Request of an Naive to become a Friar in the Tercera Order de Penitencia de N.S.P.S. Francisco
A letter of an Native nobleman requesting admittance to one religious order to become a priest – the church in New Spain was very wary of Indians occupying ecclesiastical positions. In fact, for many centuries by decree of the Mexican Council the Natives were forbidden altogether to become friars. It was a matter of education- becoming a priest was the gateway for upper studies (the universities and schools were mostly managed by the Church) and the Spanish wanted the Natives to remain ignorant. Later they agreed to allow noble Natives, and a century later all Natives. However, the Spanish never fully agreed with that and every chance they had, they made them feel unwelcomed. They left the Natives in positions as local friars in their towns, the jobs that no Spanish friar really wanted.
Zinzunzan (Tzintzunzan), Michoacan: Jose Nicolas Reyes, an Native from a noble family of “caciques” (Native chiefs) of the city of Tzinzunzan requests permission to join the Tercera orden de Penitencia de N.S.P.S. Francisco to become a priest:“pido por amor de dios se me conceda tomar el hábito de terzero en esta venerable orden…para mejor servir a S.M. y salvar mi alma…” (for the love of God I request permission to be a priest in this venerable order…for better serving the King and to save my soul”. In 1585, the III Mexican Council prohibited that the Natives could become priests. This provision served to discourage the advanced studies among the Indians. Being that the Church managed the schooling system in New Spain, by forbidding them access to become friars, they prevented them from learning medicine, Latin, law, grammar, astrology, etc. However, in 1588 a Royal Decree of the King of Spain Felipe II allowed Indians to become priests only if they were sons of Indian chiefs or of noble descent. In 1725 another royal decree established that all Indians could become priests, even if they didn’t descend from a noble or notable family. However, in the practice most Indians would be marginalized from all the important ecclesiastical positions; mostly, the Indians could aspire to become local priests in their cities and towns.