Mier, Servando Teresa de
MIER, SERVANDO TERESA DE
Mexican Dominican friar, active in Mexican independence movement; b. Monterrey, Oct. 18, 1765; d. Mexico City, Dec. 3, 1827. He entered the Dominican Order in 1781 and after ordination, received a doctorate in theology.
Mier might be called a man of prisons. Like the famous adventurer Casanova, he always succeeded in escaping from the dungeons in which he was confined. His first adventure resulted from a sermon that he preached on Dec. 12, 1794, on the subject of the Virgin of Guadalupe. He declared that the image of Guadalupe was not painted on the sisal robe of the native, Juan Diego, but on the cloak of St. Thomas. This statement aroused much indignation among the ecclesiastical authorities. The
bishop ordered Mier confined to his cell and initiated proceedings. Mier found himself obliged to retract and did so, according to his statement, "because I was unable to bear the prison any longer."
The archbishop condemned him to ten years of exile, which he was to spend in Spain, confined in the monastery of Las Caldas near Santander. He was simultaneously disqualified for public instruction in lecture room, pulpit, and confessional, and his doctor's title was abolished. At Las Caldas he was locked in a filthy room that he shared with rats; they contended with him for his miserable food. "There were so many of them and such large ones," Mier stated in the account that he wrote of his adventures in Europe, "that they ate up my hat, and I had to sleep armed with a stick to keep them from eating me." He escaped by filing the iron grating of his cell, leaving a letter written in verse entitled "Ad fratres in eremo." He was arrested again and sent back to Las Caldas "like a missing old manuscript," as he said himself.
In 1796 Mier was permitted to go to Madrid so that his case might be heard by the Council of the Indies. He received orders to go to a monastery in Salamanca, and since he tried to flee en route, he was seized again and locked up in the Franciscan monastery in Burgos. Under suspicion of intent to escape, he was confined in a dungeon. From this he did succeed in escaping and he went to France. In Paris in 1801 he opened an academy for teaching the Castilian language. He engaged also in literary tasks, one of them the first Castilian translation of Chateaubriand's Atala.
In 1802 he left for Rome, intending to enter secular life. The following year he was appointed theologian of the Congregations of the Council of Trent and the Universal Inquisition, and prothonotary apostolic. His dissatisfaction with his lot led him to return to Spain. On his arrival in Madrid he was imprisoned, but he escaped from the Casa de los Toribios, on June 24, 1804. He was arrested in Cádiz and returned to the same prison, this time in irons. In a short time he was in Portugal; he had freed himself again from the irons and fled. He held the post of secretary to the Spanish consul and, thanks to a change of fortune, the appointment of "Apostolic Prelate of the Pope," conferred by Pius VII through the nuncio.
When war broke out between France and Spain, Mier returned to Spain and became a chaplain in the Valencian regiment of volunteers. In Belchite he became a prisoner of the French, but he succeeded in escaping and, with a recommendation from General Black, he went to Cádiz, where in 1811 the Regency awarded him a large pension.
After hearing the news of Hidalgo's insurrection, he went to England, intending to support the cause of Mexican independence. In London he wrote Historia de la revoluciòn de Nueva España (1813), the first study on the emancipation movement. He wrote also "Carta de un Americano al Español sobre su número XIX," which attracted much attention among the insurgents. Mier also formed a friendship with Francisco Xavier Mina in England and joined in Mina's revolutionary expedition to Mexico in 1817. When it failed, Mier was imprisoned in the dungeons of the Inquisition. As a consequence of the dissolution of the Tribunal in May of 1820, he was put on board a boat for Spain two months later. When his boat put in at Havana, he fled and succeeded in going to the United States. In February of 1822, after independence had been achieved, he returned. In Veracruz, still under Spanish control, General Dávila had him imprisoned in the fortress of San Juan de Ulúa, where he remained for four months. Then, having been elected deputy by the province of Nuevo León, he was set at liberty and was at last able to go to Mexico City. He had not been there a month when he was arrested and imprisoned in the monastery of Santo Domingo because he was suspected of taking part in a republican conspiracy against A. Iturbide. He remained a prisoner until Feb. 11, 1823, when the Mexican troops decided in favor of the republic. Mier then enjoyed the high favor of President Guadalupe Victoria.
Bibliography: s. t. de mier, Escritos inéditos, ed. j. m. miguel i verges (Mexico City 1944); Memorias (Madrid 1917), "Prólogo" by a. reyes.
[j. m. miguel ivergÉs]