Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Bishops of Durango: A connection to Santa Fe

Today the pilgrims from New Mexico visited the historic Cathedral of Durango, Mexico. Many years ago strong influences on the history of New Mexico came from within the beautiful and ornate colonial church. The Bishops of Durango have a strong connection to the complex history of El Norte.

Durango, which just celebrated its 448th anniversary, was the Capital of Nueva Viscaya, one of the states under the Spanish Crown. Since 1620 a Bishop has administering his flock from Durango.

In 1730 Bishop Benito Crespo traveled to El Paso del Norte and up the Rio Grande valley to present day New Mexico. Bishop Crespo and the Franciscans who met his entourage had disagreements. The conflict between Crespo and the Fransicans climaxed when the Fransicans would not allow Crespo into La Parroquia in Santa Fe. He reported the disrespect to the Spanish Crown.

Later, Bishop of Durango Martin Elizacochea, from the Basque region of Spain, admonished the Franciscans and ordered them to learn the Indian languages and send more priests to convert the Natives. Because of the language barrier many Indians would not go to confession. It was improper because with an interpreter present the confessions were not always honest.

In the late 1700s Bishop Tamaron of Durango was properly received by Fransicans. To receive a Bishop was a big thing back then. The men would greet him and his entourage on horseback, firing rifles into the air to announce his arrival. The women would throw their shawls on the ground in front of His Excellency. A feast was held and confirmations were performed.

Bishop Tamaron of Durango was received with the lavish welcome in Pecos, southeast of Santa Fe. But something curious happened there. And from this curious thing was born the Northern New Mexican legend of el maldición de Dios or the curse of the bishop.

Days after Bishop Tamaron was received in Pecos some local men gathered and mocked the Bishop. A man dressed like the Bishop and pretended to be received. He made fun of Tamaron. He mocked him.

Later that afternoon when the man went out to tend to his sheep he encountered a bear. He did not survive. The bear killed the man. After this event the Indians feared the Bishop and believed the death of the man was a curse for mocking the His Excellency. From then on they feared and respected the Bishops.

Bishop of Durango Laureano Zubiria was one of the most influential Bishops on New Mexico history. He visited Northern New Mexico in 1830, 1833 and 1848. Each of these journeys likely took months at a time.

After Mexican independence the Fransiscans lost their support from Spain. They pulled out of New Mexico. Zubiria recruited seminarians educated in Durango to return to New Mexico. He had locals ordained in the Cathedral of Durango and then sent them back to tend to the flock in New Mexico.

In 1850 the Diocese of Durango's administration of New Mexico ended after 250 years.

"We have a great debt owed to the Bishops and people of Durango," said Monsignor Jerome Martinez y Alire during today's visit.

Héctor González Martínez, the present day Bishop of Durango, puts on his Mitre.
The plaza in front of the Cathedral of Durango
A fountain in the plaza
La cupula in the center of the plaza

La Virgen in front of the Cathedral

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