Zapata y Sandoval, Juan

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Bishop of Guatemala and defender of the prerogatives of the creoles in the Spanish empire; b. Mexico City, date unknown; d. Guatemala City, Guatemala, Jan. 9, 1630. His surname, more properly written Sandoval y Zapata, has caused some difficulty in identification; he has been confused with his uncle Juan Zapata, OSA (d.1606). His parents, both members of the aristocracy of New Spain (Mexico), were Manuel de Sandoval and María Alarcón. His maternal grandparents were Luis de Villanueva and Beatriz Zapata y Sandoval. Juan joined the Augustinians and made his religious profession in Mexico City on July 13, 1590. After his ordination he taught in the Colegio San Pablo, and later, having earned the degree of master of theology in the University of Mexico, he also taught in the university. In 1602 Juan went to Spain where for 11 years he taught theology and served as regent of studies and rector in the Colegio San Gabriel, Valladolid. On Sept. 1, 1613, he was nominated bishop of Chiapa, Mexico. Upon returning to New Spain the following year, he was consecrated bishop in Puebla de los Angeles. In 1621 Zapata y Sandoval was promoted to the See of Guatemala.

He is best remembered for his treatise De justitia distributiva, written while he was in Spain and published at Valladolid in 1609. In this work Zapata y Sandoval contended strongly that the civil and ecclesiastical offices of the overseas empire should be entrusted to native-born colonials, rather than to persons sent from Spain. He also maintained that the encomienda system should be made perpetual for the benefit of those who had built up the empire. Since he was a man of excellent education and wrote a polished Latin, he succeeded in gaining a hearing and helped to establish a good reputation for the colonials of New Spain. The subsequent appointment of the Creoles to civil and ecclesiastical positions in the Spanish empire is credited in large measure to his influence.

Bibliography: g. de santiago vela, Ensayo de una biblioteca ibero-americana de la orden de San Agustín, 7 v. in 8 (Madrid 191331) 7:287292.

[a. j. ennis]