Jun 19

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Father Kino and the Jesuits

(Note:  A Survey of the World is simply a report into what is occurring worldwide in terms of natural, cultural, and religious events.  The author does not necessarily endorse any activities, beliefs, or opinions mentioned in each article.  The reader can choose to take each article as a source of either information, entertainment, study, or prayer.)

Continuing our survey of the world in northwestern Mexico, we leave La Aduana and travel well north, to the city of Magdelena de Kino, to learn about one of the most well known Jesuit priests that you have never heard of.

 The history of the interaction between the Spanish and the Native Americans began in 1519, with the conquest of central Mexico by Hernando Cortez.  When silver was soon discovered in northwestern Mexico, it spelled major trouble for the indigenous tribes of that area as well.  Behind door number one was instant death via the swords of Spanish soldiers.  Door number two offered a lifetime of slavery in Spanish silver mines.  Between 1529 and 1600 many bloody battles were waged between the indigenous tribes and the conquistadores in northwest Mexico.

Door number three arrived in the early 1600s, in the form of the Jesuit Catholic priests.  The Mayo Indians first developed an interest in the Jesuit ways, allowing a mission to be established in their realm in 1613.  The Yaqui Indians soon followed suit.  By 1620, an estimated 30,000 Mayos and 30,000 Yaquis had been baptized into the Catholic faith.  The atmosphere in this area was never perfect, but the Jesuits showed the natives a clear alternative to the typcial, gold-seeking conquistador.

Father Eusebio Kino’s missionary career began in northwestern Mexico in 1687.  A gifted teacher, the Italian-born priest utilized his Jesuit discipline on the area, both socially and spiritually.  Per Jim Tuck, author of “The indelible imprint of Father Kino (1644-1711)”:

“Jesuit influence in the Northwest reached its peak under the dynamic leadership of Father Kino. In order to bring them closer to the faith and to encourage productive commercial activity, the Jesuits encouraged the Indians to leave their scattered settlements (known as rancherías) and move to compact population centers. There they would have ready access to the mission for worship and prayer and would also be able to make important contributions of an agricultural and economic nature.

To each male was given a plot of land. But he had to give something in return. Stuart F. Voss, a specialist in the dynamics of regional history, records that “three days a week … he was required to work for the mission; tending herds of livestock, also belonging to the mission; or providing other special services, such as escorting travelers, constructing mission buildings, or defending against any enemies threatening the mission.”

Father Kino made an incredible 40 trips across northwestern Mexico over a 24 year period, visiting and converting indigenous tribes to the Catholic faith.  The result was 24 Jesuit missions spread across northwestern Mexico and what would be the southwestern United States.  Father Kino was responsible for the first accurate maps of northwest Mexico.  He also learned many of the local tribes languages and crafted written vocabularies from those languages.

Father Kino died in 1711, but his burial location remained unknown until 1966, when Mexican and American researchers found the grave near Magdalena.  The locals built a shrine over his grave, and his remains can be viewed in situ through a glass window (a modern day pilgrimage site).

Jesuit influence in Mexico declined after Kino’s death.  In fact, the Jesuits as a whole were banished from Spanish territory by King Carlos III in 1767, but that is another story for another day.  In Sonora today, both Catholic and native influences can still be seen.  The remnant of the Yaqui Indians still hold onto their own unique customs, such as the elaborate deer dance, but also recognize Western calendar events, such as Lent and Easter.  Flowers were always important symbols for the Yaqui in ancient times, but they took on new significance when interwoven with Christian symbology.  It is said that flowers blooming in the countryside were the result of drops of blood at Christ’s Crucifixion.  I would think that the poinsettia would serve as a particularly strong reminder of the crucifixion (yes, your Christmas flower comes from Central America, not some cold weather climate).

Permanent link to this article: http://conversaving.com/2012/06/19/father-kino-and-the-jesuits/


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