Armentia, Nicolás

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Franciscan missionary, explorer, and bishop; b. in a small town in the Spanish Basque country, 1845; d. La Paz, Bolivia, November, 1909. He entered the Franciscan Order while still a boy and was sent to La Recoleta in La Paz where he was ordained. Between 1870 and 1883 he worked in the missions of Covendo, Ixiamas, and Tumupasa, on the western shore of the Beni River. In addition to serving the neophytes there, he made many expeditions through the neighboring jungles in search of aborigines to attract to the missions. He explored unknown regions, with the idea of converting new groups of the forest tribes and founding new missions.

During 1884 and 1885 he made an expedition down the Beni River to the Madre de Dios River, at the behest of the Bolivian government. He toured the hinterland of both rivers extensively, establishing relations with the Araona and Toromona tribes, among which he founded a mission. The following year he entered those regions again and reached the Purus River and later the Amazon. As a result of these and other travels he wrote several books, among which were Exploración del Madre de Dios, Diario de viaje a las tribus comprendidas entre el río Beni y el arroyo Ibon, Límite de Bolivia con el Perú por la parte de Caupolicán, and Navegación del Madre de Dios. The last-mentioned work contains valuable information for ethnography and observations of the flora and fauna of the area that reveal the soundness of his knowledge of zoology and botany. He wrote also a grammar and vocabulary of the Chipibo language spoken by a jungle tribe of the High Beni. He translated and published the curious work of the Jesuit Father Eder, Descripción de los Moxos.

He was consecrated Bishop of La Paz in Sucre early in 1902. As prelate he was distinguished by his dedication in instructing the native population, his careful attention to religious services, and, principally, his reorganization of the seminary.

[h. sanabria fernÁndez]

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Armentia, Nicolás

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