On February 26, 1549, Bishop Antonio Valdivieso, OP, was killed in Leon, Nicaragua, by the governor’s son and his henchmen.
This Dominican friar had for many years been an advocate for the indigenous people of Nicaragua. Born in Spain, he went as a missionary to Nicaragua and, seeing the way the Spaniards treated the native peoples, he began to speak up. At one point, he returned to Spain to denounce the crimes against them. It is not clear that he was heard, but he was appointed bishop of Leon, Nicaragua.
Returning to Central America, he traveled to what is now Gracias, Lempira, Honduras, where the Spanish crown has established the Real Audiencia de los Confines, the high court of justice for the region. He was ordained bishop in Gracias by his fellow Dominican, Bartolomé de las Casas, and two other bishops. He and las Casas stayed there for some time trying to get the court to really defend the native peoples but finally left. Las Casas returned to his diocese in Chiapas, Mexico, where he continued to advocate for the native peoples until he felt forced out and continued his advocacy in Spain.
Bishop Antonio Validivieso went to Leon and finally arrived there despite the efforts of Spanish soldiers to prevent his entry into the city.
He continued his advocacy until his martyrdom. He is an example of a number of bishops in “New Spain” who spoke out for justice for the native peoples and suffered for it.
In the late twentieth century in Latin America there arose other bishops with the courage and the compassion to be in solidarity with the poor and with the native peoples – most notably, in Central America, Bishop Samuel Ruiz in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico, Monseñor Juan Gerardi in Guatemala, and Blessed Monseñor Oscar Romero of San Salvador.
We need more bishops like them.