The historian from Lleida Nativity Scene Navajas Josa has published an unpublished work of Fray Alonso de Benavides, from 1634, an intrepid missionary and discoverer of many indigenous peoples in North America.
Until now, the “Memorial de 1634” had never been published in Spanish, the language in which it was written by Fray Alonso de Benavides (1578, Azores Islands-ca. 1636), who was superior of the New Mexico missions (currently, In U.S.A.).
The author recounts his journey through these lands first-hand, being on many occasions the first to come into contact with some of the populations.
As a travel notebook, the Franciscan describes in detail the different unknown territories through which he travels, in a style “somewhat cumbersome, paternalistic and enthusiastic that shows his amazement at the local customs, the size of some of its populations or the variety of fauna and flora “, points out the historian.
Through its pages parade figures that preceded him as Hernán Cortés, Cabeza de Vaca and Juan de Oñate.
Benavides collects in these pages the history of the first evangelization of New Mexico, with its martyrs included.
For the Lleida historian, several issues call her attention: “That the document has not been published until now, that Benavides wrote another Memorial in 1630, very similar in appearance, with identical chapters, although it also contains important differences; or that it was this Franciscan who made the connection between the Jumanos and their supposed evangelization by Sister María de Jesús, being separated by thousands of kilometers and without her ever leaving her convent in Ágreda (Soria) “.
Despite the fact that some historians have reduced the credibility of the content of the Benavides Memorial due to the chapter dedicated to the Jumanos, Navajas Josa recalls that, in the opinion of many other researchers, we are before “a document of undoubted historical value for the study of the northern border of New Spain, peculiar and not devoid of a certain controversy “.
Fray Alonso de Benavides wrote in 1630 a Memorial on the first evangelization of New Mexico, after his experience as superior of the missions, a work that was published that same year and translated into several languages.
Faced with success, Benavides worked in 1634 on a second Memorial, now published by Editorial de la Universidad Francisco de Vitoria in an edition annotated by Navajas herself.
Admit that it is not often that an author writes two such similar works at first glance, however, they contain some notable differences, mainly marked by the change of interlocutor to whom the work is addressed: the first version, to King Felipe IV and the second, to Pope Urban VIII.
It is noteworthy that the 1634 version had never been published in Spanish and only in English, despite being a well-known document, which some scholars do not hesitate to consider fundamental for its contribution to the history of the border.
Benavides did not return to the New Mexico missions for unknown reasons and would have died around 1636 on the way to Goa, his new destination, although no definitive data have been found to confirm this.
The publication consists of an unpublished transcription of the original document, with numerous annotations, accompanied by an introduction by the author about the research work, a foreword by Ambassador Miguel Ángel Fernández Mazarambroz and a fold-out map that facilitates following the route of the routes related by the Franciscan.