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Antonio Montesino

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A Spanish missionary, date of birth unknown; died in the West Indies, 1545. Of his early life little is known. He entered the Order of St. Dominic and made his religious profession in the convent of St. Stephen, Salamanca, where in all probability he studied. He was noted for his exemplary piety, his love of strict observance, his eloquence, and moral courage. In September, 1510, under the leadership of Pedro de Cordova, he landed with the first band of Dominicans in Hispaniola. He was the first, in 1511, to denounce publicly in America the enslavement and oppression of the Indians as sinful and disgraceful to the Spanish nation. Being censured for this, he was cited to Spain in 1512, where he pleaded the cause of the Indians so successfully that the king took immediate measures towards ameliorating their condition. In June, 1526, with Father Anthony de Cervantes, he accompanied several hundred colonists under the leadership of Ayllón to Guandape, probably where the English subsequently founded Jamestown; or, as some are inclined to think, proceeded even as far as New York. In either case, however, we are safe in asserting that Holy Mass was celebrated for the first time in the present territory of the United States by these Dominicans. On the death of Ayllón (Oct., 1526) the colony abandoned the country and returned to San Domingo. According to Helps, "Spanish Conquest in America", he went to Venezuela about 1528 with twenty of his brethren. Nothing more is known of him except the slight information furnished by a note in the margin of the registry of his profession in the convent of St. Stephen at Salamanca, which says: "Obiit martyr in Indiis". He is the author of "Informatio juridica in Indorum defensionem".


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