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Bolaños, Luis de (1549–1629)

Bolaños, Luis de (1549–1629)

Luis de Bolaños (b. 1549; d. 11 October 1629), Franciscan missionary. Called the Apostle of Paraguay, Bolaños was born in Marchena, Spain, in Andalusia. He joined the Franciscan order as a youth and was ordained a deacon. In 1572 he volunteered to serve as a missionary in the Río de la Plata and left Spain with his mentor and friend Fray Alonso de Buenaventura. After arriving in Paraguay in 1575, the two friars preached to Guaranis near Asunción and then in the northern area of the Jejui Guazú River, where the followers of Cacique Overá were resisting Spanish pressure. There in 1580, the missionaries founded Altos, the first enduring reduction of Paraguay. Later, Bolaños and Buenaventura founded Ypané, Atyrá, Tobatí, Itá, Yaguarón, Yuty, and Caazapá, which all survive. Bolaños attempted to work in the part of Guairá that is now the state of Paraná in Brazil, but the Spanish colonists there expelled him for blocking their exploitation of Native American labor. After mastering the Guarani language, Bolaños wrote a Guarani grammar and vocabulary and became the primary translator into Guarani of the catechism of the Council of Lima of 1583, the basis for instruction in the Franciscan reductions and the later Jesuit missions of Paraguay.

In 1585 Bolaños was ordained a priest, and after 1600 he cooperated with Governor Hernando Arias De Saavedra, Bishop Martín Ignacio de Loyola, and colonizer Juan de Garay to extend Spanish secular and religious authority. The more famous Jesuit reductions of Paraguay founded after 1610 were partly the fruition of the methods of Franciscans like Bolaños, who advised Father Manuel de Lorenzana and other members of the Society of Jesus. Though famous as a missionary, Bolaños was also an able administrator. At the end of his life, he retired to the Franciscan house in Buenos Aires, where he died. In 1979 his body was returned to Asunción, Paraguay, where he is a national hero.

See alsoFranciscans .


Buenaventura Oro, Fray Luis Bolaños, apóstol del Paraguay y Río de la Plata (1934).

Andrés Millé, Crónica de la Orden Franciscana en la conquista del Perú, Paraguay y el Tucumán y su convento del antiguo Buenos Aires, 1612–1800 (1961).

Margarita Durán Estrago, Presencia franciscana en el Paraguay, vol. 1 (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Durán Estragó, Margarita. El hechicero de Dios: Fray Luis Bolaños. Asunción, Paraguay: Editorial Don Bosco, 1995.

Salas, José Luis. La evangelización franciscana de los guaranies: su apóstol fray Luis Bolaños. Asunción, Paraguay: J. L. Salas, 2000.

                                James Schofield Saeger

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