First bishop of Central America; b. probably in valley of Toranzo, Santander, Spain, 1477; d. Guatemala City, April 18, 1563. In November 1528, already ordained, he arrived in Mexico City with Bishop-elect zumÁrraga, who named him his first vicar-general. As such, Marroquín acted with great firmness at the time of the riot in the cathedral on Pentecost, May 16, 1529. The riot had been begun by the members of the royal court and their leader Nuño de Guzmán when Zumárraga had their cruelties against the native Mexicans publicly condemned. Marroquín excommunicated all of them. Because this action imperiled his life, Marroquín was sent by Zumárraga shortly thereafter to Central America as provost for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. His first task was to learn the languages of the indigenous people of his new jurisdiction. He welcomed Dominicans (1535) fleeing from Peru and brought Mercedarians (1537) from Mexico City and Franciscans (1540) from Spain. Marroquin personally taught the native languages to his priests and friars.
On April 7, 1537, Zumárraga consecrated him bishop of Guatemala: the first episcopal consecration in the New World. Using largely his own funds, Marroquín began the construction of churches and a cathedral, set up dowries for poor girls, and in 1553, a special school for Spanish orphan girls. In 1559 he tried to get royal permission to found a university. When this project failed, he founded the Colegio de Santo Tomás with the Dominicans. In his will he set aside generous sums for the future university. As bishop, Marroquín was protector of the indigenous people and to this task he devoted his best efforts. He often freed those unjustly enslaved and endowed them with lands to support themselves. He promoted the plan of the Dominicans to evangelize Tezulutlan through peaceful means. Marroquín, however, was far from an admirer of bishop Bartolomé de las casas and his impetuous methods and put his criticisms on record in a famous letter to the king, which the friends of Las Casas usually quietly ignore. In general, Marroquín tried to integrate the indigenous people in the spiritual, economic, and social life of the young colony.
Bibliography: f. a. de fuentes y guzmÁn, Recordación florida: Discurso historial y demostración natural, material, militar y política del Reyno de Guatemala, 3 v. (Guatemala 1932–33). l. lamadrid, "Bishop Marroquín-Zumárraga's Gift to Central America," Americas 5 (1948–49) 331–341.