The Republic of Mexico is situated at the extreme point of the North American continent, bounded on the north by the United States, on the east by the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, British Honduras, and Guatemala, and on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean. It comprises an area of 767,005 square miles, with a population of 13,604,000, of whom 2,062,000 are white or creoles, 7,380,000 half-breeds or mestizos, 4,082,000 Indians, and about 80,000 negroes. Among the whites there are approximately 60,000 foreigners, the greater number being North Americans, Central Americans, Spaniards, French, Italians, etc. The form of government is republican; its head is a president, who is elected every six years; the legislature consists of two bodies, senate and chamber of deputies; and there is a supreme court. The republic is composed of twenty-seven states, three territories, and a federal district. The territory of Quintana Roo, created in 1902, was a part of the State of Yucatán. The names of the states, with populations, area in square miles, capitals and number of people, are given in this table:
The Cordillera of the Andes which crosses the narrow isthmus that unites the Americas, branches out into two ranges when it reaches the peak of Zempoaltepec over (10,000 feet), in the State of Oaxaca; the eastern branch terminates at the Rio Bravo (or Rio Grande), in the state of Coahuila, and the western branch extends through the State of Chihuahua and Sonora and merges into the Rocky Mountain system in the United States. In the Mexican territory the two ranges are so closely united as to form almost a compact whole, occupying nearly all the region from ocean to ocean, forming the vast tablelands that extend from Oaxaca to Chihuahua and Coahuila, and leaving the narrow strip of land along the coast line. On the eastern coast the land slopes almost imperceptibly to the Gulf, whereas on the western the descent is sharp and abrupt. This accounts for the few good ports on the Gulf side, and the abundance of harbours and sheltered bays on the Pacific shore. The highest peaks of these vast mountain ranges are: Popocatepetl (17,800 feet), Citlaltepetl, or Peak of Orizaba (17,000 feet), Ixtacihuatl (16,100 feet). To this physical configuration of the land, the absence in Mexico of any water systems of importance, is to be attributed.
The principal rivers, none of which carries a great volume of water, are the Bravo, Pánuco, and Grijalva, emptying into the Gulf of Mexico, and the Mexcala, Santiago, Mayo, and Yaqui, emptying into the Pacific. Very few islands are to be found on the eastern coast of Mexico, quite unlike the Pacific shore, which along the coast of the peninsula of Lower California is dotted with small islands.
The four seasons of the year, common to most countries, are unknown in Mexico, owing to the entirely different climatic conditions. Common usage has divided the year into two distinct seasons, the rainy and the dry season, the former extending from May to October. During this entire time there are daily showers, which not infrequently are heavy downpours. The other six months are dry, not a drop of rain falling, at least on the tablelands. The climate of the coast regions is always very warm, while that of the tablelands is temperate. The phenomenon of frost in December and January on the tablelands of Mexico, Puebla, and Toluca, situated at an altitude of more than 6000 feet above the sea level, is due not so much to extremes of climate as to the rarity of the air causing a rapid condensation of the vapours.
Many of the native races which inhabited Mexico at the time of the Conquest are still in existence; the principal ones are: the Mexicana, Aztaca, or Nahoa, in the States of Mexico, Morelos, Jalisco; the Tarasca, or Michoacana, in the State of Michoacan; the Otomí in San Luis Potosí, in Guanajuato and Querétaro; the Opata-Pima, in Sonora, Chihuahua, and Durango; the Mexteco-Tzapoteca in Oaxaca; the Mijea, or Zoque, in parts of Oaxaca, Vera Cruz, and Chiapas; the Maya in Yucatán.
Among the less important races are the Huaxteca in the north of Vera Cruz and Southern Tamaulipas, the Totonaca in the centre of the State of Vera Cruz, the Matlalzinca in the State of Mexico, and the Guaycures and Laimones in Lower California.
Remarkable ruins, found in many parts of the republic, bear witness to the degree of civilization to which these nations had attained. Chief among these may be mentioned the ruins of Uxmal and Chichen-Itza in Yucatán (Maya nation), those of Palenque and Mitla in Oaxaca (Tzapotec nation), the baths of Netzahua-coyotl in Texcoco (Chichimeca-Nahoa nation), and the pyramids of Teotihuacan (Toltec nation).
The separation of Church and State has been established by law, but the religion of the country is Catholic, there being actually very few who profess any other.
Railroads, 14,857 miles; telegraph lines, 40,640 miles. In 1907 the product of the mines amounted to $83,078,500, $42,723,500 of this being gold, $19,048,000 silver, and $12,400,000 copper. In 1908 $12,001,000, $8,300,000 gold and $3,701,800 silver, was minted. The principal products besides minerals are corn, cotton, agave plant (henequen), wheat, sugar, coffee, cabinet woods, tobacco, petroleum, etc.
The chronology and historical documents of the Aztecs give us a more or less clear account of their history for eight centuries prior to the conquest, but these refer only to their own history and that of the tribes living in close proximity to them, little or nothing being said of the origin of the Otomies, Olenques, Cuitlatecos, and Michoacanos.
According to Clavijero the Toltecs came to Mexico about A.D. 648, the Chichimecs in 1170, and the Aztecs in 1196. That their ancestors came from other lands, is asserted by all these tribes in their traditions, and the north is generally the direction from which they claim to have come. It seems probable that these first immigrants to Mexico came from Asia, either by way of Behring Strait, or across the Pacific Ocean. The theory that these people had some close connextion with the Egyptians and other peoples of Asia and Africa has some substantiating evidence in the ruins still extant, the pyramids, the exact and complicated method of computing time, the hieroglyphics, and the costumes (almost identical with those of the ancient Egyptians), seen in the mural paintings in the ruins of Chichen-Itza. It seems that the Otomies were one of the oldest nations of Anahuac, and the Itzaes of Yucatán. These were followed by the Mayas in Yucatán, and in Anahuac the Toltecs, the Chichimicas, and Nahoas, with their seven tribes, the Xochimilcas, Chalcas, Tecpanecs, Acolhuas, Tlahuicas, Tlaxcaltecs, and Aztecs.
The last-named founded the city of Tenochtitlan, or Mexitli, in 1325, and gradually, overpowering the other tribes, extended their empire north as far as the Kingdom of Michoacan, and the domain of the savage Otomies, east to the Gulf, west to the Pacific, and south to Nicaragua. This was the extent of the Aztec empire at the time of the Spanish invasion in 1519.
Nahuatl, or Aztec, somewhat modified in the region of the central tableland, was the official language of the empire, but many other dialects were in use in other sections. The principal ones were: Tarascan in Michoacan, Mayan in Uycatan, Otomian in the northern limits of the empire, Mixteco-Tzapotecan and Chontal in Oaxaca, and Chiapanecan and Tzendal in Chiapus and Tabasco.
The religion of all these nations was a monstrous polytheism. Human sacrifice was a feature of the worship of nearly all the tribes, but in none did it assume the gigantic proportions that it did among the Aztecs in their great teocalli, or temple, at the capital. Father Motolinia in his letter of 2 January, 1553, to the Emperor Charles V, speaking of the human sacrifices with which the Emperor Ahuitzotl (1486-1502) celebrated the opening of the great temple in Mexico, says: "In
a sacrificial service lasting three or four days 80,400 men were sacrificed. They were brought through four streets walking single file until they reached the idols." Father Durán, speaking of this same sacrifice and of the great number of victims, adds: "Which to me seemed so incredible, that, if history and the fact that I found it recorded in many places outside of history, both in writing and pictorially represented, did not compel me to believe it, I should not dare to assert it". The Vatican and Tellerian manuscripts give the number of victims as 20,000; this number seems more probable.
Upon this occasion victims were simultaneously sacrificed in fourteen principal temples of the city. In the great teocalli, there were four groups of sacrifices, and the same was probably the case in other places; the time for the sacrifices was from sunrise to sunset, about thirteen hours, each victim required about five minutes, so that computing by this standard the number of victims might easily reach the above-mentioned number. Father Mendieta, as well as Father Motolinia and other authorities, agree in affirming that the number of victims annually sacrificed to Huitzilopozotli and other Aztec deities reached the number of 15,000 to 20,000. To the student of Aztec history this will not appear unlikely, for they kept up a continuous warfare with their neighbors, not so much to extend their empire as for the avowed purpose of securing victims for the sacrifices. In battle their idea was not so much to kill as to take their enemies prisoners. To this, in very great measure, the Kingdom of Michoacan and the Republic of Tlaxcala, situated in the very heart of the Aztec empire, only a few miles from the capital, owed their dependence, and the Spaniards many of their victories. Hernán Cortés may for this reason have escaped death at the hands of the Indians in the numerous battles of the siege of the capital.
Notwithstanding the hideous form of worship and the bloody sacrifices, the peoples of ancient Mexico preserved a series of traditions which may be classified as Biblical and Christian; the Biblical traditions are undoubtedly the remnants of the religious beliefs of the first races who migrated to these shores; the probable origin of the Christian traditions will be explained later.
(1) Idea of the Unity of God
The Aztecs gave the name of Teotl to a supreme, invisible, eternal being, whom they never attempted to portray in visible form, and whom they called Tolque-Nahuaque, Creator of all things, Ipalneomani, He by whom we live. The Mayas called the same supreme being, Hunab-ku, and neither does this tribe seem to have ever attempted to give form and personality to their deity. The Michoacans adored Tucupacha, one god and creator of all things.
Among the Aztecs the idea of the creation had been preserved. They believed that Tloque-Nahuaque had created a man and a woman in a delightful garden; the woman was called Cihuacohuatl, the snake woman.
Among the Michoacans we find traditions of the Deluge. Tezpi, to escape from drowning in a terrible deluge that occurred, embarked in a boat shaped like a box, with his wife and children, many species of animals, and provisions of grain and seeds. When the rain had abated, and the flood subsided, he liberated a bird called an aura, a water bird, which did not return. The others were released, and all but the humming bird failed to return.
The illustration on the following page of an Aztec hieroglyphic taken from the Vatican manuscript represents the Deluge as conceived by the Aztecs. The symbol Calli is seen in the water, a house with the head and hand of a woman projecting to signify the submersion of all dwellings and their inhabitants. The two fish swimming in the water signify, besides the fact that they were saved, that all men were transformed into Tlacamichin, fish-people, according to the Aztec tradition. In the midst of the waters floats a hollow wooden canoe, Acalli, occupied by a man and a woman, the only privileged pair to escape the disaster. The goddess Chalchiuhtlique, as though descending from the heavens in a flash of lightning, surrounded by her symbols of rain and water, presides over the scene. The date of the Deluge is marked at the right with the sign Matlactliatl of the month Atemoztli (3 January); the duration of the flood is marked by the sign to the left. Each major circle finished with a feathered end, equals 400, and each minor circle indicates a unit, so that together they equal 4008 years.
(4) Tower of Babel
In the commentary on the Vatican manuscript mention is made of the epoch after Atonatiuh, that is the Deluge, when giants inhabited the earth, and of the giant Xelhua, who, after the waters had subsided, went to Cholollan, where he began to build the great pyramid out of Hugh bricks of sun-baked clay (adobes), made in Tlalmanalco at the base of the Cocotl mountain, and conveyed to the site of the pyramids by hand. A line of men extended from place to place, and the bricks were passed from hand to hand. The gods, seeing that the pyramid threatened to touch the sky, were displeased and rained down fire from the heavens, destroying many and dispersing the rest.
(5) Confusion of Tongues
Teocipactli and Yochiquetzal, the man and woman who were saved from the flood, according to the Aztec tradition, landed on the mountain of Colhuacan. They had many children, but they were all dumb until a dove from the branches of a tree taught them to speak. Their tongues, however, were so diverse that they could not understand one another.
In the history of the nations of ancient Mexico the coming of Quetzalcoatl marks a distinct era. He was said to have come from the Province of Pánuco, a white man, of great stature, broad brow, large eyes, long black hair, rounded beard, and dressed in a tunic covered with black and red crosses. Chaste, intelligent, and just, a lover of peace, versed in the sciences and arts, he preached by his example and doctrine a new religion which inculcated fasting and penance, love and reverence for the Divinity, practise of virtue, and hatred of vice. He predicted that in the course of time white men with beards, like himself, would come from the East, would take possession of their country, overthrow their idols, and establish a new religion. Expelled from Tollan, he sought refuge in Cholollan, but, being pursued even here by the Tollans, he passed on to Yucatán, where, under the name of Kukulcan, he repeated the predictions he had made in Anahuac, introduced the veneration of the Cross, and preached Christian doctrine. Later he set sail from the Gulf of Mexico, going towards the east, to his own land, as he himself said. The opinion of ancient writers that this person was the Apostle Saint Thomas is now universally rejected, and the most probable explanation of the identity of Quetzalcoatl is that he was an Icelandic or Norse priest of the tenth of eleventh century, who, on one of their bold voyages of adventure, accidentally discovered this new land or, shipwrecked in the Gulf, drifted to the coast of Pánuco.
Christian traditions, above all that of the veneration of the Cross, date in Anahuac and Yucatán from the coming of Quetzalcoatl. In Yucatán the followers of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba found crosses which were the object of adoration. With regard to the Cross of Cozumel, the Indians said that a man more resplendent that the sun had died upon it. The Mayas preserved a rite suggestive of baptism and confession, and among the Totonacos an imitation of communion was practised, the bread which was called Toyolliaitlacual, i.e., food of our souls. Crosses were also found in Querétaro, Tepic, Tianguistepec, and Metztitlan.
No better authority can be cited, in connexion with the famous Cross of Palenque, which is herewith reproduced than the learned archeologist, Orozco y Berra. He says: "the civilization indicated by the ruins of Palenque and of Yucatán, differs in every respect, language, writing, architecture, dress, customs, habits, and theogony, from that of the Aztecs. If there are some points of resemblance they can be traced to the epoch of Kukulcan, when there was some intercourse between the two nations. There is also historical proof that the Cross of Palenque is of much more ancient origin than that of the Toltecs. From this it may be inferred that the Cross of Palenque does not owe its origin to the same source as the crosses of Mexico and Cozumel that is, to the coming of Kukulcan, or Quetzalcoatl, and consequently has no Christian significance such as those had. It seems to be of Buddhistic origin." Among the Tzapotecs and Mijes of the State of Oaxaca there is also a very distinct tradition about Pecocha, who came from the West, landing in Huatulco about the sixth century. He is said to have planted a cross there, and to have taught the Indians the veneration they should have for this symbol. This cross is still preserved in the cathedral of Oaxaca, the claims for its authenticity resting on the most thoroughly respectable tradition, and upon documents that have legal as well as canonical weight.
It may not be out of place here to make some mention of the songs and prophecies which existed among the Indians before the coming of the Spaniards. Quetzalcoatl had predicted the coming of a strange race, and when the Spaniards landed the natives received them as the long expected messengers whose coming had been predicted to them. In Yucatán, long before the coming of the Spaniards, the poet Patzin-Yaxun-Chan had thus addressed the people: "O Itzalanos! hate your gods, forget them for they are finite, adore the God of truth, who is omnipotent, and the creator of all things" The high priest of Tixca-cayon, Cauch, said: "There shall come the sign of a god who dwells on high, and the cross which illumined the world shall be made manifest; the worship of false gods shall cease. Your father comes, O Itzalanos! your brother comes, O Itzalanos! receive your bearded guests from the East, who come to bring the sign of God. God it is who comes to us, meek and holy."
(1) Conquerors and Conquered
When the capture of Cuahutemotzin, 13 August, 1521, the Aztec empire came to an end, and with it Nahoa civilization, if such may be called the attainments of a nation which, although preserving in some of the branches of human knowledge remnants of an ancient culture, lacked nevertheless many of the essentials of civilization, practised human sacrifice, polygamy, and slavery, and kept up an incessant warfare with their neighbours for the avowed purpose of providing victims to be sacrificed in a fruitless endeavour to satiate the thirst for blood of their false gods. Most historians attribute the victories of the Spanish conquerors to the firearms they carried, the horses they rode, the horse being entirely unknown to the Indians, the steel armour they wore, and the help of the Indian allies.
No doubt all these contributed in a measure, but not as much as is represented. Of the 500 or 600 men that composed the first expedition, only thirteen carried firearms, and these were heavy cumbersome pieces, hard to manage as were all the firearms of that time. The artillery train was primitive, and its capacity limited, and always accompanied the main column. The detachments which were sent out to subjugate or pacify the villages, and which had sharp encounters, could not hamper their movements in this way. The horsemen were but sixteen in all, and after their first astonishment, not unmixed with awe, the natives soon learned that they could be felled by a single blow. Except officers, few of the Spaniards wore armour, the majority had quilted cotton suits, and for arms the sword and buckler; the horsemen were armed with lances.
As to weapons, the Indians were quite as well provided as the Spaniards; thick wooden helmets covered with leather protected the head, and all carried the chimalli, a strong shield large enough to almost cover the entire breast. The allies no doubt helped, but in the stubbornly fought battles with the Tlaxcaltecs, the Spaniards won singlehanded; their Indian allies in the very heat of battle thinking more of pillage than fighting, during the siege, when the Spanish cause seemed doomed, the allies forsook them. When later they returned they were such a hindrance on the narrow causeways, that in order to fight freely, the Spaniards were obliged to send them to the rear. The Spanish victories were due more to the mode of Indian warfare and in some cases, as in that of Otumba, to Cortés's indomitable courage and strategy. As has already been said, the Indians did not fight to conquer but to take their enemies prisoners, and the battles after the first assault became a series of confused hand-to-hand fights without order or harmony on the part of the Indians, whereas the Spaniards preserved their unity and fought under the direction of their leader. Valour was not wanting on either side, but the Indians yielded to the temptation of an easy fight, while the Spaniards fought with the courage of desperation; knowing well that the sacrificial stone was the fate that awaited the prisoner, with them it was to conquer or to die.
Historians have been so carried away with the military exploits of Cortés that the men who fought with him, sharing all his dangers, have been overlooked. Greed for gold was not the sole dominant motive of their actions, as has been so persistently asserted; it was a strange mixture of indomitable courage, harshness, tireless energy, cupidity, licentiousness, Spanish loyalty, and religious spirit. Some of those who had fought most valiantly and who received their share of the spoils, judging their gains ill gotten, laid aside their worldly possessions acquired at such a high price, and embraced the religious life. Later they emerged from the cloister transformed into missionaries, full of zeal and bringing to the arduous task of evangelizing the Indians, the same valour, disregard of fatigue, and untiring energy they had previously displayed in the army of discovery and conquest.
With the fall of the great Tenochtitlan, the first period may be said to close. This was followed by many expeditions of discovery and conquest, ending for the most part in the founding of colonies. Alvarado penetrated as far as Guatemala; Cristóbal de Olid reached Honduras, Montejo, father and son, accomplished the conquest of Yucatán; Cortés went as far as Lower California. Nuñode Guzmán, the conqueror of Michoaican (or Tarasco Kingdom) and the founder of the city of Guadalajara, whose career might have been so distinguished for glory, allowed his cruel, avaricious disposition to overrule all his actions. Fleeing from Mexico to avoid the storm that his evil deeds had brought upon him, he encountered Tangoaxan II, alias Caltzontzin, the King of Michoacan; he seized him, plundered his train, tortured and finally put him to death. Pursuing his way he left a trail of ash and blood through the whole Tarasco Kingdom. The saintly Vasco de Quiroga, first Bishop of Michoacan, with difficulty effaced the traces of this bloody march. Nuño penetrated beyond Sinaloa, suppressing with an iron hand the discontent in his mixed troop. Retracing his steps, he founded the city of Guadalajara. At enmity with Cortès, unrecognized by the Audiencia and the viceroy, cursed by his victims, he returned to Mexico, to be seized, imprisoned, and transported to Spain, where he died in poverty and want. Nuño was succeeded by the mild, winning Cristóbal de Oñate. By the close of the sixteenth century the conquest from Guatamala to New Mexico had been practically accomplished.
In New Spain, no Sayri Tupac nor Tupac Amaru ever arose to attempt to overthrow the Spaniards, as in Peru. The Indians conquered by Cortés and the commanders who followed him remained submissive. There were occasional uprisings among the Northern Indians, but never serious enough to affect the peace of the colony in general. Neither had the Government to contend with any disloyalty among its own subjects; the Spaniards of New Spain never belied the proverbial Spanish loyalty. The king received from the hands of Cortés and those who continued his work a vast empire almost free of expense to the royal exchequer. All that was required seemed to be to take possession of the new territories added to the Crown; but the situation was not without its difficulties. For the conquest a military commander had been sufficient; the new empire would require a Government. In the methods employed to organize this new empire, Spain has frequently been charged with cruelty; that there was cruelty, and at time extreme cruelty, cannot be denied. The execution of Cuahutemotzin and the horrible death of Tangoaxan II will ever disgrace the memory of Cortés and Nuño de Guzmán. The slavery to which the Indians were reduced during the early years of the conquest, their distribution among the plantations, the contemptuous disregard of the conquerors for the lives of Indians, looking upon them at first as irrational beings, are blots which can hardly be effaced from the history of the Spanish conquest in America. But the impartial historian may well call attention to certain facts and thus enable the reader, viewing the question from every aspect, to form a correct historical opinion.
Neither the home Government nor the Spanish nation was ever an accomplice in these deeds of cruelty of the Spaniards in New Spain. Spain, it is true, rewarded the conquerors of Mexico just as nations today honour the victorious generals who have left in their wake devastated lands and battlefields strewn with the dead. These expeditions of conquest were the natural outcome of circumstances; they were carried out under royal command, and were no more piratical expeditions then than they would be now. Spain did not fail to demand a strict account from all who, after the submission of the people, exceeded the limits of their authority, and she used every measure within her reach, though not always successfully, to obtain fair treatment for the conquered Indians. Innumerable royal decrees and laws enjoining just and equitable treatment for the Indians, were issued to the viceroys and governors of America. Through the aid of the missionaries, the Spanish Government obtained from Paul III (17 June, 1537), the Bull which gave to the Indians equal rights with the white man, and proclaimed them capable of receiving the Christian faith and its sacraments, thus destroying the pernicious opinion that they were irrational beings. Severe laws were promulgated against those who should attempt to enslave the Indians, and the Government ordered that slaves should be brought from Africa (as was the custom of the period), rather than that Spanish subjects should become slaves.
With regard to encomiendas (a system of patents involving virtual enslavement of the Indians) no one who has read the life of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas can be ignorant of the earnest effort made by the Government to do away with them, but, as this was impossible, and as the attempt was creating disorder (see MOTOLINIA), the Government tried by every means to alleviate the condition of the Indians, and to save them as much as possible from harsh treatment by their masters. If the excesses of some of the conquerors stand out in such bold relief, it is because of the unceasing protests of the many Spaniards who were not their partisans. The most vehement accusers of the Spaniards base their assertions on the writings of Spaniards themselves, particularly those of the fiery Las Casas, to whom the Government appears to have allowed free speech. The missionaries were equally vehement, often making unreasonable demands, and showing themselves more bitter towards their own countrymen than a stranger would have been. Even Philip II suffered in silence this torrent of complaint and abuse of his Government, and tolerated charges which, in similar circumstances, in the realm of the haughty Elizabeth would have been dearly paid by thos complaining. A laudable sentiment of fairness and compassion towards the vanquished race inspired these writings, and their very nature and purpose precluded all mention of any deeds of kindness and humanity. The gruesome picture that has resulted from this makes it appear that in the army of conquerors and colonizers there was not a single one who was a Christian and a man. In their zeal for justice the Spaniards have really cast dishonour on their country, and this must ever redound to their glory.
(2) Evangelization and Conversion of the Indians
In the ranks of the Spaniards there were several priests, but little could be done during the first stormy period. When the conquest had been effected, and order restored, the Franciscans were the first to offer themselves for the work. Three Flemish Franciscans, among them the famous lay brother Peter of Ghent (Pedro de Gante), kinsman of the Emperor Charles V, had preceeded the first twelve Franciscans who formally took possession of the missions in 1524. Upon the arrival of the latter, they joined their ranks, and the superior, Fray Martín de Valencia, appointed them to various places near the City of Mexico, where they began at once, as best they could, to teach and preach. At first, especially among the adults, little could be accomplished, as they did not know the language, so they turned their attention to the children. There their zeal was rewarded with more success, the children being more docile and less imbued with the effects of idolatrous worship. By degrees they gained ground, and before long adults were asking for baptism, the number increasing daily until within a few years the greater portion of the inhabitants of the newly conquered territory had received baptism. The apparition, in 1531, of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the Indian Juan Diego had a powerful effect, the increase in conversions being very noticeable after that time.
The fact that they had found the territory conquered, and the inhabitants pacified and submissive, had greatly aided the missionaries; they could, moreover, count on the support of the Government, and the new converts on its favour and protection. It must, however, be borne in mind that there was no coercion; the Indians did not see in baptism an ægis that would protect them from cruelty and persecution, otherwise they surely would have hastened to be baptized in those early years when the unsettled state of the government exposed them to greater oppression and outrage. The motive must be sought deeper. The Aztec religion, with its human sacrifices, draining constantly the life of the mass of the people, must surely have inclined them to a religion which freed them from such a yoke. Moreover, their religion, though recognizing the immortality of the soul, assigned future happiness, not according to the merits, but according to the worldly condition, of the individual, his profession, and the fortuitous manner of death. This contrasted strongly with the Christian dogma of the immortality of the soul and the power of all, however lowly, to acquire by their merits the right to possess it.
Some have questioned whether or not the lives of the missionaries were a contributing influence in the conversion of the Indians. It is true that the ancient Aztec priests practised severe penances and austerities, but their harshness, haughtiness, and aloofness from the poor formed a sharp contrast with the conduct of the missionaries, who, on the contrary, sought, sheltered, taught, and defended them. The fact that the haughty conquerors, whom the Indians so much admired, showed the missionaries so much outward deference and respect, even kneeling at their feet, raised them at once to a higher level.
One of the most eminent Franciscans of this mission, Fr. Sahagún, charges the first missionaries with a lack of worldly sagacity (prudencia serpentina), and says that they did not see that the Indians were deceiving them, to all appearances embracing the Faith, yet holding in secret to their idolatrous practices. This accusation in a measure attacks the memory of these first holy missionaries, and it seems almost outside the range of possibilities that such a multitude could have been in accord to deceive them. The examples of virtuous lives led by several of the caciques (Indian chiefs), prominent personages, and by many of the poor plebeians, the sincere and upright manner in which they received and carried out the severe condition of abandoning their polygamous practices, bear witness to the fact that not all these conversions were feigned. Of course, it does not follow from this that every Indian without exception who embraced Christianity, did so in all sincerity. Doubtless there were not many among them who attained a perfect understanding of the new dogmas, but nearly all preferred the new religion because of the evident advantages it possessed over the ancient doctrines and worship. Their knowledge may not have extended to judging the fixed limits between what was allowed and what was forbidden, but this does not justify the statement that the conversion of the Indians was not sincere. The most notable apostasies occurred at the end of the sixteenth century, when Cosijopii, formerly King of Tehuantepec, was surprised, surrounded by his ancient courtiers and a great number of people, taking part in an idolatrous ceremony, and in the seventeenth century, when the priests of the Province of Oaxaca heard that great numbers of Indians congregated secretly at night to worship their idols. But this occurred when the influence of the missionaries over the Indians had greatly diminished, whether owing to the abandonment of some of the parishes, to disputes with the secular clergy, or because to some extent religious discipline had been relaxed.
In this connexion it may not be without interest to note the particular bias which the religion of the Indians assumed in some respects. Thus, for example, the Christianity of the Indian is essentially sad and sombre. This has been attributed to the occasion on which Christianity was introduced among them, to racial traits, to the impression indelibly imprinted upon them by their ancient rites, and to the fact that the Indian sees in the crucifix the actual evidences of insult and abuse, of suffering and dejection. The crucifixes in the Indian churches are repulsive, and only in rare instances have the priests succeeded in improving or changing the images.
Devotion to some particular saint, above all to the Apostle St. James, may also be noted. Their ancient polytheism had taught them that the favour of each god who possessed special perogatives was to be sought, which explains the many and varied propitiatory sacrifices of their religion, and the new converts probably did not at first understand the relative position of the saints, nor the distinction between the adoration due to God and the reverence due to the saints. Hearing the Spaniards speak constantly of the Apostle St. James, they became convinced that he was some sort of divine protector of the conquerors, to be justly feared by their enemies, and that it was therefore necessary to gain his favour. Hence the great devotion that the Indians had for St. James, the numerous churches dedicated to him, and the statues of him in so many churches, mounted on a white horse, with drawn sword, in the act of charging.
A much debated question at that time was whether conquest should precede conversion, or whether the efforts of the missionaries alone would suffice to subjugate and bring the Indians to a Christian and civilized mode of life. The former theory had been applied to the first nations, which the missionaries found conquered and pacified when they began their work among them. The question presented itself when expeditions against the Indians of the northern part of Mexico were being planned. The independent state of these tribes was a constant menace to the peace and progress of the colony in the south, and the rich mines known to exist there were also an inducement. The system adopted, which seems to have been enjoined by royal mandate, was to send armed expeditions, accompanied always by several missionaries, to take possession of the territory and to establish garrisons and forts to hold it. By this arrangement the cross and the sword went hand in hand, but the missionaries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, especially the Jesuits, were not satisfied with this method, and attempted the conversion of these tribes without the aid of arms. They left the fortified headquarters occupied by the Spaniards to visit and convert other tribes, and often found among them the martyr's crown. The Tarahumares, Tepehuanes, Papigochic, and the tribes of Sonora and Sinaloa put many Jesuit missionaries to death, but each one who fell was quickly replaced by another, even the horrible spectacle of the bloody and mutilated remains of their companions lying unburied in the smoking ruins of the mission chapel did not daunt their courage. At times formidable rebellions broke out, as in New Mexico in 1680, when, in the general massacre, twenty-one Franciscans perished, and Christianity was all but exterminated.
Towards the middle of the eighteenth century the tribes of the Eastern Coast, inhabiting what is now Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Texas, were under the Franciscans; those of the West, the present limits of Durango, Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Sonora, and Lower California, were under the Jesuits. Lower California was acquired for the Spanish Government through the efforts of Father Salvatierra, and to him and the famous Father Kino is due the discovery that Lower California was a peninsula, and not an island, as had been supposed for a century and a half. When the Jesuits were expelled from all the Spanish colonies by Charles III, many of their missions were abandoned, others were taken in charge by the missionaries of the College of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Zacatecas. Towards the close of the eighteenth century the Franciscans, handicapped for so many years by disadvantages and dissensions, returned with renewed life and vigour to the work of the missions, and took charge of many of the deserted missions in California. They sent many worthy successors of the first Franciscans, among them the well-known Fray Junípero Serra, founder of the missions of Upper California.
(3) The Destruction of the Aztec Hieroglyphics
The general opinion of the ordinary student of Mexican history, after reading the works of Prescott, Bancroft, Robertson, and others, is that the first missionaries and the first Bishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumárrage, were responsible for the destruction of the hieroglyphic annals of the Aztecs. Expressions such as the following, occur frequently: "Ignorance and fanaticism of the first missionaries"; "the Omar of the new continent". If we look carefully into the sources from which these opinions have been taken we shall see that these charges are entirely unfounded or, at least, greatly exaggerated. To make this point clear, we shall at the beginning set aside such writers as Prescott, H. H. Bancroft, Lucas Alamán, Humboldt, Cavo, Clavijero, Robertson, Gemelli, Sigüenza, Herrera, and others, who, although learned men, from the very circumstances of having written at a time far removed from the era of the conquest and evangelization of Mexico, perhaps never having visited the country itself, have necessarily confined themselves to repeating tales which others have written before them. Setting aside these, there still remain thirteen writers, some of them contemporary with the conquest and others practically contemporaneous, who have seen the work of the missionaries and witnessed the events immediately following the conquest. Of these thirteen, six may still be eliminated as treating purely of the destruction of idols and teocallis, or temples, not having concerned themselves with manuscripts and hieroglyphics. These are Fray Martín de Valencia, Superior of the first Franciscans, Fray Pedro de Gante, Fray Toribio de Benavante, Fray Jerónimo de Mendieta, the letter of the bishops to the Emperor Charles V (1537), and his reply. Of the seven remaining authors five wrote at the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth, such as Sahagún (1550-80), Torquemada (his works were published in 1615), Durán (1519-80), Ixtlilxochitl (1600-15), and J. B. Pomar (1582). Two authorities of the time of the conquest are the codex called "Libro de Oro" (Golden Book), 1530-34, and the letter of Bishop Zumárraga to the General Chapter of Tolosa, written at the end of the year 1531.
Before treating each of these authorities separately it may be as well to establish some important facts. According to Sahagún, in the time of the native Mexican King Itzocoatl (1427-40) a number of paintings had been burnt to keep them from falling into the hands of the vulgar, who might have treated them with disrespect. This may be called the first destruction. Ixtlilxochitl (Fernando de Alba) asserts that when the Tlaxcaltecs entered Texcoco in company with Cortés (31 December, 1520) they "set fire to everything belonging to King Netzahualpilli, and thus burnt the royal archives of all New Spain" (second destruction). Mendieta says that at the time of the coming of the Spaniards many paintings were hidden and locked up, to save them from the ravages of war; the owners dying or moving away, these papers were lost (third destruction). Hernán Cortés, in order to take the City of Mexico, had to demolish almost the whole of it, including the teocallis; many writings must have been destroyed then (fourth destruction).
All this was previous to the coming of the first missionaries. No evidence is to be found in any of the writers of the period that either the missionaries or Bishop Zumárraga burnt anything in Mexico, Texcoco, or Atzcapotzalco, that might even remotely be called a literary monument. On the contrary, Fray Jerónimo de Mendieta, one of the first Franciscans, in the prologue of the second volume of his "Historia Eclesiástica Indiana" states that far from the first friars destroying Indian manuscripts, their superior, Fray Martín de Valencia, and the president of the Second Audiencia, D. Sebastian Ramírez de Fuen Leal, commissioned Fray Andrés del Olmo, in 1533, to write a book on Indian antiquities. This he did having seen "all the pictures representing ancient rites and customs, owned by the caciques and other persons of importance in these provinces", and having received ready answers and explanations from all the oldest inhabitants whom he questioned. Moreover, in 1533 or 1534, the painting to which the name of Codex Zumárraga has been given was being studied and explained, notwithstanding the horror it must have inspired from being stained with human blood. As Bishop Zumárraga did not reach Mexico until 1528, he cannot be blamed or held responsible for what had happened previous to this. In the years 1529 and 1530 he had more than enough to do in opposing the excesses of the First Audiencia, and anyone who is familiar with the history of this period will know that he had other matters than the burning of manuscripts to say nothing of entire archives, as some writers assert to occupy him. At the close of the year 1531 he was recalled to Spain, and did not return until late in the year 1534. At this time no hieroglyphic records were destroyed, but, as we have already stated, they were being collected and interpreted.
This being the case, let us now examine the texts which are quoted against the missionaries and Bishop Zumárraga. J. B. Polmar, who, like Ixtlilxochitl, was a descendant of the kings of Texcoco, may be set aside at once. He states that in Texcoco the Indians themselves burnt the paintings that had earlier escaped the incendiarism of the Tlaxcaltecs, for fear Bishop Zumárrage might attribute to them idolatrous worship, because at that time D. Carlos Ometochtzin, son of Netzahualpilli, was accused of idolatry. It was not, therefore, a question of an act of Bishop Zumárrage, but of a fear, well or ill-founded, on the part of the Indians. The Texcocanos, seeing that their lord was indicted for idolatry, and fearing that the investigations might incriminate others, not altogether faultless, hastened to shield themselves by burning some paintings, the character of which is not known. They may in reality have been representations of idolatrous and superstitious rites, and not annals of historic value. As regards other authors who were almost contemporary with the conquest, it must be noted that within a few years they began investigations concerning Indian antiquities and naturally turned to the hieroglyphics that had been preserved, seeking explanations from the Indians who were most versed in deciphering these. But they had already lost in great part the knowledge of the meaning of these figures, which had been transmitted by tradition only. Ixtlilxochitl asserts that out of a gathering of the principal Indians in New Spain, who had a reputation for knowing their history, he found only two who had full knowledge and understanding of the paintings and signs. Urged by the interpreters to explain certain points which they did not understand, they felt great repugnance in confessing their ignorance, and in order to dissimulate it had recourse to the convenient alternative of laying the blame on the scarcity of pictures. Their desire to shield their ancestors for their failure to record some facts of importance induced them to exaggerate the part taken by Bishop Zumárraga and the missionaries.
Fray Durán, the cautious Fray Sahagún, and Ixtlilxochitl do not accuse Bishop Zumárraga, but attribute everything to the missionaries. Fray Torquemada blames the missionaries and Bishop Zumárraga, pointing to the archives of Atzcapotzalco as destroyed by him. This, however, appears utterly unlikely as no former writer ever mentioned the archives of Atzcapotzalco, and it is quite possible no such archives ever existed. Moreover, had there been any truth in this accusation, Ixtlilxochitl, who was in search of these proofs, would have related it in his works; as it is, he does not even mention it. Finally, it must be borne in mind that Torquemada only gathered together the writings of the early missionaries, and interwove his works with fragments of these writings. He could not find such a charge against Bishop Zumárraga because it was not there.
As regards the first missionaries, we have already mentioned the value they placed upon the pictures and the use they made of the hieroglyphics. Two documents of the time of the Conquest may be cited in this connexion: the "Libro de Oro" (Golden Book) and the letter of Bishop Zumárraga to the Chapter of Tolosa. In the "Libro de Oro", which is the work of the first Franciscans, and which has been very badly edited, some phrases being almost unintelligible, we find the following words: "As we have destroyed and burnt the books and all that pertains to ceremonial or is suspect, and threatened them if they do not reveal them, now when we ask for books, if any have them they tell us they are burnt, and ask why we want them. There are books among them that are not prohibited, such as give the computation of the years, months, and days, and annals, although there is always something that is suspect. Besides, there are others which are prohibited, treating of idolatry and dreams." The only thing that can be proved as certain from this document is that the missionaries burnt books of heathenish and idolatrous ceremonies; the distinction between these and books of annals being clearly drawn; the one prohibited, the other not. As the accusation is principally based on the burning of historical hieroglyphics, we see from this document that there is no foundation for it.
There remains the famous letter of Bishop Zumárraga to the Chapter of Tolosa, written in 1531. As there have been twenty-one editions of this celebrated letter, there are some variations; the quotation is given as it is found in the oldest edition, which says: "Baptizata sunt plusquam ducenta quinquaginta millia hominum, quingenta deorum templa sunt destructa, et plusquam vicesies mille figuræ dæmonum, quas adorabant, fractæ et combustæ." The accusation turns on the words figuræ dæmonum combustæ, i.e., burnt. Critics say that the word burnt should be applied to books and Indian writings which the missionaries took for idols or objects of adoration. Sane criticism, however, induces us to the contrary belief, or at least to attribute less importance to this word burnt. From the "Libro de Oro", it is evident that the missionaries distinguished from the beginning between prohibited and non-prohibited books; they did not, therefore, take every hieroglyphic for an idol. No writer of that period, and there were many, ever said that the Indians adored the writings, not did the missionaries believe such a thing, for they clearly distinguished between idols and writings. Fray Mendieta mentions certain idols of paper, but he does not call them writings. Dávila Padilla (1596) speaks of another very large idol of paper, filled with smaller idols, but he does not say that there were writings. Besides, there were idols of wood that could be burned, the stone ones could be covered with clothing and so burned, and in the chronicles of the time mention is continually made of the burning of idols. When these were made of stone they were cast into the flames first as a mark of indignity, and then broken up. This, in all probability, is the meaning of the words in Bishop Zumárraga's letter.
Briefly, then, the preceding facts shown: (a) That before the coming of the first missionaries many hieroglyphic paintings had been destroyed. (b) That the missionaries who came in 1524, and who wrote histories, speak of idols and temples destroyed, but say nothing of writings being burnt, and as early as 1530 they began to distinguish between prohibited and non-prohibited paintings; in 1533, by order of the superior, they collected these writings to compile a history of the Indians. (c) That the charge of having destroyed the historical hieroglyphics of the Indians, practically null in the beginning, has grown in proportion as the writers are farther removed from the time of the conquest. (d) That, even granting that there ever was such a destruction, it could not have been so great, for from 1568 to 1580 the viceroy D. Martín Enríquez ordered that the paintings of the Indians be brought together in order to rewrite their history, and many were brought from Tula, Texcoco, and Mexico, and in the eighteenth century the celebrated writer and collector Boturini found many more.
(4) Public Instruction During the Earliest Colonial Period
When the first bank of twelve Franciscans arrived at Tlaxcala in 1524 they found there Father Tecto, who had come two years before. Seeing that he and his companions had not made much progress in the conversion of the natives, Fray Martín de Valencia asked the reason, and what they had been doing in the time they had been in the colony: "Learning a theology unknown to St. Augustine (namely), the language of these Indians", replied Father Tecto. Once established, the missionaries devoted themselves to building churches and convents to which a school was always attached. In the large court of the convent catechism was taught early in the morning to the adults and to the children of the macehuales (workmen), in order that they might then go to their work. The school was reserved for the children of the nobles and persons of prominence. As the Indians did not at first realize the importance of this instruction, the schools were not well attended, and the missionaries had to ask the aid of the civil authorities to compel parents to send their children to be instructed. Many of the nobles, not wishing to entrust their children to the new apostles, but not daring to disobey, sent as substitutes the children of some former dependent, passing them off as their own, but soon seeing the advantages of the education imparted by the friars sent their own children, insisting on their being admitted to the schools. Some of these schools were so large that they accommodated from 800 to 1000 children. The older and more advanced pupils taught the labourers, who came in large numbers in their free hours to be instructed.
At first, when the missionaries were not fully conversant with the language, they taught by means of pictures, and the Indians, accustomed to their own hieroglyphic figures, understood readily. In making copies the Indians inserted Aztec words written in European characters, originating a curious mixed writing of which some examples are still preserved. As soon as the missionaries mastered the language they turned their attention more especially to the children of the nobles, since the children of the working class did not need so thorough an education. According to the custom of the times, they would not be called to rule, and the sooner their course of instruction was completed the sooner they would be free to help their parents. The same reasons did not hold for the girls, and no distinction was made among them, all being taught together, at first in the patios and later in the homes built for them. Bishop Zumárraga founded eight or nine schools for girls in his diocese, and at his urgent solicitation, in 1530, the empress sent six women teachers, and in 1534 he himself brought six more. Later on, the viceroy, D. Antonio de Mendoza, founded an asylum for half-caste girls, which at first was hampered by lack of funds, but the king endowed it and directed that all those who wished to marry the girls should be provided with employment.
When the missionaries landed, in 1524, they did not find a single Indian who could read; nothing had been done in this direction for them by the army of conquest. Twenty years later, 1544, Bishop Zumárraga wanted to have the catechism of Fray Pedro de Córdoba translated into the Indian tongue, which was finally done, as he believed so much good would result from it, "for", as he said, "there are so many who know how to read". Contemporary writers bear witness to the rapid progress of the Indians in writing, music, and even in Latin.
The one who distinguished himself most in teaching the Indians was the lay brother Pedro de Gante, kinsman of the Emperor Charles V. He gathered together about a thousand children in the convent of San Francisco of Mexico and taught them, besides their religion, music, singing, and Latin. He also started a school for adults and founded a school of fine arts and crafts. With no resources but his indomitable energy, born of his ardent charity, he raised from the foundations and sustained for many years, a magnificent church, a hospital, and a great establishment which was at one and the same time a primary school, a college for higher studies, and an academy of fine arts and crafts in short, a centre of civilization.
The missionaries spared nothing to unite secular learning with religious instruction, and, having in mind the fondness of the Indians for the frequent solemnities of their bloody worship, introduced religious dramas. Ancient chronicles have preserved excellent accounts of the skill displayed by the Indians acting these dramas.
Bishop Zumárraga, who aspired always to higher things for the Indians, managed to open for them the famous college of Santa Cruz, at Tlaltelolco, on 6 January, 1534. This foundation began with sixty students, the number rapidly increasing. Besides religion and good habits, they were taught reading, writing, Latin grammar, rhetoric, philosophy, music, and Mexican medicine. The college of Tlaltelolco sent forth native governors and mayors for the Indian towns, teachers for the Indians, and at times for the young Spaniards and creoles. Some of them were a great help to the missionaries in their philological work. In 1553 there were in Mexico three principal colleges: the one at Tlaltelolco for the Indians, San Juan de Letrán for the mestizos, both under the care of the Franciscans, and another for the Spaniards and creoles who did not wish to mingle with the others. This last was under teachers with bachelor degrees from Spain, until the Augustinians founded their great college of San Pablo, 1575. They were the first to establish a school to be frequented by both creoles and Spaniards. Shortly afterwards the Jesuits founded the college of San Ildefonso in Mexico with the same idea in view. For all higher studies, however, students had to go to the universities of Spain, as the Mexican schools afforded no facilities for taking university courses. To remedy this the colonial authorities determined to establish a local university.
University of Mexico.— The viceroy, D. Antonio de Mendoza (1535-50), to whom New Spain owed so much for his interest in public instruction, petitioned the Emperor Charles V for the establishment of a university suitably endowed. The petition, supported by the city, the prelates, and the religious orders, was favourably received, and although the prospect was not carried out until after D. Antonio de Mendoza had resigned the governorship of New Spain, in 1550, to assume that of Peru, the credit of having begun the work is due to him. The university was founded during the term of his successor, D. Luis de Velasco (1550-64). The decree of foundation signed by the prince who later reigned as Philip II, was issued by the emperor at Toro on 21 August, 1551, and the university was opened 3 June 1553. A yearly endowment of one thousand dollars in gold from the mines was conferred upon it, and all the faculties and privileges of the University of Salamanca.
The first chairs founded, with their respective professors, were as follows: Theology, Fray Pedro de la Peña, Dominican, afterwards Bishop of Quito, whose successor in the Faculty was the learned Juan Negrete, professor of the University of Paris; Sacred Scripture, Fray Alonso de la Veracruz; Canon Law, Dr. Morones, fiscal of the Audiencia; Civil Law, Dr. Melgarejo; Institutes and Law, Licentiate Frias de Albornoz; Arts, Canon Juan Garcìa; Rhetoric, Dr. Cervantes Salazar; Grammar, Blas de Bustamante. Some years later the chairs of medicine and of the Otomic and Mexican languages were added. At first there was only one chair of medicine, but towards the close of the sixteenth century the division known as prima and vísperas was introduced, the former including anatomy and physiology, the latter, pathology and therapeutics.
The title of Royal and Pontifical was conferred on the new university and all the doctors then in Mexico, including Archbishop Montúfar, were attached to it. The professorships were divided into temporary and perpetual; the first were for four years and were competitive, the second were affected only by the death or resignation of the incumbent. When a chair was won by competition, the recipient paid the fees or dues, swore to fulfil his duties well, and promised to take no part in balls, theatres, or public demonstrations. According to this instructions left by the Duque de Linares to his successor the Marqués de Valero, the award of professorships was voted on by the senior auditor representing the Audiencia, the dean as representatives of the Church, an official of the Inquisition, the dean and the rector of the university, the magister scholarum and the archbishop, who presided and in whose house the voting took place. So much stress was laid upon the study of the Indian language that in the private instructions which the Marqués de las Amarillas brought from Madrid he was directed to consider the advisability of adding to the statutes of the university a clause to the effect that the degree of theology should not be conferred on those who did not know the Mexican language, and fixing a special hour for its study by the students of philosophy, either before or while they were studying classics.
In the famous instructions which the second Conde de Revillagigedo left to his successor the Marqués de Branciforte, we find that by a royal decree of 11 June, 1792, all members of the university were obliged to obtain the viceroy's permission to marry. The viceroy, who was the vice-patron of the university, was to appoint the rector in case the election did not give a decisive plurality to any candidate. Towards the end of the eighteenth century a course of botany was introduced. The viceroy, Conde de Revillagigedo, declared that reforms were needed in the methods of study and in the manner of conferring degrees, that little attention was given to the classics, that there were no apparatus for the study of modern experimental physics, and that there were few modern works in the library. We know, however, that D. Manuel Ignacio Beye de Cisneros, who was rector in 1760, built the library and drew up regulations for it, which were confirmed by the king in 1761. It contained more than 10,000 volumes, many of them rare and valuable, especially regarding the history of Mexico, and it was open to the public morning and afternoon, two librarians with the degree of doctor being in charge.
At first the university was governed by provisional statutes drawn up by the viceroy and the Audiencia, modifying those of Salamanca as the circumstances of the country required. The Auditor Farfan amended these in 1580, and in 1583 still further revision was made by Archbishop Moya de Contreras. In 1645, D. Juan de Palafox, who was appointed visitor, compiled new statutes which, when approved by the king, were to supersede all previous enactments. Nevertheless, in the instructions left by the viceroy D. Antonio Sebastian de Toledo, Marqués de Mancera, to his successor, D. Pedro Nuño de Colón, Duque de Veragua, 22 Oct., 1673, we find the following: "The royal University of Mexico, though richly endowed with brilliant and learned professors in all the branches, was greatly hampered by the multiplicity of statutes by which it was governed. I was informed that the viceroy D. Juan de Palofox had overcome this difficulty by compiling new statutes, and that these were being withheld by some malicious person interested in continuing the disorder. I took the necessary means to have these traced and brought to light, together with the royal decree of 1 May, 1649, confirming them. These were laid before the university, 26 Sept., 1668, were accepted without any difficulty, and since then have been observed with signal benefit to the schools, securing the approbation of his majesty (decree of 17 Jan., 1671), and affording relief to the viceroys who were frequently confronted by doubts and disputes which it was difficult to settle."
The university continued its work until 1833, when it was closed by President Gomez Farias. President Santa Anna re-established it in 1834, with some modifications of the statutes; but during the following years it began gradually to deteriorate, owing chiefly to the instability of its laws and to the fact that public sentiment was against it. President Comonfort suppressed it in 1857. Zuloaga reopened it on 5 May, 1858, but it was once more closed on 23 Jan., 1861, by Juárez. During the regency of 1863 it revived for a time until the Emperor Maximilian suppressed it definitively on 30 November, 1865.
(5) The Royal Patronage and the Clergy
It is not possible to proceed very far in the history of New Spain, whether civil or ecclesiastical, without taking into account what has been called the royal patronage of the Spanish monarchs. In fact it is hardly possible to conceive a more absolute system of control than that exercised by the kings of Spain, whether in person or through the Council of the Indies and the viceroys and governors in all the ecclesiastical affairs of the Indies. A detailed account of these privileges, which were general throughout all Spanish America, will be given with examples of the practical application of the patronato theory in the colony of New Spain.
By the provisions of the Bull of 4 July, 1508, "Universalis Ecclesiæ regimini", no churches, monasteries, or religious foundations could be erected, in territory already discovered or that should be subsequently discovered, without the consent of the Spanish monarch. It conferred also on the Spanish monarch the power of nominating suitable candidates for the metropolitan and other sees, and any that might be erected in the future. Bishops were obliged to confer canonical institution to ecclesiastical benefices ten days after the royal notification had been made, and in case opposition were offered without legitimate cause any other bishop chosen by the candidate could and should confer such canonical institution. The Bull also conferred the right to present candidates for all the abbacies and prelacies of the regulars and, indeed for every ecclesiastical benefice, large or small.
Beside these privileges the king also had the right of designating the boundaries of all new dioceses, of sending religious to the Indies, of determining their stay there and their removal from one province to another. Religious establishments were under the supervision of the Council of the Indies, and, in order that this might be exercised with all possible thoroughness, the office of commissioner general, for which Father Mendieta worked so earnestly, was established. The provincial or custodian of the regulars was named by their general, but he had to notify the commissioner general of Spain, who communicated with the Council of the Indies, and without its permission the nomination was suspended.
All decrees suppressing provinces or creating new ones, founding of new convents, sending visitors general or provincials, journeys of the religious, naming of presidents for chapters, any instructions given by the superiors not directly connected with the ordinary government of the order, as well as the patents which revoked any concessions previously granted, had to be presented to the Council of the Indies. All Bulls and Briefs from Rome, instructions from generals and other religious superiors, had to go through the Council of the Indies, and without its seal no use could be made of them. The records of provincial councils and synods in the colonies, their constitutions and decrees, and those of the chapters and assemblies of the regulars, could not be published until revised and examined by the Council. The Briefs of the Congregation of the Propaganda appointing missionaries for the Indies carried no weight whatever if unaccompanied by permission from the king or the Council of the Indies.
In order to form a new mission, province, or seminary for missionaries it was necessary to go through all these proceedings. The province or house soliciting this permission appointed a commissioner who personally or through his superiors made his request to the viceroy or governor, to the Audiencia of the place, and to the bishop, all of whom were obliged to submit their respective reports. The commissioner, supplied with the necessary permits of the viceroy or governor and of his superiors, sailed for Spain, and at the Court the matter was laid before the commissioner general of the Indies. When all this was done, and not before, the petition could be presented to the Supreme Council of the Indies, together with the documents which certified to the necessity for the new foundation. The permission having been obtained, the Council named the provinces from which the religious should be drawn, and if the Council failed to do so the commissioner general did it, sometimes leaving it to the choice of the aforesaid religious commissioner. The selection having been made and the new missionaries gathered together, he could now embark with all the necessary authorization of superiors and council, and go to his destination, whence he was obliged to report to the authorities who had given him permission to go to Spain.
If a religious wished to leave the Indies and return to Spain, the permission of the father general, the commissioner general, or of the pope himself (royal decree of 29 July, 1564) did not suffice, it was necessary to obtain the consent of the king or the Council of the Indies. Sometimes the permission of the bishops of the province was sufficient, the viceroy, president, or governor having been first consulted; they were obliged to report to the council the reasons for giving permission.
When the chapters of the religious orders were held in places where the viceroys or governors did not reside, the latter had to write to the assembled religious admonishing them to the strict observance of their rule and constitution; and if the chapter met where the viceroy or governor lived, he was obliged to be present, and in case he noted disorders, relaxation, monopolies, and partnerships indicative of simony and abuse, and fraternal correction proved insufficient to restore order, the culpable ones were sent to Spain. Any visitor, provincial, prior, guardian, or prelate who might be named or elected in the Indies, was obliged before exercising his office to notify the viceroy, president, Audiencia, or governor then in supreme power in the province, showing his letters of nomination and election, in order to obtain the protection and help necessary for the exercise of the duties of his office in the province (royal decree, 1 June, 1654). In the same decree it was ordered that "the provincials of all orders residing in the Indies shall each and every one have always ready a list of the monasteries and houses under their control and the control of their subjects in the province, also all the religious, giving each one's name, age, qualifications, the office or ministry each one exercises; and this shall be given each year to our viceroy, Audiencia, or governor, or to the person who exercises the supreme government of the province, adding or subtracting the names of the religious who have been added to the communities or who have left. The provincials of the orders, each and every one, shall make a list of the religious who are engaged in the work of teaching catechism to the Indians, administering the sacraments, and acting as parish priests where the principal monasteries are situated, and this shall be given each year to our viceroy, Audiencia, or governor, who will give it to the bishop, so that he may know what persons are engaged in administering the sacraments and doing the work of parish priests. . . ."
From this and much more that might be added if space permitted it may be seen that the civil power had almost complete control in the religious affairs of the colonies, including those of New Spain. Some of these privileges had been usurped by the kings, and others had been granted by the Holy See. To have a proper understanding of the reason of these concessions, which now seem to us excessive, we must bear in mind all that the Spanish kings did for the cause of religion in America. They erected and endowed nearly all the churches in the New World, defrayed the traveling expenses of the religious and bishops until they reached their posts; they had assigned different amounts, by way of alms, to churches of religious orders, in order that these might be supplied with oil, lights, wine, altar breads, and other requisites for Divine worship. The building of new churches and cathedrals, the foundation of missions, depend largely on the royal bounty. When some church, especially in the Indian towns, needed repairing, the citizens could easily, on application, be freed from the tribute which was paid to the king, in order to devote the money to the needs of the church. Although the Bull of Alexander VI conferred the tithes of all the Indies on the king on condition that he should endow the churches and provide an adequate maintenance for their ministers, the kings nevertheless rarely availed themselves of the grant, but donated to the bishops, dioceses, clergy, churches, and hospitals in the Indies a great part of what was due them from this source.
In so far as the royal patronage in New Spain is concerned, it must be admitted, in deference to the truth, that if in some instances royal decisions were oppressive and little in accordance with the liberty of the Church; the royal supervision in many other respects was beneficial. In illustration of the first may be cited the case of the bishop who, without reflecting that he had not the authorization of the Council of the Indies, and that he ought to advise the viceroy, solemnly promulgated the decree which Clement X issued when he ascended the pontifical throne, granting a general jubilee to all the faithful who should pray to the Divine Majesty that he might be granted the light to govern wisely the universal Church. For this the bishop was reproved by the royal decree of 10 June, 1652. As regards the second, it must be admitted that, in the beginning at least, the Spanish monarch made wise selection of the men appointed to the episcopal sees of Mexico. It suffices to mention such men as Fray Julian Garces, first Bishop of Tlaxcala, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, first Bishop of Mexico, D. Vasco de Quiroga, first Bishop of Michoacan; in general, with few exceptions, the bishops of New Spain were scholarly men, zealous for the salvation of souls.
Notwithstanding the many formalities attending the establishment of religious houses in Mexico, there were very many, both men and women, belonging to the contemplative and active orders who succeeded in securing the necessary authorization. Among the religious orders of men established in Mexico during the Spanish occupation may be mentioned the Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, Carmelites, Brothers of St. James (Dieguinos), Jesuits, Mercedarians, Bethlehemites, Benedictines, Oratorians, and Brothers of St. John of God; among women, the Poor Clares, Capuchines, Carmelites, Conceptionists, Cistercians, Augustinians, Dominicans. In another section of this article an account will be given of all the dioceses erected during the colonial period. If, also, account is taken of the almost innumerable hospitals, churches, convents, and monasteries that were built in New Spain, it will be seen that the kings, instead of using their royal prerogatives to hinder these foundations, did all in their power to spread and encourage them.
The much vexed question of alternate rule, which caused much dissension in the religious orders, moved Pope Innocent XI to decree that in the provinces of such religious in America as had Europeans and creoles in the communities, the prelacies should be conferred alternately, some years on the one and some on the others. When the king heard that the papal order was not being carried out in Mexico, he required the viceroy, D. Antonio Sebastian de Toledo, Marqués de Mancera, by official decree of 28 November, 1667, to investigate the matter thoroughly, and to have the orders of the Holy Father carried out. Although at first owing to the scarcity of secular priests, the kings permitted religious to hold parishes, later, learning that it was the cause of relaxed discipline among them, of exemption from episcopal visitation, and sometimes of unfairness and abuse of the Indians, they did everything within their power to have these religious replaced by secular priests. As to the intervention of the viceroys in the chapters of the religious orders, it is known that the part taken by the Conde de Revillagigedo, viceroy from 1746-55, in the chapter of the Carmelites, to settle the question of admitting a visitor, was most beneficial, as well as other regulations among the Franciscans, Augustinians, and Brothers of St. John of God. In the instructions given by Ferdinand VI, in 1755, to D. Agustín de Ahumada y Villalón, Marqués de las Amarillas, who was leaving for his post as Viceroy of New Spain, the following is found: "See that the bishops, the secular and religious clergy, receive all the support they need from the civil courts, to uproot idolatry; that those having Indians, negroes, or mulattoes in their homes as servants send them daily to the Christian doctrine classes, and that those working in the fields be given the same opportunity on Sunday and other days of precept, not occupying them in other things until they have learned the catechism; and if they do not comply they shall be fined. All priests who are to work among the Indians should know their languages, and it is necessary that they should study these languages. The condition of the Indians in all New Spain should be investigated to see if they are oppressed by those whose duty it is to teach them, and in case such conditions are found to exist, they are to be reported to the bishop, and with his help measures must be taken to eradicate the evil."
(6) The Inquisition in New Spain
For some writers the Spanish Inquisition in Mexico has always been a particularly alarming subject, the exaggerated accounts of its atrocities and the number of its victims verging on the ridiculous. It has even been said that if the Spaniards abolished the human sacrifices of the Aztec régime, they more than replaced them with the bonfires of the Inquisition. Fray Martín de Valencia, when he arrived in Mexico in 1524, bore the title of Commissioner General of the Inquisition in New Spain, but judgment of offenses of a grave nature was reserved to the Inquisitor of the Islas y Tierra Firme, who resided in the Island of San Domingo. Fray Martín was to hold this office until some Dominican on whom the official charge of inquisitor had been conferred should arrive in Mexico. And in fact, when the first Dominicans reached Mexico in 1520, their superior, Fray Tomás Ortiz, became commissioner of the Inquisition. He returned almost immediately to Spain, and Fray Domingo de Betanzos succeeded him. In 1528 the new superior of the Dominicans, Fray Vicente de Santa María, succeeded to the title. At the time of the second Audiencia, of which the eminent D. Sebastian de Fuen Leal was president, a meeting was held, attended by Bishop Zumárraga, Cortés, and several of the most influential men of the capital, at which it was decided "that on account of the intercourse with foreigners, and because the many privateers that cruised along the coasts might introduce evil customs and habits among the natives and the Spaniards, who by the grace of God had been preserved from the taint of heresy, it was necessary to establish the Holy Office of the Inquisition."
It was no doubt in consequence of this resolution that on 27 June 1535, Bishop Zumárraga was appointed inquisitor, with ample faculties, including that of turning over the offender to the secular arm and of establishing the Holy Office. He did not establish the tribunal, but it is known that he tried and condemned to be burnt a Texcocan noble accused of having sacrificed human beings. After this it was forbidden by the royal decree of Charles V, of 15 October, 1538, to try cases against the Indians before the Holy Office, and that in matters of faith the bishop should be their judge. Since then there is no record of a single Indian having been tried before the tribunal of the Inquisition. In 1554, Archbishop Montúfar, a Dominican and qualificator of the Inquisition in Granada, though not bearing the title of inquisitor, proceeded as though thus empowered, no doubt because of the ordinary jurisdiction possessed by the bishop in matters of faith, and passed the autos of 1555 and 1558. Cardinal Diego de Espinosa, Bishop of Sigüenza, and Grand Inquisitor of Spain, appointed an inquisitor for Mexico D. Pedro Moya de Contreras, also two lawyers, Juan Cervantes and Alonso Fernández de Bonilla. Their jurisdiction extended over all of New Spain, Guatemala, and the Philippines. They royal decree of 10 August, 1570, commanded that the City of Mexico was to aid and respect the inquisitors, and on 2 November, 1571, the tribunal was established with all due solemnity. It exercised its authority in Mexico until 8 June, 1813, when the decree of the Spanish Cortes suppressing it was published. On 21 January, 1814 it was re-established, and in 1820 definitively abolished.
In New Spain the Tribunal of the Inquisition was composed of three Apostolic inquisitors and a treasurer, each with a salary of three thousand pesos, paid three times a year in advance by the canonries of the cathedrals of their respective districts. There was also a head constable, a trustee, treasurer, three secretaries, several consultors, qualificators, and lay officials. The tribunal had authority to pass general and particular autos de fé. What the viceroys of Mexico thought of this tribunal may be gathered from the many instructions which by order of the king each viceroy had to leave for his successor in the government of the colony. And it may be noted that these instructions, coming from men who were laying down the reins of government, speak with perfect freedom, not hesitating to censure what was considered worthy of censure. From these instructions it is evident that the authority of the tribunal was not as absolute as is generally supposed. The Marqués de Mancera, in the instructions left 22 Oct., 1673, for his successor the Duque de Veragua, after saying that the Tribunal of the Inquisition "has been and is feared and respected with all due reverence in these provinces, knowing full well that, owing to its uprightness and vigilance, they find themselves by the grace of God free from the errors and abominations which at different times the common enemy has sought to sow in their midst", adds, "but, as its jurisdiction is so absolute, the tribunal does not always keep as it should within its proper limits, nor do the viceroys, governors, or Audiencias take it upon themselves to hold it within bounds, except in cases of the most urgent necessity; nevertheless, when the excesses are notably prejudicial to the respect due the royal representation, to its jurisdiction, or its exchequer, or when the delay causes irreparable damage, there is special authority for applying a suitable remedy, and I made use of this faculty at the close of the year 1666", etc. The Duque de Linares say in his instruction to the Marqués de Valero, in 1716, speaking of the inquisitors of his time: "Of the inquisitors I should inform Your Excellency that I am indebted to them not only for a just respect, esteem, and appreciation for my official character, but their mildness and prudence have been such that when the apparent zeal of some of the ministers has attempted to enkindle some sparks, I have been able to extinguish them owing to the consultations and the mutual confidence which have always existed between us".
For the sake of clearness, the persons condemned by the Inquisition may be placed under three heads: relajados (delivered to the secular arm for execution of sentence) in person or effigy, reconciliados (reconciled), and penitentes (penitents). The relajados in person were burnt, either alive or first garroted. On the way to the place of execution they were clothed in the samarra, a sort of scapular of cloth or cotton, yellow or red, upon which dragons, demons, and flames were painted, among which could be seen the picture of the criminal. The head was covered with a species of mitre called coroza, covered with the same devices. The relajados in effigy were those who, having escaped or died, were burned in effigy, sometimes together with their bones and bodies. This was done with those who died or who committed suicide during the process. It sometimes happened that a criminal attempted to commit suicide; if before dying he begged pardon and retracted his errors, he was reconciled in effigy. Such was the case of the French physician, Etienne Morel, whose auto de fé was carried out 9 August, 1795. The reconciliados were those who, recognizing their offences and errors, retracted and asked pardon. They were not condemned to death, but were obliged to submit to various punishments. One was, to wear the San Benito, called fuego revolto or revuelto, a garment similar to that worn by the relajados, with a corresponding coroza, only that in this the flames pointed downwards to show that by their repentance they had escaped the capital punishment. Other forms of punishment were inflicted according to the gravity of the offense exile, the galleys, whipping, imprisonment, certain prayers and psalms to be recited on certain days of the year, carrying green candles, confiscation of property, etc.
The ordinary penitents were those whose faults did not merit the death sentence. They wore the plain San Benito, that is, similar in form to the other, but decorated with the cross of St. Andrew, and they wore no coroza. Various punishments were imposed on them, always less than those of the reconciliados, and at times almost grotesque, e.g., the case of the criminal condemned on 7 December, 1664, of whom it is recorded, "The sentence having been read, he was taken out into the court of the convent, placed on a scaffold, and stripped to the waist. Indians then smeared him with honey, feathered him, and left him in the sun for four hours." From the list made by D. José Pichardo of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, who copied every tablet in the transept of Mexico cathedral, we see that the crimes usually condemned by the Inquisition were heresy and Judaism. Many were condemned for blasphemy, bigamy, perjury, forgery, and witchcraft, as idolators, Illuminati, Freemasons, and apostates; for having heard confessions and said Mass without Holy orders, for having, with intent to deceive, received Holy orders before attaining the prescribed canonical age, for rebaptizing, abetting polygamy, and feigning revelations (autos de fé 21June, 1789 and 8 August, 1795).
A résumé of the autos de fe from the figures of Fr. Pichardo, supplemented by others, gives the following result:
The list published by J. García Icazbaleeta, including only the autos providing for capital punishment, is somewhat different:
This number can be increased, as the autos from 1703 to 1728 (except 1715) are not included, although during this period cases were rarely turned over to the secular arm. And even allowing for this it is evident that the number of victims commonly attributed to the Inquisition of New Spain is greatly exaggerated.
From this it may be seen how erroneous it is to denounce the Inquisition as one of the greatest blots of the Spanish domination in Mexico. The Inquisition existed in Spain, and it was natural that it should be established in the new colonies. As the Indians were exempt from its jurisdiction, the full measure of its severity fell upon the Spaniards and heretics, pirates or otherwise, of other nations who infested the coasts of New Spain. In fact, in the autos de fé the greater number of the condemned were Portuguese, for Judaizing, and the, in order, Englishmen, Frenchmen, Germans, Spaniards, Mexican creoles, and Swedes. To say that the victims of the Inquisition in New Spain exceeded the number sacrificed by the Aztecs is a gross perversion of the facts. The Aztecs sacrificed thousands of victims in one festival alone; the Inquisition, covering a period of three hundred years, and extending its jurisdiction far beyond the confines of the Aztec empire, barely reached fifty victims. The Inquisition pardoned readily, and those who recognized their errors and repented it easily reconciled. When it found, or thought it found (for this tribunal like every other human tribunal made its mistakes) a criminal, he was turned over to the secular courts of justice, which passed and executed the sentence. In fact the Inquisition did no more nor less than the jury of today. It is true that it made use of the torture, but this was a practice common to all tribunals of that time. It also made use of the secret process a method not unlikely to be productive of error but it was easy to set aside the punishment or at least to mitigate it by repenting if one were guilty, or by frankly professing the Catholic Faith if one were not.
Nor can the Inquisition be blamed for judging heresy a crime punishable by death; it was so held by all the civil courts of the times, and not without reason, because the heretics of those days were the initiators if rebellion in Catholic countries. At that time in England to be a Catholic was a crime punishable by death (see PENAL LAWS). Judged impartially, the Inquisition in New Spain appears as a tribunal which shares, it is true, the defects of contemporary methods, subject to mistakes like all other human institutions, more merciful than any other court under similar circumstances, above all if the relatively small number of death sentences and the large number of reconciled be taken into consideration, as well as the glory of having accomplished at the cost of a small number of lives, what the nations of Europe could not achieve even through the medium of long, bloody, fratricidal wars, the unity of religion and the preservation of the faith. As regards the auto de fe of 27 November, 1815, which condemned D. José Maria Morelos, the principal leader of the war of independence, see MORELOS.
(7) The Spanish Government and the Colony
Mexico having been conquered, Cortés, in virtue of the famous election of Vera Cruz and through force of circumstances, became the ruler. When, however, Charles V realized the importance of the conquest, without deposing Cortés, he began sending over other officials who, it may be said, were not very wisely chosen. Cortés, though outwardly complying, did not receive them well, doubtless because he foresaw that they would be a disturbing element in the recently conquered territories. When, however, he started on his famous expedition of the Hibueras, he showed equally little tack in selecting the men he left to fill his place. In the selection of the first Audiencia (1528-31), composed of Nuño de Guzmán, Juan Ortiz Matienzo, and Diego Degadillo, the emperor was even more tactless. The excesses and injustices of these judges were innumerable, and the entire colony suffered. Everything changed under the government of the second Audiencia (1531-35), composed of Bishop Sebastian Ramírez de Fuen Leal, D. Vasco de Quiroga, D. Francisco Ceinos, and D. Juan Salmerón. Beginning the work of reconstruction with zeal and perfect integrity, they met at the very outset with an obstacle that greatly hampered them. The ancient legislation destroyed by the conquest had not been replaced by any other, while the Spanish code was entirely inadequate for the new dominions. To meet this situation, Spanish kings began formulating and sending over a multitude of royal decrees, applicable sometimes to only one province or relating to some particular question, frequently conflicting and contradictory because the sovereigns were working in the dark, deciding questions as they presented themselves, often without having formed an exact opinion of the matters involved. So numerous were the decrees that the collection formed a library of documents, notwithstanding which many cases remained unprovided for, and could only be settled by special decisions. These, however, ran the risk of royal disapproval, and the viceroys and governors rarely cared to assume the responsibility. To understand the baneful effects of such a system it is only necessary to picture a people ruled by the changeable mind of a sovereign 2000 leagues away, and requiring years to investigate and report on questions submitted. When reference is made to the famous "Recopilación de Indias", many imagine that it was some code of very early date, probably of the sixteenth century, whereas it did not go into effect until the end of the seventeenth century, about midway in the period of Spanish domination. Whatever honour redounds to Spain from this code is diminished by the tardiness of its execution.
The Spanish Government is reproached for having isolated Mexico and hindered foreign commerce. The immense extent of the colony of New Spain, the extensive sea coasts on both sides, the scanty population, the fatal and insupportable climate in certain sections, the deserts, the impenetrable forests, the gigantic mountain ranges, made communication and defense against foreign aggression extremely difficult. The envy and covetousness of other nations, chafing under the sting of having rejected the offer of the discovery, were a constant source of menace to these over-sea possessions. Strangers could select her weakest point of attack; Spain had to defend all sides. Means of communication, established with difficulty, were constantly being interrupted; foreign nations, without distinguishing between times of war and times of peace, kept up a continuous piratical warfare, sacked the coasts, and seized the cargoes of the ships. While this state of continual aggression and menace delayed and impeded the development of the colony, those responsible for it were the very ones to bring forward this charge against Spain. To allow such people to enter freely, even under the pretext of trade, was very dangerous. A foothold once established, it would not have taken long to spread over the entire country, and it was precisely to avoid this that it was necessary to wage incessant war. This is amply proved by the results attending the concession granted the English to cut timber in Yucatán, which ended in the absorption by the English Government of the entire strip of Mexican territory now known as British Honduras. It was therefore imperative to isolate the colony in order to keep it, without, however, for this reason oppressing it.
One cannot brand as stupid and blind a state policy that without any great armed force maintained for three hundred years, submissive and peaceful, extensive distant territories, the object of universal envy. It is true that during the colonial period there was no liberty of the press, but this was the case also in many European countries, and notwithstanding this, in Spain as well as in Mexico and through all America, the writings of Las Casas, which almost questioned the legitimacy of the conquest of the Indies, circulated freely. The first printing machine was brought to the New World not through the personal interest or for the personal advantage of any individual, but through the paternal solicitude of Bishop Zumárraga and the Viceroy D. Antonio de Mendoza. Public instruction, good or bad, according to individual opinion, was on an equality with that of Spain, and to the universities founded in Mexico, which were of the same rank as those of Spain, many noted professors were sent. The taxes were not onerous, and if at times these were excessive it did not arise from insupportable exactions, but from the methods of administration. Many of the mistakes noted today, and so easily censured, were due to the impossibility of one man alone attending to all the details of so complicated a piece of machinery, above all to the great distance of the central government. Scattered through all the ancient documents may be found complaints attributing many of the troubles affecting the Indies to "the cursed distance that prevents their enjoying the presence of their king". The truth, though sought in all earnestness, came to the royal knowledge late and after many difficulties; it was therefore natural that the remedies for evils should be almost always late.
The motives and intentions of the Spanish kings could not have been better; at times they bordered on the Utopian, but it was humanly impossible that among so many officials all should have been exemplary. As the king was obliged to act through them, it was unavoidable that his wishes should often be either intentionally or unintentionally ignored. The wealth of the country excited envy; and its great distance mitigated fear. The Juicio de Residencia, totally unknown today, did not always prove efficacious, yet its establishment shows the earnest desire of restricting the prerogatives of the administration, and at times it proved a strong controlling force that made itself felt. It is, therefore, a vulgar error to believe that the Spanish Government was merciless towards the Colony of Mexico. Like all nations, Spain sought revenue from her colony (disinterestedness and charity are not governmental virtues), but she did not exhaust its resources. If at times special restrictions were imposed, they were the outcome of circumstances and of the not unnatural desire to retain possession of the colony.
Foremost among the public works undertaken by the vice-regal Government was the draining of the Valle of Mexico. The decree authorizing this work is dated 23 October, 1607, and the funds for the work were raised by a tax of 1 per cent, levied on all the residences of the city, seeing that their owners would profit most directly by the improvement. The Indians engaged upon this work were paid 5 reales (63 cents) and an almud (7 quarts) of corn per week, and a daily ration of 1 pound of meat, peppers, wood, and other provisions. A hospital was founded at Huehuetoca for the benefit of disabled workmen, ground being broken on 28 November, 1607, by the Viceroy D. Luis de Valasco, who dug the first sod, after Mass had been said in the village of Nochistongo. Father Juan Sánchez, S.J., and the cosmographer, Enrique Martín (Martínez), were placed in charge of the work. Later Father Sánchez* retired, leaving Martín in full charge. This vast work employed the labour of 471,154 men. The Nochistongo tunnel measured over four miles long, with a section measuring 11 feet 6 inches by 13 feet 7 inches. The work was finished on 7 May, 1608, and in a report made by order of the Viceroy Velasco it is stated that only 50 of the workmen had died, and of these 10 were accidentally killed. It is true that this great work did not give the expected results, but it nevertheless remains to the credit of the Government that undertook it for the welfare of the people.
Finally, it may be noted that in examining the list of the viceroys who governed Mexico, the desire of the Spanish monarchs that the persons entrusted with this charge should be persons of importance, is very evident, and if there were some who proved unworthy of the duty entrusted to them, oppressing the people and furthering their own private interests, there were many others, like Mendoza, Velasco, Payo de Rivera, Juan de Acuña, Bucareli, the second Conde de Revillagigedo, and others who proved themselves upright and prudent governors, and merited the gratitude of the colony.
The revolt of the English colonies in America, the principles of the French Revolution, the proclamation of Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain, the uprising of the Spaniards against Napoleon, and old racial antipathies, are the causes to which the independence of Mexico is usually attributed. This was doubtless precipitated by the fact that Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, parish priest of Dolores, discovered that his plot was on the point of being betrayed, and on 16 September, 1810, raised the standard of revolt against Spain. From the little city of Dolores he marched with an ill-assorted, badly armed company of Indians to the very capital itself, but, not daring to attack it, retraced his steps to Guadalajara. At the bridge of Calderón he was defeated, and pursued as he fled through Acatita de Bajan; he was captured and executed at Chihuahua, 30 July, 1811. His work was taken up and continued by José María Morelos, parish priest of Carácuaro, and upon his death by the Spaniards Mina. When Mina was captured and put to death, almost all hope of gaining independence seemed lost. D. Vicente Guerrero, entrenched in the mountains, kept up a desultory warfare until negotiations were opened with the royalist general, D. Augustín de Iturbide, who had been sent to subdue the insurgents. These negotiations issued in the plan of Iguala, by which Mexico was to be independent, its government a constitutional monarchy, and the Roman Catholic religion the only one recognized and tolerated. Ferdinand VII was chosen as sovereign or, in his default, one of his brothers or some member of the reigning house who should be chosen by the Congress. The secular and regular clergy were to be maintained in all their former privileges and pre-eminence.
Gradually both royalists and insurgents began to support this plan, and on 24 August, 1821, by the Treaty of Cordoba, even the Viceroy D. Juan O'Donoju, who had just landed at Vera Cruz, signified his concurrence. On 27 September of the same year the army of las tres garantias (three guarantees), as it was called, entered the City of Mexico. At the beginning of 1822 it became known that the Spanish Government refused to ratify the treaty, and the partisans of Iturbide, taking advantage of this, proclaimed him emperor. Owing, however, to the difficulties and the opposition he encountered, he resigned the following year, and withdrew to Leghorn, Italy. In 1824, hoping once more to be of service to his country, and without knowing that he was under sentence of death by the Government, he returned to Mexico. He was arrested on his arrival, condemned, and put to death on 19 July, 1824.
Freemasonry, so actively promoted in Mexico by the first minister from the United States, Joel R. Poinsset, began gradually to lessen the loyalty which, in accordance with the plan of Iguala, both the rulers and the government had manifested towards the Church. Little by little laws were enacted against the Church, curtailing her rights, as, for example, in 1833, the exclusion of the clergy from the public schools, notwithstanding the fact that at the time the president, D. Valentín Gómez Farias, claimed for the Republican Government all the privileges of the royal patronage, with the power of filling vacant sees and other ecclesiastical benefices.
General Antonio López de Santa Anna dominated the scene for almost fifty years, but he was a man without principle, and his policy was weak and vacillating. Whatever services he rendered his country were more than outweighed by the many evils of his administration. From 1824 to 1846 the nation was embroiled in an interminable series of revolutions, having to face at the same time some serious national issues. Guatemala, which had cast in her lot with Mexico, separated from her forever; the French invaded the country; Yucatán separated from the central government for several years, and the independence of Texas brought on the war with the United States. The North American troops were in possession of the capital, and to establish peace it was necessary to cede to the conquerors all the territory situated north of the Rio Grande, besides California, Arizona, and New Mexico. And then, when peace was most necessary for the healing of the nation's wounds, there came, instead, civil wars and bloodshed. In 1851, Pius IX sent Monsignor Luis Clementi to settle some religious questions. He was officially received by the president, Señor Arista, but was finally obliged to withdraw and return to Rome the famous Const without having accomplished anything. Dissensions continued, and in 1857constitution, which is still in force in the republic, was promulgated by the president, Ignacio Comonfort. His successor, Benito Juárez, issued a series of laws against the Catholic religion. At this time an attempt was made to carry a schismatical movement into effect. Plans were made by the secret societies, as well as other anti-Catholic associations of reformers, to induce President Juárez to declare that the Mexican nation separated herself from communion with Rome, and establish a national religion whose first pontiff, named by the Government, should be Sr. Pardio, formerly parish priest of Zotuta in Yucatán, who had fraudulently obtained a Bull from Gregory XVI consecrating him titular Bishop of Germanicopolis and auxiliary to D. José María Guerra, Bishop of Yucatán. The sudden death of Sr. Pardio, in May, 1861, ended this absurd attempt.
This was followed by the French intervention, the empire, and the tragedy of Cerrode Las Campanas in June,1867. In 1864, while Maximilian was emperor, the papal nuncio, Monsignor Meglia, visited Mexico, but he did not obtain anything from the emperor, as Maximilian declared that the "Reform laws", with regard to laicization of church property, would be upheld. Juárez died in 1872, and was succeeded by D. Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada. The latter was overthrown by Porfirio Díaz, who became president. He has filled this office until the present time (1910), with the exception of one term from 1880 to 1884. His conciliatory policy, the encouragement, protection, and support of industries, the opening of ways of communication, have developed the rich resources of the country, and given Mexico an epoch of much needed peace.
From 4 July, 1822, when the law was issued permitting the Government to take possession of the Philippine mission property, and of revenues from pious foundations which were not to be spent within the limits of the Mexican Republic, to the law of 23 November, 1855, Article 42 of which abolished all ecclesiastical jurisdiction in civil matters, a series of laws were enacted by Congress and the legislatures of the states clearly showing the anti-religious spirit of those who framed them. This spirit was at its height from 1857-1874. During the presidency of D. Ignacio Comonfort the famous Constitution of 1857, decreeing the separation of Church and State, was promulgated, and in the years following Benito Juárez framed innumerable laws systematizing the provisions of the Constitution and enforcing the separation, and in 1874 President D. Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada raised many of the Reform Laws framed by Juárez to constitutional statutes.
(A) The Church and her Privileges
Law of 11 August, 1859, Art. 3-- All laws circulars, and ordinances of any kind whatsoever, established by public authority, by last will and testament, or by custom, which require officials to attend public religious functions, in a body are hereby repealed. Law of 4 December, 1860: Art. 8-- Right of asylum in churches is abolished, and force may and should be employed in whatever measure it may be deemed necessary to arrest and remove according to law a declared or suspected criminal, without the ecclesiastical authorities having a right to intervene. Art. 17-- Official recognition formerly given to various ecclesiastical persons and corporations is withdrawn. Art. 18 The use of church bells is to be regulated by police ordinance. Art. 24-- Public officials are forbidden in their official capacity to assist at any religious ceremony, or entertainment in honour of a clergyman, however high in rank he may be. Troops of soldiers are included in the foregoing prohibition.
Law of 13 May, 1873, only article. No religious rite or demonstration of any kind whatsoever may take place outside of the church building in any part of the republic. Law of 14 December, 1874, Art. 3-- No official, official corporation, or body of troops may attend in an official capacity religious services of any kind whatsoever, nor shall the Government recognize in any manner whatsoever religious solemnities. All days, therefore, that do not commemorate some exclusively civil event cease to be holidays. Sundays are set apart as days of rest for offices and public institutions. Art. 5-- No religious rite may take place outside the church building, neither shall the ministers of religion or any individual of either sex, of any denomination whatsoever, wear in public a special dress or insignia which would characterize him in any way, under penalty of a fine of ten to two hundred dollars.
(B) Religious Orders
Constitution of 1857, Art.5 The State cannot allow any contract, pact, or agreement to go into effect that has for its object the impairment, loss, or irrevocable sacrifice of a man's liberty, whatever the cause may be, work, education, or religious vows. Consequently the law does not recognize monastic orders, nor can it permit their establishment, whatever be their designation or object. Art. 27-- Religious institutions or corporations, whatever their character, name, period of existence, and object, and such civil institutions as are under the patronage, direction, or administration of these, or of the ministers of any religious denomination, shall have no legal right to acquire title to or administer any property, but such buildings as are destined for the immediate and direct use of said corporations and institutions. Neither shall they have the right to acquire or manage revenues derived from real estate.
Law of 12 July, 1859, Art. 5-- All the male religious orders which exist throughout the republic, whatever their name or the purpose of their existence, are hereby suppressed throughout the whole republic, as also all archconfraternities, confraternities, congregations, or sisterhoods annexed to the religious communities, cathedrals, parishes, or any other churches.
Art. 6-- The foundation or erection of new convents of regulars, archconfraternities, confraternities, or sisterhoods, under whatever form or name is given them, is prohibited, likewise the wearing of the garb or habit of the suppressed orders. Art. 7-- By this law the ecclesiastics of the suppressed orders are reduced to the condition of secular clergy, and shall, like these, be subject as regards the exercise of their ministry to the ordinaries of their respective dioceses. Art. 12-- All books, printed or manuscript, paintings, antiquities, and other articles belonging to the suppressed religious communities shall be given to museums, lyceums, libraries, and other public establishments. Art. 13-- All members of the suppressed orders who fifteen days after the publication of this law in their respective localities shall continue to wear the habit or live in community shall forfeit the right to collect their quota as assigned by Article 8, and if after the term of 15 days designated by this Article they should reunite in any place and appear to follow their community life, they shall immediately be expelled from the country. Art. 21-- All novitiates for lay women are perpetually closed. Those at present in novitiates cannot be professed.
Law of 26 Feb., 1863, Art. 1-- All religious communities of women are suppressed throughout the republic. Law of 25 September, 1873, Art. 5-- The law does not recognize monastic orders, nor can it permit their establishment, whatever their name or the object for which they are founded. Law of 4 Dec., 1873, Art. 19-- The State does not recognize monastic orders nor can it permit their establishment, whatever their name or the object for which they are founded. Any orders that may be secretly established shall be considered unlawful assemblies which the authorities may dissolve should the members attempt to live in community, and in all such cases the superiors or heads shall be judged criminals, infringing on individual rights according to Article 973 of the Penal Code of the District, which is declared in force in all the republic.
(C) Church Property
Law of 12 July, 1850, Art. 1-- All property which under different titles has been administered by the secular and regular clergy, whatever kind of property it may be, taxes, shares, or stocks, or the name or purpose it may have had, becomes the property of the State. Law of 5 February, 1861, Art. 100-- The Government hands over all parochial residences, episcopal palaces, and dwellings of the heads of any denomination, declaring them inalienable and free from taxation as long as they are reserved for their own specific purpose. Law of 25 September, 1873, Art. 3-- No religious institution may acquire property nor the revenue derived from property. Law of 10 Oct., 1874, Art. 16-- The direct ownership of the churches nationalized according to the law of 12 July, 1859, and left for the maintenance of Catholic worship, as well as those which have since been turned over to any other institution continues to reside in the nation; but their exclusive use, preservation, and improvement, as long as no decree of consolidation is issued, remains with the religious institutions to which they have been granted. Art. 17-- The buildings mentioned in the preceding article will be exempt from taxation, except when they have actually or nominally passed into the hands of one or more private individuals who hold the title without transmitting it to a religious society; in such cases the property shall be subject to the common law.
(D) Legacies and Wills
Law of 14 December, 1874, Art.8-- Legacies made in favour of ministers of religion, or their relatives to the fourth degree, or of persons living with said ministers when they have rendered any spiritual aid to the testators in their last illness, or when they have been their spiritual directors, are null and void.
(E) Civil Marriage and Divorce
Law of 23 July, 1859, Art. 1-- Marriage is a civil contract that can licitly and validly be contracted before the civil authority. It suffices for its validity that the contracting parties, having complied with the formalities of the law, present themselves before the proper authority, and freely express their desire of being united in marriage. Law of 4 December, 1860, Art. 20-- The civil authorities shall not interfere in the religious rites and practices concerning marriage, but the contract from which this union proceeds remains exclusively subject to the laws. Any other marriage that is contracted in the republic without observing the formalities prescribed by these laws is null, and therefore ineffectual to produce any of the civil ends which the law grants only to a lawfully contracted marriage. Law of 10 December, 1874, Art. 23-- All decisions regarding nullity, validity, divorce, and other questions relative to the marriage state, must be tried before the civil tribunals which will determine the law without taking into consideration any resolutions on this subject that may have been provided by the ministers of religion.
(F) Cemeteries and Graves
Law of 31 July, 1859, Art. 1-- The intervention of the clergy, secular or regular, in the management of cemeteries, vaults, and crypts, which up to the present time has been in force, ceases throughout the republic. Law of 4 December, 1860, Art. 21-- The governors of states, districts, and territories shall exercise the strictest vigilance for the enforcement of the laws in regard to cemeteries and burial grounds, and in no place shall decent burial be refused the dead no matter what may be the decision of the priests or their respective churches.
(G) Hospitals and Charitable Institutions
Law of 2 February, 1861, Art. 1-- All hospitals and charitable institutions which up to the present time have been under ecclesiastical authority and managed by religious corporations are secularized. Law of 5 February, 1861, Art. 67-- Charitable institutions that were managed by ecclesiastical corporations or committees independent of the Government are secularized and placed under the immediate supervision of the civil authorities. Law of 28 February, 1861, Art. 1-- All hospitals, asylums, houses of correction, and charitable institutions which exist at the present time, and which shall be funded in the Federal District, shall be under the protection of the Government. Law of 27 August, 1904, Art. 25-- The ministers of any form of religion cannot act as the directors, administrators, or patrons of private charity; neither can officials, dignitaries, or religious corporations, nor anyone, delegated by them, act in the same capacity.
Law of 4 December, 1874, Art. 4-- Religious instruction and the exercises of any form of religion are prohibited in all federal, state, and municipal schools. Morality will be taught in any of the schools when the nature of their constitutions permits it, but without reference to any form of religion. The infraction of this article will be punished by a fine of from 25 to 200 pesos, and dismissal from office if the offense is repeated.
(J) Military Service
Law of 4 December, 1860, Art. 19-- The ministers of all forms of religion are exempt from military and coercive personal service, but not from the taxes which the law imposes for this privilege of exemption.
(K) Public Office
Constitution of 1857, art. 56-- No member of the ecclesiastical body can be elected a congressman. Law of 13 November, 1874, Art. 58-- Nominations for senator are subject to the same conditions as those for congressman.
There is no doubt that the See of Yucatán, with the title Carolensis, under the patronage of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, was the first bishopric erected in Mexico; the Bull of Leo X, "Sacri Apostolatus ministerio", issued January, 1518, proves this. The erection of this diocese followed the first reports of the discovery of the peninsula, and by the Bull we see that Yucatán was still thought to be an island. However, as soon as more definite information was received concerning Mexico after the conquest, establishing the fact that Yucatán was part of the mainland, the proceedings for the erection of the diocese were suspended, especially as the Spaniards, diverted by other enterprises, gave little thought to Yucatán, and when it was abandoned by D. Francisco de Montejo, in 1527, they did not return until 1542. It may also be noted that when Clement VII named Fray Julian de Garces first Bishop of New Spain in 1526, the title Episcopus Carolensis was still used, and the Emperor Charles V, using the faculties granted him by the popes of assigning the limits of new dioceses, says in the royal decree which accompanied the Bull: "We declare, assign, and determine as the limits of the Bishopric of Yucatán and Santa María de los Remedios the following lands and provinces; first, the Province of Tlaxcala, inclusive, and S. Juan de Ulúa", etc. As Tlaxcala had a greater population and was nearer the capital, Bishop Garces established the episcopal residence there, from whence it was afterwards moved to Puebla.
Up to 1544 the dioceses in New Spain were:— Puebla, erected in 1526 at Tlaxcala, translated to Puebla, 1539; Mexico, 1530; Guatemala, 1534; Oaxaca, erected with the title of Antequera in 1535; Michoacan, erected in 1536 at Tzintzuntzan, translated later to Patzcuaro, and from there to the new city of Valladolid, now Morelia; Chiapas, 1546. They were all suffragans of the Archdiocese of Seville in Spain. Yucatán, though erected first, never had any resident bishop until 1561. On 31 January, 1545, at the solicitation of Charles V, the Holy Father, Paul III, separated these dioceses from the metropolitan See of Seville and erected the Archdiocese of Mexico, with the above-mentioned dioceses for suffragans. Before the end of the sixteenth century the ecclesiastical Province of Mexico included, besides those already mentioned, the Diocese of Comayagua in Honduras, erected 1539; Guadalajara, 1548; Verapaz in Guatemala, erected in 1556, suppressed 1605; Manila in the Philippine Islands, erected 1581.
At the close of the eighteenth century all the dioceses situated outside Mexican territory had been separated to form new ecclesiastical provinces, and Chiapas, which from 1743 had belonged to the Archdiocese of Guatemala, was not reunited to the ecclesiastical Province of Mexico until the middle of the nineteenth century. Other new dioceses had been founded: Durango, 1620; Monterey, with the title of Linares, 1777; Sonora, 1779 (the episcopal residence in different cities at various epochs, Arispe, Alamos, Culiacan, and at Hermosillo when the Diocese of Sinaloa was erected). In the nineteenth century, Mexico being still the only archdiocese, the Dioceses of S. Francisco de California, erected 1840, and S. Luis Potosí, erected 1854, were added. Pius IX, in the secret consistory of 16 March, 1863, established the Dioceses of Chilapa, Tulancingo, Vera Cruz, Zacatecas, León, Querétaro, Zamora, and the Vicariate Apostolic of Tamaulipas (created a bishopric in 1869), and raised to archiepiscopal rank the episcopal Sees of Guadalajara and Michoacan. From 1869 to 1891 the Vicariate Apostolic of Lower California (1872), the Dioceses of Tabasco (1880) and Colima (1881), were established.
In 1891, Leo XIII, by the Bull "Illud in primis", erected the new Dioceses of Cuernavaca, Tepic, Tehuantepec, Saltillo, and Chihuahua, and raised the Sees of Oaxaca, Monterey, and Durango to archiepiscopal rank. In 1895 the Diocese of Campeche was erected, and in 1899 that of Aguas Calientes. In 1903 the new Diocese of Huajuápan was created, and Puebla raised to the rank of archdiocese, and in 1907 Yucatán was made an archdiocese.
At the present time the ecclesiastical provinces of Mexico are constituted as follows:
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APA citation. (1911). Mexico. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10250b.htm
MLA citation. "Mexico." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10250b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by M. Anne McCay. To promote the true history of México.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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