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AUCTION 20

36. [JESUIT MISSIONARY LETTERS]. Two autograph letters, signed. Routine missionary correspondence, of interest for documenting Jesuit mission procedures and scarcity of letters from Sinaloa, Mexico.

(1) BALTHASAR, Fr. Juan Antonio. ALs to Father Francisco Mazariegos, dated at Villa (de Sinaloa), 29 December 1744. 1 p., folio, laid paper, integral address and contemporary ink notes on verso. Creased where formerly folded, adhesive residue on verso where formerly sealed. Fine. Balthasar acknowledges receipt of Mazariegos’ letter and thanks him for his sincerity. He states that he has written to the Father Provincial regarding the Rectorate, requesting license for his leave for illness, in that he is unable to concede it himself. It seems appropriate that he await the answer in Nío, and recommends that he send another letter advising the Father Provincial. He further states that Father Visitor Álvarez will not request anything from him during Lent, and it is fine that he rest at Nío, making a visitation at Ocoroni if possible.

Balthasar: b. 1697 in Lucerne, Switzerland; entered Jesuit order in 1712; to New Spain in 1719; missionary to Durango in 1724; in College of San Gregorio-1730; visitor general of missions, 1744-1746;, rector of Colegio Máximo, 1747; provincial of New Spain, 1750; rector of College of San Andrés, 1754; provincial consultant, 1756-1760; d. 1763 in Mexico. Author of biographies of Francisco María Piccolo, Lorenzo Carranco, Nicolás Tamaral of Baja California and part three of Apostólicos Afanes as well as numerous reports and letters.

Mazariegos: b. 1683 in Guadalajara; entered Jesuit order, 1700; missionary in Sinaloa and Tarahumara, 1719-1748; vice-rector of Sinaloa in 1744.

(2) CAVA, Fr. Sebastián Miguel. ALs to Father Provincial Francisco Zevallos, dated at San Miguel de Mochicahui, 1 October 1761. 1 p., folio, on laid paper, integral address and contemporary file notes in ink on verso. Three small worm holes (touching two letters), creased at centerfold (with a few miniscule voids due to ink corrosion), otherwise fine. Cava states that he had written from the Villa of Culiacán, notifying him of his poor health, after having walked to Culiacán in heat and rain to notify Father Visitor Salgado of such, and did so upon arrival at the mission of Mocorito. Cava states that he was told to go to the mission of Mochicahui, where Father Antonio Ventura was serving and to recover his health and learn the Indian language that is almost the same as that of Culiacán. He requests administrative assignment to Vacaerrque (Vacca) to avoid travel since he broke a rib when thrown from a horse.

Cava: b. 1732 in León; entered the Jesuit order and went to New Spain, 1748; professor in College of Celaya, 1755; to Sinaloa missions, 1761; arrested at Vacca in 1767; expelled through Guaymas; d. en route to exile in Aguacatlán in modern Jalisco, 1768.

Zevallos: b. 1704 in Oaxaca;, entered Jesuit order, 1720; professor in Colegio Máximo, 1730-1757; procurator in Rome, 1757; provincial of New Spain, 1763; rector of College of San Andrés, 1767; arrested and exiled, 1767; d. 1770 in Bolognia. Author of biography of Father Fernando Consag, missionary in Baja California.

     These two letters are indicative of the many hazards Jesuits and other missionaries to Mexico suffered during their time in the country. Disease, illness, and accidents were rarely far away in frontier Mexico, whereas medical help generally was. In Cava’s case, for example, although already sick, he was forced to journey through heat and rain merely to notify his superior of his failing health, made all the worse by a broken rib. The letters are fascinating in many respects, not so much for what they say as for what they imply and for what one may discern by reading between the lines. They bespeak most of all of an existence that is precarious and filled with physical hazards, both for the Jesuits and their charges. The only real treatment or relief that the priests request is rest. Balthasar assures Mazariegos, for example, that nothing will be required of him during Lent unless he wishes to cooperate with his colleague and assist him. But as Salgado remarked to the ill Father Cava, surely he cannot be so weak that he cannot try to master the local dialect. In some ways, rest for the weary is not complete.

     Sinaloa, the province whence these letters originate, was for many years a far-flung Spanish outpost on the Pacific. Its conquest was filled with uncertainties, many battles, and occasionally Spanish defeats. The Jesuits, the earliest of whom were martyred, ironically managed more by example and kindness than some of the Spanish conquistadores had by force, and were actually approached by some native tribes who were interested in becoming subject to the Order. ($400-800)

Sold. Hammer: $425.00; Price Realized: $499.38

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