Alegre, Francisco Javier
ALEGRE, FRANCISCO JAVIER
Historian and Latinist of Mexico; b. Veracruz, Nov. 12, 1729; d. near Bologna, Aug. 16, 1788. He entered the Society of Jesus on March 19, 1747, and was ordained on Sept. 29, 1754. He taught classics and mathematics in Havana (1755–62) and Canon Law in Mérida, Yucatán (1762–64). Then he was summoned to Mexico City by his provincial superior to write a history of the Jesuit Mexican province. By 1766 he had finished the first draft into which he incorporated hundreds of original documents. Because of his great talent for writing, Alegre rarely had to correct any part of the text, some 1,500 folio pages. Titled Historia de la provincia de la Compañía de Jesús de Nueva España, it spans two centuries, for it prefixes to the history of the Mexican province proper (1572–1766) and the tragic Florida mission (1566–72). This thoroughly documented history in which he preserved a vast number of documents now lost or unavailable is Alegre's greatest contribution. Even in the unsatisfactory edition of Bustamante (Mexico City 1841–42) it furnished the principal source of information on northern colonial Mexico to historians from H. H. Bancroft to P. M. Dunne. After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, Alegre went into exile in Bologna, Italy. Here he devoted his last two decades to literary and scientific studies and publications.
Bibliography: f. j. alegre, Historia de la provincia de la Compañía de Jesús de Nueva España, ed. e. j. burrus and f. zubillaga, 4 v. (Rome 1956–60). e. j. burrus, "Francisco Javier Alegre: Historian of the Jesuits in New Spain," Archivum historicum Societatis Jesu, 22 (1953) 439–509.