The Dominicans (Order of Friars Preachers) are Catholic friars belonging to a religious order founded in 1215 by the Spanish priest Santo Domingo de Guzmn (St. Dominic). Preaching and saving souls through peaceful example, teaching, and writing have been the order’s goals from its inception. The Dominicans also are defined by their passion for justice. The first Dominicans in the Americas, Fray Pedro de C³rdoba, the vice provincial, along with Antonio Montesino and Bernardo de Santo Domingo, landed in 1510 in Santo Domingo, capital of today’s Dominican Republic. Their church complex included a university dedicated to St. Thomas Aquinas. Established in 1538, it was the first university in the Americas and offered courses in theology, philosophy, law, and medicine (it is now called the Universidad Aut³noma de Santo Domingo). Most importantly, from the moment they landed, the Dominican friars dedicated themselves to the salvation of the native people of the island, the Taino. The first Dominicans in the Americas arrived in the early sixteenth century. Members of this Roman Catholic order, shown here conducting a baptism, were dedicated to the salvation of native peoples throughout South, Central, and North America. (Museo Nacional de Historia, Mexico City, Mexico/Giraudon/Bridgeman Art Library) In order to save the Tainos’ souls, the Dominicans first had to save their lives. The Taino were subjected to a system called encomienda, whereby, as protected vassals of the Spanish Crown, they were commended whole villages at a time into the hands of individual Spaniards on Hispaniola. The Spanish encomenderos were under royal mandate to feed and clothe their native subjects and teach them Catholic doctrine and Christian ways. (The natives could not be bought or sold, but the Crown could take them away and commend them to a different Spaniard at will.) In theory, encomienda was a mutually beneficial system, wherein the grateful Taino would grow and prepare their encomenderos’ food, construct their roads and buildings, mine gold, and perform any other required labor. The disruption of the Tainos’ traditional lifestyle, however, especially the disruption of their planting and harvesting cycles, physical abuse by their encomenderos, and diseases resulting from contact with Europeans and their imported animals, decimated their population in a relatively short time. In 1511, on a Sunday just before Christmas, Fray Antonio Montesino mounted the pulpit and gave an impassioned sermon. He spoke out, on behalf of all the Dominican friars in Santo Domingo, against the encomienda system, threatening the resident Spaniards that if they did not release their commended Native Americans, their sins would no longer be absolved in confession. Panicked Spaniards complained to Governor Diego Col³n (Christopher Columbus’s elder son), who ordered the friars to rescind their threat, but the following Sunday Montesino gave an even more impassioned anti-encomienda sermon, encouraging the salvation of the Native Americans through a mission system. One encomendero, Bartolom de las Casas, took the message to heart. He gave up his Native American slaves and, in 1515, he took holy vows and became the most outspoken of all the Dominicans against the encomienda system. Las Casas earned the title of royal protector of the natives for his decades of sacrifice and multiple volumes of writing in defense of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The fame of Las Casas surpassed that of his superior in Santo Domingo, Pedro de C³rdoba, from whom he appears to have gotten his inspiration. Sometime before 1521, de C³rdoba wrote Doctrina Cristiana para instrucci³n e informaci³n de los indios por manera de historia, the first manual on how to convert the native peoples to Christianity. Printed in Mexico in 1544, it stressed that the native peoples and Spaniards were equals in the eyes of God and that the natives must be peacefully evangelized, not forced into labor nor robbed of their property and goods. Hundreds of Dominican friars actively evangelized among the Native Americans throughout South, Central, and North America, refusing military protection because it negated their peaceful mission. Fray Montesino left Santo Domingo to join Lucas Vzquez de Ayll³n’s expedition in 1526, along with Fray Antonio de Cervantes and Fray Pedro de Estrada, to establish a town on the North American mainland in today’s South Carolina. In the late 1530s, Fray Luis de Soto and Juan de Gallegos accompanied Hernando de Soto’s brutal and destructive exploration party through today’s Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Fray Luis Cancer and two others were killed at Tampa Bay on June 24, 1549. In 1553, at least four Dominican friars were martyred on the Gulf Coast of Texas near the Rio Grande. Most of the Dominican friars of the early colonial era, however, sacrificed their lives anonymously. Today, there are active Dominican orders in ninety-two countries of the world. Lynne Guitar See also: Catholic Church; Franciscans; Jesuits; Missions; Religion (Chronology); Religion (Essay). Bibliography Bedouelle, Guy. In the Image of Saint Dominic. San Francisco: Ignatius, 1994. Hinnebusch, William A. The Dominicans: A Short History. New York: Alba House, 1975. Rubio, Fray Vicente. Fray Pedro de C³rdoba, Padre de los Dominicos de Amrica. Santo Domingo: Segunda Etapa, 1988. Dominican Republic – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia holidaymapq

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