Vetancurt, Agustín de

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Franciscan chronicler; b. Mexico City, 1620; d. there, 1700. While Fray Agustín spelled his name Vetancurt, it has been spelled in various ways as Vetancourt, Bethencourt, Betancourt, Betancurt. Very little is known about his life; nevertheless, he is well known through his writings, which are basic documents for students of the history of Mexico and the history of the Franciscan Order. While still very young, he joined the Franciscans and he was ordained in Puebla de los Angeles; the reason and date of his moving to that city are unknown. Later, for 40 years he held the office of pastor in the native parish of San José in Mexico City. He was a teacher of philosophy and theology, and also of Nahuatl, important at that time for communicating with the natives. He was appointed by the commissary general of the Indies as the chronicler of the province of the Holy Evangelist. As such, he wrote his monumental work, Teatro mexicano, which is divided into four parts. The first is a summary of the natural history of Mexico. The second deals with political and religious events in pre-Hispanic Mexico. The third covers the period from the discovery of America to the capture of Tenochtitlán by Cortés. The fourth part, published before the others, can be considered a separate work, owing to its theme and its length. It is called Crónica de la Provincia del Santo Evangelio de México; it contains the Menelogio franciscano. He produced many other writings in a clear pleasant style; unfortunately he usually failed to cite his sources.

Bibliography: j. m. beristain de souza, Biblioteca hispano americana septentrional, 5 v. in 2 (3d ed. Mexico City 1947). r. ricard, La conquista espiritual de México (Mexico City 1947).

[a. m. betancourt]