Valadés, Diego

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Franciscan missionary, author, and artist; b. Mexico, 1533; d. Perugia?, 1579? He was the son of a conquistador and a Tlaxacaltec and thus one of the first mestizos in Mexico. When still very young, he entered the Franciscan Order and studied with Fray Pedro de Gante. He spoke several native languages, such as Nahuatl, Tarasco, and Otomí. In 1574, while in Seville, Spain, he published Juan Focher's Itinerarium catholicum; in 1579 in Perugia he published his own Retórica christiana, important as the first book published in Europe by a Mexican and for its introduction of the native Mexican culture. The Retórica has 26 illustrations, which provide some authentic details, such as the ornaments worn by the natives, their costumes (or nakedness), the reconstruction of temples, and their sacrificial ceremonies. However, many of the details are not authentic, and in some pictures the native Mexicans look more like Europeans. Valadés must also be considered a historian for having collected in his works many facts and observations at a time when very few histories had been written and published. He was one of the first to write a short treatise, as a chapter in the Retórica, on Indorum republicae descriptio; he described the work of the early friars and the spreading of the gospel. In 1587 Valentín Friccio, a German, translated portions of this treatise and incorporated the material in Indianischer Religionstandt der gantzen Newen Welt.

Bibliography: e. j. palomera, Fray Diego Valadés: El hombre y su época (Mexico City 1963); Fray Diego Valadés, O.F.M., evangelizador humanista de la Nueva España: Su obra (Mexico City 1962). f. de la meza, Fray Diego Valadés, escritor y grabador franciscano del siglo XVI (Mexico City 1943).

[f. de la maza]