Ruiz, Tomás (1777–c. 1820)

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Ruiz, Tomás (1777–c. 1820)

Tomás Ruiz (b. 10 January 1777; d. ca. 1820), Central American priest and patriot. An Indian born in Chinandega, Nicaragua, Tomás Ruiz received a doctoral degree in canon law from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala in 1804. He was the only Indian in Central America to receive this degree. Ruiz was a founder of the University of León in Nicaragua. He taught there and served as vice-rector of the seminary where he himself had studied.

Tomás Ruiz was active in modernizing the curriculum of the University of León; Ruiz stressed mathematics, which he taught. He became involved in disputes and rivalries, and was denied the position of canongía (a professorship of holy law) in León in 1807 and then at Comayagua, Honduras, a year later. Racial prejudice and nepotism seem to have been the reasons. His frustration at having suffered discrimination as an Indian probably led to his involvement in the conspiracy at the Belén monastery in Guatemala in December 1813, which anticipated an armed revolt for independence from Spain.

The Belén Conspiracy was quashed; Padre Ruiz was arrested and spent a number of years in confinement. He remained a part of the reformist faction as independence loomed. His main biographer, the Nicaraguan Jorge Eduardo Arellano, argues that Ruiz should be regarded as his country's primary prócer (founding father), rather than the conservative Miguel Larreynaga, who signed the independence document. Padre Ruiz may have gone to Chiapas, Mexico, after his release in 1819, but there is no further record of his activities beyond that point.

See alsoBelén Conspiracy; Central America, Independence of.


Jorge Eduardo Arellano, El padre-indio Tomás Ruiz, prócer de Centroamérica (1979).

Gene A. Müller, "La formación de un revolucionario del siglo XIX: El doctor Tomás Ruiz de Centroamérica," in Revista del Pensamiento Centroamericano 154 (January-March 1977): 22-32.

                                         Gary G. Kuhn

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Ruiz, Tomás (1777–c. 1820)

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