Pedro de Córdoba OP (c.1460–1525) was a Spanish missionary, author
and inquisitor on the island of Hispaniola. He was first to denounce
the Spanish system known as the Encomienda, which amounted to the
practical enslavement of natives of the New World, for the abuses that
Life and career
He was born at Córdoba, Andalusia, southern Spain. He studied
theology at the
University of Salamanca
University of Salamanca and there joined the order of
In September 1510 he went to the
Hispaniola as vicar of the
first band of Dominican missionaries and as the first inquisitor
appointed in the New World. He was a zealous protector of the Indians
and a friend and mentor of Bartolomé de las Casas.
The objective of the friars consisted in the pastoral care to the
Spaniards and, specially in the evangelization of the natives.
Consequently, they came in direct contact with them, especially with
the "naborias" as those who were servants in the homes of the
Spaniards were called. Very soon the Dominicans became aware of the
bad treatment received, and the abuse committed against, the
inhabitants of that island.
Confronted with such a degree of submission and oppression of the
Indians, the Dominican community dedicated countless hours in meetings
to study the problem in depth, until they decided to make a public
denouncement of the atrocities. Once they decided on the text and
wrote it down, it was signed by each one of the members of the
Pedro de Cordoba
Pedro de Cordoba commissioned Friar Antonio Montesino
to preach it at the High Mass on the Fourth Sunday of Advent which was
December 21, 1511, just a little more than a year from the day of
their arrival at the island.
In spite of the fact, the sermon was not preserved, but only an
extract which, later on, Friar Bartolome de Las Casas would
incorporate in his work on the History of the Indies, where one can
read: “Sunday arrived and at the time for preaching, Fr Antonio de
Montesinos got up in the pulpit and took as the theme for the sermon,
which was written and signed by all the other brothers, “Ego sum vox
clamantis in deserto”.
Fundamental reason for the denunciations, consisted in the lack of
acknowledgement of the human dignity of the Indians. And so, the
questions: “Are these not persons? Do they not have rational
souls?” The other arguments, like the need to evangelize the Indians
and baptize them, presuppose the previous ones. It was the community
of friars, therefore, who in the name of human dignity and Christian
duty, could and must give the following sentence against the
All of you are in mortal sin; in it you live and in it you die.
In the state you are, you cannot be saved, as your behavior is equal
to a lack of faith in Jesus Christ, and you have no desire for it
If you continue mistreating the Indians, know for sure that the sins
you confess will not receive our absolution.
His book, "Doctrina cristiana para instruccion é informacion de los
Indios por manera de historia", was printed in 1544 at Mexico by
directions of Bishop Zumárraga. It was destined for the education of
the Indians, chiefly of the Caribbean islands, and is one of the
earliest books of catechism known to have been composed in America.
In 1513, Friar
Pedro de Córdoba persuaded King Ferdinand II to allow
the Dominicans of
Hispaniola to go to the mainland to peacefully
convert the natives there. Friar Antonio Montesinos lead the
mission with Francisco de Córdoba and a lay brother, Juan Garcés.
The Dominicans set up in the Chiribichi Valley in present-day
Venezuela, where they were well-received by local chieftain "Alonso",
who had been baptized years before. According to the royal grant,
slavers and settlers were to give the Dominicans a wide berth.
Fray Pedro founded the Santa Cruz province of the order and enjoyed
the reputation of a model priest, highly respected by the clergy, the
laity, and the Indians. He died on Santo Domingo in 1521.
Among the works authored by Fray
Pedro de Córdoba are:
Doctrina cristiana para instruccion é informacion de los Indios por
manera de historia.
Various Memoriales al Rey, or Reports to the King on the social,
cultural and economic condition of the Indians.
Many Cartas, or Letters, often written in collaboration with his
fellow Dominican missionaries in defence of the Indians, including:
'Carta del Vice-Provincial y sacerdotes del convento de Santo Domingo,
dirigida a los muy Reverendos Padres' (April or May 1517).
'Carta de dominicos y franciscanos de las Indias a los Regentes de
España' (Santo Domingo, 27 May 1517).
'Carta al Rey del Padre Fr. Pedro de Córdoba, Vice-Provincial de la
Orden de Santo Domingo' (Santo Domingo, 28 May 1517).
'Carta del Padre Fray
Pedro de Córdoba al Padre Fray Antonio
Montesinos' (26 September 1517).
^ a b c Bandelier, Adolph Francis. "Pedro de Cordova." The Catholic
Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 10
^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Antonio Montesino". Catholic
Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
^ Hugh Thomas (2013). Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire,
from Columbus to Magellan. Random House. p. 309.
^ Christopher Minster. "Antonio de Montesinos: A Voice Crying in the
Wilderness". About.com. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "article name
needed". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert App