Expulsion of Jesuits in 1767 became a 'March of Death'
jim lamb

TUBAC-The expulsion of Jesuit priests in this area of the new world in 1767 turned out to be a "march of death," a well-known historian told a Tubac audience Saturday.

Four of eight missionaries in one part of what's known as the Pimeria Alta died on their way to house arrest and three others died while being held in Spain. The fate of the other is unknown.

Don Garate, chief of interpretation at Tumacacori National Historical Park, told some of what led to the suppression by the king of the black-robed members of the Society of Jesus in Spain and its territories.

There were other Jesuits from other parts of the Pimeria Alta who were also exiled.

But the eight Garate discussed were placed under arrest by men led by Juan Bautista de Anza II, a highly regarded Spanish officer and explorer who once commanded the fort at Tubac.

The expulsion and suppression was ordered by Spanish King Charles III in February 1767.

The orders were sealed and the actual seizure in Mexico City didn't occur until June 25, 1767.

"There weren't any faxes in those day," Garate said.

Clear orders

King Charles' orders were emphatic. "I invest you with all my authority and all my royal power to descend immediately with arms on the Jesuit establishments in your district" to arrest them and seal their property.

They were to be marched to a port and "If after your embarkation there is left behind a single Jesuit either sick or dying in your department, you shall be punished with death.

"I the king."

The Jesuits were missionaries, for the most part well-educated, often coming from wealthy families.

Their questioning minds and challenges to authority often annoyed the king, the military and the establishment.

By August, the Spanish soldiers in Sonora had taken their Jesuits to Mátape and readied them for the march to Guymas for a ship south.

Anza turned back there.

Carried out order

Garate said from a line or two in Anza's writing he believes the captain objected the expulsion, but he was a loyal Spanish solder and carried out the royal order.

Garate, a Basque like Anza, is working on the second book of a three on Anza.

Another captain from the area who took the priests part of the way to Guymas, Juan Jose Bergosa, wrote, "I hope this will be the last such commission that I will have in my life because God did not give me the stomach for such deceit."

Dominicans and Franciscans eventually came to the Pimeria Alta to minister to the natives.

The Franciscans are credited with building some of the mission churches, including the one at Tumacacori.

Eventually the priests arrived at Guymas, a hot, humid port of the Gulf of California to await a boat to take them part of the way to Mexico City.

A chart prepared by Garate shows that priests Bartolomé Saenz, Nicolas Perrera. Francisco Villarroya and Juan Nentvig died en route and Carlos de Roxas, Ignacio Pffefercorn and Miguel Almela died in Spain and the fate of the eighth priest, Andres Michel, isn't known.

Eventually, the Order of Jesus was suppressed by the pope, but some found shelter in Russia under Catherine the Great and others were sheltered in Brazil by the bishop there.

The Jesuits were eventually re-instated.

jlamb@gvnews.com | 625-5511 x 27

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