Cárdenas, Bernardino de (1579–1668)

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Cárdenas, Bernardino de (1579–1668)

Bernardino de Cárdenas (b. 1579; d. 20 October 1668), bishop of Paraguay (1642–1651) and opponent of the Jesuits. Born in La Paz, Upper Peru, Cárdenas joined the Franciscan order at the age of fifteen. After ordination, he preached for twenty years in native languages to the Quechua and Aymara peoples of Peru and Upper Peru, who reputedly revered him. His reputation caused King Philip IV in 1638 to nominate, and Pope Urban VIII in 1640 to appoint, Cárdenas bishop of Paraguay. Consecrated in Santiago del Estero in 1641, Cárdenas then left for Asunción, where the bulls of his investiture were read in 1642.

Cárdenas allied himself with labor-hungry Paraguayan settlers who coveted the Guaranís in Jesuit missions as workers. He also insisted on visiting all curacies and parishes of his bishopric, including the Jesuit missions, a policy that Jesuits opposed. These disputes intensified friction between colonial Franciscans and Jesuits. The Jesuits challenged the validity of the bishop's consecration, hoping to remove him from the province. Cárdenas also fought with Governor Gregorio de Hinestrosa, a Jesuit ally, who brought Guaraní forces from the Jesuit missions to Asunción to shield the Jesuits from the Paraguayans, an action that the Paraguayans resented.

Cárdenas criticized Jesuit economic practices and accused the fathers of teaching false doctrine. In 1644 the governor expelled Cárdenas from Paraguay. Supported by Franciscans throughout South America, the exiled bishop spoke against his adversaries and persuaded the Audiencia of Charcas to order his reinstatement. He returned to Asunción in 1647 to face a new governor, Diego de Escobar Osorio, whose death in 1649 allowed the Paraguayans to name Cárdenas to the post. This right, they claimed, they had possessed since the Conquest. Applauded by the Asuncíón cabildo, the bishop-governor expelled the Jesuits from the capital, and a mob vandalized their property. Jesuit interests, however, finally prevailed; a mission army defeated the Paraguayan militia near San Lorenzo in 1650 and occupied and sacked Asunción. Although Cárdenas was then exiled from Paraguay, the king in 1660 ordered him reinstated as bishop. Old and feeble, he rejected further Paraguayan conflicts and instead accepted the bishopric of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Upper Peru, where he served until his death. His legacy in Paraguay was an intensified anti-Jesuit feeling, and later rebellions in the 1720s and 1730s recalled his anti-Jesuit efforts.

See alsoFranciscans; Jesuits.


Colección general de documentos tocantes á la persecución que los regulares de la Compañía suscitaron y siguieron tenaz-mente por medio de sus jueces conservadores desde 1644 hasta 1660 contra el Ilmo. Rmo. Sr. Fr. D. Bernardino de Cárdenas, Obispo del Paraguay, 2 vols. (1768).

Harris Gaylord Warren, Paraguay: An Informal History (1949).

Adalberto Lopez, The Revolt of the Comuneros, 1721–1735 (1976).

Additional Bibliography

Priewasser, Wolfgang. El Ilmo. Don Fray Bernardino de Cárdenas. Asunción: FONDEC: Academia Paraguaya de la Historia, 1998.

                              James Schofield Saeger

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Cárdenas, Bernardino de (1579–1668)

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