Cárdenas, Bernardino de

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Bolivian Franciscan missionary, writer, and bishop of Paraguay; b. La Paz, 1579; d. near Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Oct. 20, 1668. In 1594 he entered the Jesuit Colegio de San Martín in Lima and later entered the Franciscan Order in that city. Cárdenas grew up speaking Spanish and two native languages, Quechua and Aymará. This advantage, combined with his zeal, helped him become a noted missionary. In 1621 he almost lost his life working among the tribes to the east of La Paz. From 1624 to 1625, he was able to quell a dangerous rebellion of the native peoples who were threatening La Paz itself. In 1629 the bishops of the province of Bolivia in provincial council named Cárdenas official delegate and visitor to all the native peoples of their jurisdictions, a task that he completed with great zeal and to almost universal approval. One result of this experience was his noteworthy Memorial y relación verdadera de cosas del Reyno del Perú (Madrid 1634). His success moved Pedro Villagómez, then Bishop of Arequipa, to name him visitor to the important mining center of Cailloma. There, as in Bolivia, Cárdenas's condemnation of the sale of coca and alcoholic beverages to the native peoples brought the censure of some and the approval of many. By Feb. 27, 1638, the king had presented Cárdenas for the bishopric of Paraguay; the Holy See approved on Aug. 13, 1640. Impatient to get to work, Cárdenas did not await the arrival of his bulls and was consecrated in Tucumán on Oct. 14, 1641, an act that the Holy See later judged valid, even though illicit. His enemies had declared that he was not a bishop. The Jesuit reductions of paraguay were the most important institutions in the bishopric. In the beginning, relations between Cárdenas and the Jesuit superiors were cordial, but by the end of 1644 a scandalous disagreement broke out that resulted in violence on both sides and lasted until Cárdenas was finally driven from his see in 1651. After long litigation the Council of the Indies disapproved of the actions against him and in 1660 ordered that he be escorted to his see. However, he was too old to return, and in 1662 he was transferred to the See of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, where he died in the sanctuary of Araní, the common opinion being that he was a saint.

The figure of Cárdenas has become a symbol of controversy similar to that of Bishop palafox y mendoza of Mexico, of whom he was a contemporary. At the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits, their enemies at court published three volumes of the memorials and countermemorials of the case. In the 19th century, the Peruvian priest vigil resurrected Cárdenas's reputation as a bishop, and in the 20th century Augusto Guzmán wrote a novelized version of his life. The Jesuits still continue their defense of their actions. Cárdenas's life has not yet received objective treatment. Yet his pectoral cross, smashed by a bullet fired while he was besieged in his cathedral by the native peoples of the Reductions and still carefully preserved with due authentication, is mute testimony that the bishop had many opponents.

Bibliography: a. guzmÁn, El kolla mitrado: Biografía de un obispo colonial, fray Bernardino de Cárdenas (2d ed. La Paz 1954). a. ybot lÉon, La iglesia y los eclesiásticos españoles en la empresa de Indias, 2 v. (Barcelona 195463). p. pastells, ed., Historia de la Compañía de Jesús en la provincia del Paraguay, 8 v. in 9 (Madrid 191249).

[l. g. canedo]

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Cárdenas, Bernardino de

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