Motolinía, Toribio de (c. 1487–1569)

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Motolinía, Toribio de (c. 1487–1569)

Toribio de Motolinía (also Toribio de Paredes and Toribio de Benavente; b. ca. 1487; d. 1569), one of the first twelve Franciscan friars ("Los Doce") who arrived in New Spain in 1524. Born in Paredes, near Benavente, León, Spain, he proudly took "Motolinía," (Nahuatl for "poor") as his name after hearing the indigenous people use it to describe the barefoot Franciscans in their tattered habits as they walked from Veracruz to Mexico City. Converting the local people to Christianity was his primary aim, but he studied and wrote at length about their culture before and after European contact in order to be more effective in his evangelical task.

During the years 1524–1540, Motolinía wrote either three large religious chronicles or three different versions of the same chronicle. Two survive today in modified form as the Historia de los indios de la Nueva España and Memoriales; the third has been referred to as the De moribus indorum. Read and quoted by other colonial chroniclers, these works are valuable to modern ethnohistorians for their depth of detail on indigenous society, religion, food and artisanal production, modes of transportation, and calendrics. In volume and detail, as early firsthand accounts, Motolinía's writings are possibly second only to those of Bernardino de Sahagún.

See alsoFranciscans .


Toribio de Motolinía, History of the Indians of New Spain translated by Elizabeth Andros Foster (1950) and Francis Borgia Steck (1951).

Edmundo O'Gorman, La incognita de la llamada "Historia de los indios de la Nueva España" atribuida a Fray Toribio Motolinía (1982).

Georges Baudot, Historia de los indios de la Nueva España (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Mosquera, Daniel O. Motolinía, Olmos, and the Staging of the Devil in Sixteenth-century New Spain. Ph.D. diss., 1998.

                                           Stephanie Wood