He spoke the language

Antonio de Remesal (c. 1570–1627?)
Historia general de las Indias Ocidentales, y particvlar de la gouernacion de Chiapa, y Guatemala: escriuese juntamente los principios de la religion de nuestro glorioso padre Santo Domingo, y de las demas religiones…
En Madrid : Por Francisco de Abarcay Angulo, 1620
Trinity College Cambridge X.11.42, p. 575

Key to the success of the friars as missionaries in the Americas was their ability to learn the many local languages. By 1646 the Guatemalan Provincial could boast that his friars preached in as many as seventeen different languages. By tradition, the friars were also used to making long journeys on foot. This, too, stood them in good stead on the mission. A later historian of their work, Antonio de Remesal OP, proudly recorded such achievements. His History of the Dominican Province of Chiapas and Guatemala contains a list of the Dominican friars who had died in Guatemala, noting their age at the time of death, the year, and also their contribution to the mission. Many of the entries note that the friar had learnt to speak the local vernacular. The entry for Fray Alfonso de Villalua, who died in 1563, aged 50, reads: ‘He spoke the Indians’ language, was Professor of Theology, a preacher, a highly learned man, Prior and Provincial of Guatemala. He carried out a visitation of the Province three times on foot.’ (‘Lengua de los Indios, Lector de Teologia, predicador, hombre doctissimo, Prior de Guatemala y Provincial. Tres vezes visitò la Provincia a pie.’) This and other entries allow us to see the relatively short life expectancy of the first missionaries in comparison with those who succeeded them.

Courtesy of The Master and Fellows of Trinity College Cambridge.

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