Maíz, Fidel (1828–1920)

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Maíz, Fidel (1828–1920)

Fidel Maíz (b. 1828; d. 1920), Paraguayan cleric and figure in the War of the Triple Alliance. Born in the tiny hamlet of Arroyos y Esteros, Maíz was little more than an obscure country priest until the late 1850s, when he gained the attention of the all-powerful López family. One story has it that Maíz was the only Paraguayan priest willing to baptize the offspring of Francisco Solano López (the future president) and his Irish mistress Eliza Lynch. In any case, Maíz went on to officiate at the September 1862 funeral of President Carlos Antonio López, and to participate in the subsequent congressional meetings called to choose a new government. Some ill-chosen words at the latter assembly put Maíz in prison for several years, but in 1866, he was reprieved by Solano López and named army chaplain.

Two years later, Maíz played an infamous role in one of the ugliest episodes of the war: he acted as government prosecutor at a series of conspiracy trials, often referred to as the tribunales de sangre. Convened at San Fernando, the trials were characterized by their expediency and, more particularly, by the use of torture to obtain confessions. In this fashion, Maíz elicited confessions from scores of men said to be plotting against López. Many were condemned and bayoneted to death on the same day. In fact, however, historians today question whether any conspiracy ever existed.

After the war, Maíz was imprisoned for a time by the Brazilians and then censured by the Roman Catholic church. He traveled to Rome to appeal his case to the pope, was absolved, and returned to Arroyos y Esteros, where he spent the remainder of his life composing polemical tracts, memoirs, and textbooks for the little church school he ran.

See alsoParaguay: The Nineteenth Centuryxml .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fidel Maíz, Etapas de mi vida (1919).

Carlos Zubizarreta, Cien vidas paraguayas, 2d ed. (1985), pp. 172-176.

Additional Bibliography

Godoi, Juan Silvano. Documentos históricos: El fusilamiento del obispo Palacios y los tribunales de sangre de San Fernando. Asunción, Paraguay: Lector, 1996.

Rees, Siân. The Shadows of Elisa Lynch: How a Nineteenth-Century Irish Courtesan Became the Most Powerful Woman in Paraguay. London: Review, 2003.

                                    Thomas L. Whigham