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Juan de Cordova

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Born 1503, at Cordova in Andalusia, Spain, of noble parents ; d. 1595 at Oaxaca, Mexico. It is not certain whether Córdova was his family name, or whether he assumed it from his native city after he became a Dominican. He first embraced a military career, serving in Flanders as ensign. He then went to Mexico, and accompanied Coronado to New Mexico in 1540-42. In 1543 he entered the Dominican Order at Mexico, and was sent to Oaxaca in 1548, where he acquired the Zapotecan idiom and ministered to the Indians. He was named provincial in 1568. Brought up under military discipline, he administered as provincial with such rigour and severity, that there were many complaints against him to the chapter that congregated at Yanhuitlan in 1570. He refused to comply with the admonitions of his superiors and change his methods, and was accordingly suspended. With the exclamation: "Benedictus Deus!" he received the notification of his deposition, and, declining the interference of the Viceroy Enríquez in his favour, retired to his convent at Tlacochauaya in Oaxaca, where he died after twenty-five years spent in retirement and in the study of the Zapotecan language and the customs of the natives. His knowledge of the language was thorough, and he composed a "Vocabulario de la Lengua Zapoteca, ó Diccionario Hispano-Zapoteco" (Mexico, 1571, or, according to Ycazbalceta, 1578). The "Arte en Lengua Zapoteca " appeared in 1578 at Mexico. Besides the linguistic part, this book contains a short but valuable note on the rites and superstitions of the Zapotecan Indians, and an equally important account of their method of reckoning time, which has been republished by Manuel Orozco y Berra.

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