Toribio de Benavente Motolinia

Toribio of Benavente, O.F.M. (1482, Benavente, Spain – 1568, Mexico City, New Spain), also known as Motolinía, was a Franciscan missionary who was one of the famous Twelve Apostles of Mexico who arrived in New Spain in May 1524. His published writings are a key source for the history and ethnography of the Nahuas of central Mexico in the immediate post-conquest period as well as for the challenges of Christian evangelization. He is probably best known for his attacks on the Dominican defender of the rights of the indigenous peoples, Bartolomé de las Casas, who criticized the Conquest. Though agreeing with Las Casas's criticism of the abuses of the conquistadors, he did not agree with the whole sale condemnation of the Spanish Conquest, as well as his criticisms of the Franciscan practices of baptism en masse of the indigenous people of the new world. Due to these differences he went on to vilify Las Casas.


Early life

Toribio entered the Franciscan Order as a young boy, dropping his family name of Paredes in favor of his city of birth, as was the custom among the Franciscans. In 1523, he was chosen to be among the Twelve Apostles of Mexico, to be sent to the New World.

Evangelist New Spain

After a strenuous journey he arrived in Mexico, where he was greeted with great respect by Hernán Cortés. Upon walking through Tlaxcala the Indians said of his ragged Franciscan robes "Motolinia", Nahuatl for "one who is poor or afflicted." That was the first word he learned in the language, and he took it as his name. For the Franciscan Order, poverty was an important and defining virtue. He was named Guardian of the Convent of San Francisco in Mexico City, where he resided from 1524 to 1527.

From 1527 to 1529, he worked in Guatemala and perhaps Nicaragua, studying the new missions in that area. Back in Mexico, he stayed at the convent of Huejotzinco, near Tlaxcala, where he had to help the natives against the abuse and atrocities committed by Nuño de Guzmán. He suggested for the native leaders to complain to Bishop Fray Juan de Zumárraga about Guzmán, but the latter accused him of trying to instigate a revolt among the Indians against the Spanish. In 1530, he went to the Convent of Tlaxcala and contributed in the foundation of the City of Puebla de los Ángeles, whi... more

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