Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/300

This page needs to be proofread.


MEXICO


258


MEXICO


proved as certain front lliis ilocunient is that the missionaries burnt books of Ileal licnisli and idolatrous ceremonies; ilie distinction l)et\veen these and books of ainials being clearly drawn ; the one prohiliited, the other not. As the accnsatioe 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 Zumd- rraga 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 pluscpiam ducenta <iuiniiuaginta millia hominum, quingenta tleorum templa sunt de- structa, et plusquam vicesies mille figurae da>monum, quas adorabant , fractal et combusta-. " The accusation


Irrigation AquEDtrcr near Tepotzotlan BuUt by Jesuits (XVII or XVIII Century)

turns on the words figura: dosmonum combustce, i.e., burnt. Critics say that the word burnt should be applied to books and Intlian 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 tetween prohibited and non-prohibited books; they (lid 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, nor did the missionaries believe such a thing, for they clearly dis- tinguLshed between idols and writings. Fray Men- dieta mentions certain idols of paper, but he does not call them writings. Ddvila Padilla (1596) speaks of another very large idol of paper, filled with smaller idols, but he does not say that these 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 Zumarraga's letter.

Briefly, then, the preceding facts show: (a) That before t he coming of t he first missionaries many hieroglyphic paintings had been destroyed, (b) That the missionaries who came in 1524, and who wrote hist orii's, 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 comi)ile a history of the Indians, (c) That the cnarge of having destroyed the historical hieroglyphics of the Indians, practically null in the begiiming, has grown in propor- tion as the writers are farther removed from tlie time of the conquest, (d) That, even granting that there ever w;us such a destruction, it could not have been so great, for from 1508 to 1,580 the viceroy D. Martin Enriquez 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 foimd many more.

(4) Public Instruction During the Earliest Colonial Period. — When the first band of twelve Franciscans arrived at Tlaxcala in 1524 they fountl 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 Martin de Valencia asked the reason, and what they had been doing in the time they had been in the colony; " Learning a theol- ogy unknown to St. Augustine (namely), the language of these Indians ", replied Father Tecto. Once estab- lished, the missionaries devoted themselves to building cluirclies and convents to which a school was always attached. In the large court of the convent cate- chism 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 chil- dren to the new apostles, but not daring to disobey, sent as substitutes the children of some former de- pendent, passing them off as their own, but soon see- ing 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 con- versant 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 work- ing class did not need so thorough an education. Ac- cording to the custom of the times, they would not be called to rule, and the sooner their course of instruc- tion 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 patio.i and later in the homes built for them. Bishop Zumiirraga founded eight or nine schools for girls in his diocese, and at his urgent solicitation, in 1530, the empress sent