Ruíz Blanco, Matías

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Franciscan missionary in Venezuela; b. Estepa (province of Seville), Spain, 1645; d. c. 1708. Early in life he entered the First Order of St. Francis of Assisi, becoming affiliated to the Franciscan province of Andalusia. At 21 he was awarded the chair of arts at the Convent of Valle in Seville. In 1672 he volunteered to become a missionary in the Americas and joined other missionaries of his order who were leaving for the missions of Piritú in eastern Venezuela. Fray Ruíz Blanco remained a Piritú missionary for about 30 years. He was elected superior of the missions three times (1686, 1696, 1705). Twice, in 1683 and 1693, he led mission bands back to Piritú from Spain. Three times he journeyed to the court of Spain in the interests of the missions. Fray Ruíz Blanco, an author of note, wrote Conversion en Piritú (Madrid 1690), Manual para Catekizar (Burgos 1683), Diccionario espanol cumanagoto (Burgos 1683), and Memorial de Fray Matías Ruíz Blanco al Rey (n.p. 1701). He is remembered as a giant among the Franciscan missionaries of the Piritú missions; he was devoted to the welfare of the native peoples and was given the title of defender of the natives. His observations on the culture of the Piritú missions are of value today, and his endeavors to prepare grammars and dictionaries of the Cumanagoto language to serve as the common tongue of the various tribes in the Piritú area demonstrate his extraordinary ability as a linguist.

Bibliography: m. ruÍz blanco, Conversión en Piritú (Colombia) de Indios Cumanagotos y Palenques (Madrid 1892). p. de aguado, Historia de Venezuela, 2 v. (Madrid 191819).

[j. m. cassese]

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Ruíz Blanco, Matías

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