Vincente de Valverde
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|The Right Rev. Lord Brother
Vicente de Valverde y Alvarez de Toledo, O.P.
|Bishop of Cuzco|
|Successor||Juan Solano, O.P.|
Oropesa, Province of Toledo, Crown of Castile
|Died||31 October 1541
Puná Island, New Spain
|Parents||Francisco de Valverde & Ana Alvarez de Toledo|
Vicente de Valverde y Alvarez de Toledo, O.P., was a Spanish Dominican friar, who was involved in the Conquest of the Americas. He became the first resident bishop in South America. He was born in Oropesa, Spain, about 1495 and most sources claim he died on Puná Island, now part of Ecuador, in 1541, at the hands of the indigenous peoples.
He was born in Oropesa, near Toledo, at the end of the 15th century, the son of Francisco de Valverde and Ana Alvarez de Toledo, and was related to many noble families of the region, in particular to that of Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador of Peru, and that of Hernán Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico. In 1515 he was sent to study at the University of Salamanca. While a student there, he later asked to be received into the Dominican Order, which he was in 1523 at the Priory of San Esteban at Salamanca, becoming a professed friar of the Order in April 1524, being ordained a priest within the next few years.
Valverde is thought to have accompanied Pizarro as a missionary on his intended voyage of conquest of Peru. He arrived in Peru about 1530, although it is not certain whether he traveled directly there with Pizarro from Spain in 1529 or arrived at San Miguel de Piura in 1531 with re-enforcements from Panama, the initial staging base for the Spanish forces. Before the Battle of Caxamarca on 16 November 1532, Valverde endeavoured to obtain the Great Inca Atahuallpa's peaceful submission; later he instructed and baptized the Incan monarch.
Following the death of Atahualpa, Pizarro saw no further obstacles to his conquest and decided to march into Cuzco on 15 November 1533, bringing Valverde along with him and his followers. On 23 March 1534, a church was erected in Cuzco and became Valverde's parish church. Pizarro also gave him a large native commandery, whom Valverde allegedly mistreated by simply using them as slaves.
Valverde headed back to Spain later that year to assist Pizarro's brother, Hernando Pizarro, in his negotiations at court. There he presented to the emperor, by order of Pizarro, an account of the conquest, under the title of Relacion de la Conquista de los Reynos de Peru, in which he claimed that the Native Americans could scarcely be considered as human beings, as they had no souls. In 1536 Valverde was named Protector of the Natives and Inquisitor. That same year, the Holy See established Cuzco, the royal city of the Incan kings, as the seat of the first diocese of the Catholic Church in South America, covering the entire continent, up to modern Nicaragua. Emperor Charles V, named Valverde as the first Bishop of Cuzco; Pope Paul III ratified this choice in a consistory held in January 1537.
After being consecrated as a bishop, Valverde returned to Peru in the beginning of 1538, just before the execution of Diego de Almagro, which he had unsuccessfully tried to prevent. The new bishop found the spiritual duties for his vast diocese arduous, especially combined with those of the office of Protector of the Natives. This forced him to cross the members of the military constantly, as the adventurers who made up the Spanish armies had no thought of justice or mercy to the Indians. In 1539 Valverde had work begun for the first cathedral of the diocese, now the Church of the Triumph, built on the site of a temple attached to the palace of Viracocha Inca, the last native ruler of the region. On 11 March 1540 he officiated at its consecration.
After the assassination of Francisco Pizarro by forces of Diego de Almagro II in June 1541, Valverde fled to Panama, where his brother had been appointed as governor by Pizarro. He halted for a brief stay on Puná Island, near Guayaquil, in Ecuador, where he was captured and put to death by the local indigenous people on 31 October 1541. According to some sources his death was due to his attempts to convert the natives to Christianity and his body was eaten by them, according to others, the oppressed Indians poured molten gold down his throat as a punishment for greed.
By far Valverde's negative and contradictory side was his alleged mistreatment of the natives of Peru whom, instead of teaching the Catholic faith, he oppressed, enslaved and forced to work for the Church. These charges came about when Valverde was later appointed by Pizarro on a commission to apportion lands and natives to the royal officers, along with the lawyer, Antonio de Game, whom Pizarro had appointed Supreme Judge of Cuzco. The latter charged Valverde in a letter to the emperor, dated 10 March 1539, with arbitrary acts and insisted that instead of protecting the natives, he only mistreated them and sought to confiscate their lands, and always gave the greater part to himself and his assistant. (This was the complete opposite to what Bartolomé de Las Casas, another Spanish Dominican friar and bishop, did years later by defending the natives' rights in works he published and in visits to Spain to inform King Philip II of the abuses committed against the local natives by the Conquistadors.)
The validity of these charges is in dispute, however, as they are not universally mentioned by chroniclers of the period, and the main accusers might have had political reasons for these charges, as opponents of the Pizarro regime.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Vincent de Valverde". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
- Francisco Pizarro Response to a Petition by Pedro del Barco, 1539 Apr. 14. From the Collections at the Library of Congress (Document is counter-signed by Fray Vicente de Valverde)