Bishop Toral: A Letter Defending His Actions Against the Mayans

I write today not as a bloodthirsty tyrant as some would claim, but as a brother humbled by the tragic reality of native obstinacy and lack of faith from fellow Spaniards like brother Toral. When I first came to the peninsula I saw a civilization that was young and child-like, oppressed by the resident encomenderos. It is the Franciscans that drew the scattered natives from their milpas and cenotes into central areas that more greatly resembled the society of our native Spain. We strove to learn their language and culture so that we might better convey the word of God to their spirits through their native tongue. Like children, it is only natural that the natives stray from the one true religion, and if they are to be fully converted, they must be punished for wandering from God. Intervention from Bishop Toral and the Crown against the Franciscan order is not only a betrayal against fellow brothers in Christianity, but a betrayal of the natives, who will never convert until they are convinced beyond all reason, that Christianity is the way to salvation.

Our work in the peninsula has always been at the expense of the obstinate and oppressive encomenderos and bureaucracy. We arrived with a mission not just to convert the natives to Christianity, but to follow Medel’s ordinances. Yet the audiencia, far away in Guatemala, is much too distant for us to rely solely on its jurisdiction. To rely on the voice of the Crown from so far away would be to cripple our modest advances with the Indians as we sought to establish our own humble collection of monasteries, so that we could better help the natives convert to the true religion. While we strove to carry out our own duties, the encomenderos and other settlers confronted us on the basis of their own greedy aspirations for wealth. False abuse from men like Francisco Hernandez left me no choice but to imprison him, not only for his lies, but for the dangers he posed to the safety of the Franciscans and the fragile faith of the natives. Control of order in the peninsula is vital for the salvation of the Indians and for government without emphasis on interests obsessed with land and power.

My travels throughout the peninsula introduced me to a world of superstition and idolatry, plagued by the work of the devil. Native books contain characters filled with the lies of the devil, their worship of idols is blasphemous, and their underlying abhorrence to the Christian faith is something that can only be remedied through harsh measures. As we believe that Christianity is the only way to salvation, then no act is too great of a cost to protect them from eternal damnation. I have personally witnessed them sacrifice their own children, cutting their ears in strips, and cutting other parts of their body; they also gathered in the temple, where they pierced a hole through their member, and passed an increasing quantity of cord through it until they could stand it no longer. These are the customs I witnessed and the reason for my utmost concern for the natives-our work in the peninsula is nothing short of a spiritual conquest to rid the devil of his breeding ground. While there can be no victory without casualties, victory is a far greater outcome than what will occur if we cannot continue our work.

For the success of harsher measures, one need look no further than the Reconquista in our native Spain. For centuries the Muslims and Jews lived among us, corrupting our culture with their government and language, changing the very face of our cities with their own architecture. Reconquest, like our efforts in Yucatan, began small and at the periphery of the greater country. Only through much effort and devotion to the cause were the Muslims finally expelled from Iberia and our land reclaimed. So too the Franciscans are devoted to expelling the idolatry and heathen practices from the new continent, in the hope that Christianity will rule unrivalled. And the Crown, unable to trust the honesty of the conversos, saw it fit to establish an Inquisition to ensure their conversion to Christianity. The work of the Franciscans here, after baptizing thousands of Indians, is much the same. My dejection at the sight of hundreds of idols hidden away in a cave, after assurances that the natives were converted, was almost too much to bear. It was only natural, then, to model an auto-da-f�© of the Indians based on its practice in my native Spain. I do not understand why Bishop Toral would condemn our practices, when they are the very resources utilized by Spain in its effort to unite the country under Christianity.

No man can know the depth of the betrayal of my trust by the Indians, and as such, no one can judge the level of torture I was forced to commit. Initially they seemed a simple people, keeping Christian practices and praying the words of our religion, but I find them to be mischievous, secretly cherishing their old faith and remaining attached to their old rituals and ceremonies. When we tortured them, we did these things because even I, a man who had spent years among these heathens, was deceived by their blasphemous practices. My years of patience, baptizing thousands and learning the language so they could speak the prayers in their own language, was all rendered useless. Our only option then, as a final measure of expulsing their faith, was a system of torture and destruction.

It is of little good to us if we are born if we are not eventually redeemed through Christ; Spain has thus received the grace of God in that our nation was elected to service his work on Earth. Despite this divine authority, the work of the Franciscan order has time and again been subverted by other authorities. Countless natives were in the process of conversion only to be misled by native chiefs and priests as to where the authentic authority lay. Bishop Toral not only betrayed the Franciscan order in allying himself with the encomenderos, he betrayed his duty to God, his order and his brothers. These Indians, who cannot think rightly for themselves, are confused as to the true source of authority; when we guided them as this source, they made progress towards salvation. As it is in Christianity, there can only be one father, and one source of authority. Already a problem where native chiefs and priests subvert the work of the Franciscans, now Bishop Toral makes the path to salvation a steeper undertaking.

To condemn and interrupt our work with the Indians would be to prevent the will of God in the peninsula. Any actions I have committed have been with the ultimate goal of the salvation of the native population. Burning of Indian literature, destruction of idols, and confessions were all done for the sole purpose of converting the natives to Christianity. When the natives are subject to divine judgment, it will be through our efforts that God will grant them access to eternal life. If Bishop Toral is successful in our removal, the fault of the natives’ eternal damnation will wrest squarely on the shoulders of the Spanish empire.

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