions
until the case was submitted to the Holy See.
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III decreed in
the Altitudo that the converted Indians should keep the first woman
wed as their wife.
A third important difficulty concerned the position of the regular
clergy (non-order affiliated) and their privileges.
Adrian VI on May
9, 1522, issued the bull Exponi nobis fecisti to Charles V, in which
he transferred his own Apostolic authority in all matters to the
Franciscans and other mendicant orders when they judged it necessary
for the conversion of the Indians, except for acts requiring episcopal
consecration. This provision affected regions where there was no
bishop, or where it required two or more days of travel to reach one.
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III confirmed the bull on January 15, 1535. The bishops
found their authority much limited, and a series of assemblies
followed in which Zumárraga with his customary prudence tried to
arrive at an understanding with the regulars without openly clashing
with them. Various modifications were adopted with the consent of the
regulars on condition that these "should not impair the privileges of
the regulars". The question therefore remained open. In 1535, Bishop
Zumárraga received the title and powers of Apostolic Inquisitor of
the diocese of
Mexico from the Inquisitor General, Álvaro Manrique,
Archbishop of Seville, including that of delivering criminals to the
secular courts. He never availed himself of the title and did not
establish the tribunal, although he did indict and deliver to the
secular courts a lord of Texcoco, known as Don Carlos Ometochtzin
Chichimecatecuhtli, accused of having "reverted to idolatry" and of
offering human sacrifices.
Meanwhile, Fray Las Casas had gone to
Spain and obtained from the
Valladolid (1541–1542) the approbation of the celebrated
"Nuevas Leyes". These laws conclusively and decisively prohibited the
enslavement of the Indians, withdrew all grants from all corporations,
ecclesiastical and secular, and from those who were or had been
Viceroys, governors, or employees of any description whatsoever;
previous grants were reduced; Indians were taken from owners who had
ill-treated them; all governors were deprived of the faculty to
"encomendar" (a system of patents which permitted forced labor of the
Indians); owners were compelled to live upon their own possessions;
and in all newly discovered territory no grants could be made.
Francisco Tello de Sandoval, commissioned to carry out the New Laws,
Mexico on March 8, 1544.
The gravest difficulties confronted him. Those affected by the new
laws were almost all the Spaniards of the colony, many of them far
advanced in years, who had passed through all the trying period of the
conquest, and whom the new laws would leave in abject poverty. These
had recourse to
Bishop Zumárraga to intercede with Tello to obtain a
suspension of the order until they could be heard before the Spanish
Court. The representatives of the colonists found the emperor, Charles
V, at Mechlin, on October 20, 1545. In virtue of the situation as
explained to him, he modified the general tenor of the laws so that
while still correcting the principal abuses, they would not bear too
heavily on the Spaniards of the colony. Through the prudent
Bishop Zumárraga and the compliance of Tello, Mexico
was undoubtedly saved from a bloody civil struggle such as engulfed
Peru on account of the enforcement of these same laws and from which
the Indians emerged worse off than they were before.
The last years of
Bishop Zumárraga's life were devoted to carrying
out the numerous works he had undertaken for the welfare of his
diocese. Among the chief of these should be mentioned: the school for
Indian girls; the famous Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco; the
introduction of the first printing press into the New World; the
foundation of various hospitals, especially those of
Mexico and Vera
Cruz; the impetus he gave to industries, agriculture, and
manufactures, for which he brought trained mechanics and labourers
from Spain; and the printing of many books. At the instance of the
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III separated (February 11, 1546) the See of Mexico
from the metropolitan See of Seville, and erected the Archdiocese of
Bishop Zumárraga first archbishop and designating
the dioceses of Oaxaca, Michoacán, Tlaxcala, Guatemala, and Ciudad
Real de Chiapas, as suffragans. The Bull of appointment was sent on
July 8, 1548, but
Bishop Zumárraga had died one month previously.
Bishop Zumarraga is also credited with chocolate becoming a popular
drink among Europeans. A community of nuns in Oaxaca, after
encountering a recipe of cocoa mixed with sugar, prepared it for the
bishop. Prior to this, ground cocoa had not found a role in European
Bayle, Constantino. El IV Centenario de Don Juan de Zumárraga.
Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas 1948.
Campa, Arthur L. "The Churchman and the Indian Languages of New
Hispanic American Historical Review 11 (1931) 542-550/
Carreño, Alberto María. Fray Juan de Zumárraga. Documentos
Inéditos publicados con una introducción y notas.
Mexico City: 1941.
Carreño, Alberto María. "The Books of Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga,"
The Americas 5 (1949)283-285.
García Icazbalceta, Joaquín. Don fray Juan de Zumárraga: Primer
Obispo e arzobispo de México. 2nd edition. 4 vols.
Greenleaf, Richard E. Zumárraga and the Mexican Inquisition,
1536-1543. Washington D.C.: Academy of American
Greenleaf, Richard E. The
Mexican Inquisition of the Sixteenth
Century. Albuquerque: University of New
Mexico Press 1969.
Greenleaf, Richard E. Zumárraga and His Family: Letters to Vizcaya
1536-1548. Washington DC: Academy of American
Franciscan History 1979.
Hanke, Lewis. "The Contribution of
Bishop Zumárraga to Mexican
Culture," The Americas 5 (1949) 275-282.
Jones, William B. "Evangelical Catholicism in Early Colonial America:
An Analysis of
Bishop Juan de Zumárraga's Doctrina Cristiana." The
Americas 23 (1967) 423-432/
^ Juan José Alzugaray Aguirre (2006) Ora Pro Nobis, p.44
^ John F. Chuchiak IV, "Juan de Zumárraga" in Oxford Encyclopedia of
Mesoamerican Cultures, David Carrasco, ed. New York: Oxford University
Press 2001, vol. 3, pp. 380-81.
^ Murray, Stuart A. P. (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History
(ALA ed.). New York: Skyhorse Publishing. p. 136.
^ a b c "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Juan de Zumarraga". www.newadvent.org.
^ a b c Catholic Hierarchy: "Archbishop Juan de Zumárraga, O.F.M."
retrieved November 11, 2015
^ Mercier, Jacques. The Temptation of Chocolate, p. 57, Lannoo
Uitgeverij, 2008 ISBN 9782873865337
Himmerich y Valencia, Robert (1996) . The Encomenderos of New
Spain, 1521–1555. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Wikisource has the text of the 1913
Catholic Encyclopedia article Juan
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Juan de Zumárraga.
Catholic Church titles
Bishop of Mexico
Alonso de Montúfar
Title last held by
Encomendero of Ocuituco
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