Servando Teresa de Mier


Servando Teresa de Mier

Fray Servando Teresa de Mier (in full, José Servando Teresa de Mier Noriega y Guerra) (October 18, 1765, Monterrey, Nuevo León, New Spain—December 3, 1827, Mexico City) was a Roman Catholic priest and a famous preacher and politician in New Spain.

Education

At the age of 16 he entered the Dominican Order in Mexico City. He studied philosophy and theology in the College of Porta Coeli, and was ordained a priest. By the age of 27 he had earned his doctorate and was a famous preacher.

The sermon

On December 12, 1794, in the presence of Viceroy Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca y Branciforte, marqués de Branciforte, Archbishop Manuel Omaña y Sotomayor and the members of the Audiencia of New Spain, Mier preached a sermon questioning the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe 263 years before. December 12 is the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, so this must have shocked his listeners.

In exile

For his "disrespect", Archbishop Nuñez de Haro condemned Mier to ten years exile in the convent of Las Caldas, near Santander, Spain; a perpetual ban from teaching, preaching or hearing confessions; and the loss of his doctoral degree.

In 1796 he was granted permission to present his case to the Council of the Indies. However on his return from the Council, he took the wrong road and was arrested again. This time he was confined to the Franciscan convent in Burgos. From there, in 1801, he escaped and took refuge in Bayonne. From Bayonne he passed to Bordeaux and later to Paris. There he was interpreter for the rich Peruvian José Sarea, Count of Gijón.

Together with Simón Rodríguez, Simón Bolívar's ex-teacher, he opened an academy in Paris to teach Spanish and to translate the "Atala" of François-René de Chateaubriand. (The "Atala" was set in Louisiana, with an Indian heroine.) Mier also wrote a dissertation against Constantin-François de Chasseboeuf, comte de Volney.

In Paris he came to know Lucas Alamán, then traveling as a student but later an important conservative politician in Mexico, Baron Alexander von Humboldt, the Duke of Montmorency, and Chateaubriand. In 1802 he left the Dominican Order and became a secular priest in Rome.

When he returned to Madrid, he was again apprehended, this time for a satire he had written supporting Mexican independence. He was sent to the reformatory in Seville, from which he escaped in 1804. However, he was again arrested and returned to prison, where he spent three years. Then the pope named him his domestic prelate, because he had converted two rabbis to Catholicism.

In the war between France and Spain, he returned to Spain as military chaplin of the Volunteers of Valencia. He was present at many battles. In Belchite he was taken prisoner by the French, but he was able to escape again (the fifth time). He presented himself to General Blake, who recommended him to the Junta of Seville for his services. The Regency in Cádiz granted him a pension of 3,000 pesos annually.

He moved to London, where he collaborated with José María Blanco on "El Español", a newspaper that supported the independence movements in Latin America.

Return to New Spain

In London he met the Spanish revolutionary Francisco Javier Mina. Mina convinced him to join an expedition to New Spain to fight for its independence. They sailed for New Spain on May 15, 1816. With the capture of the insurgents' fort at Soto la Marina on June 13, 1817, Mier was taken prisoner again, this time by the royalists. He was sent to the castle of San Carlos de Perote, thence to the dungeons of the Inquisition, and finally, in 1820, to Havana. Escaping for a sixth time, he fled to Philadelphia, where he remained until the consummation of Mexican independence.

In February 1822 he returned to Mexico, at Veracruz, but was again taken prisoner and held at the castle of San Juan de Ulúa, still in control of the Spanish. The first Mexican constituent congress was able to secure his release; he became a deputy for Nuevo León.

He opposed the Mexican Empire under Agustín de Iturbide, and for this reason was arrested again. He was imprisoned in the convent of Santo Domingo, but on January 1, 1823 he escaped again, for the seventh and last time.

As a member of the constituent congress

He was elected a deputy to the second constituent congress. On December 13, 1823 he delivered his famous speech "Discurso de las profecias" (loosely translated, "Prophetic Discourse"). In this speech he argued for a centralized republic or in the event of a federal system being adopted, for its being in moderation. He was among the signers of the Act Constituting the Federation and of the Federal Constitution of the United States of Mexico. Mexico's first president, Guadalupe Victoria, invited him to live in the palace.

Death and further adventures

Nearing death, he invited his friends to a party to bid him farewell (November 16, 1827). He gave a speech justifying his life and opinions, and a few days later he died. He was interred with great honor in the church of Santo Domingo. In 1861 his body was exhumed, together with 12 others. All the bodies were mummified.

The mummies were exhibited under the claim they were victims of the Inquisition. Some of the mummies, including Mier's, were sold to an Italian who accepted the claim. His mummie was later shown in Brussels ["The Memoirs of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier (Library of Latin America)", Oxford University Press, USA, October 29, 1998.] but what became of his remains after that is unknown.

His name is inscribed in letters of gold on the Wall of Honor of the Legislative Palace of San Lázaro, the building that today houses the Chamber of Deputies in Mexico City.

Writings

Mier published many speeches, sermons and letters on religion and politics, including the following:

*"Cartas de un americano al español", 1811-13.
*"Historia de la revolución de Nueva España", 2 vols., London: 1813. 2nd ed., Mexico City: 1922.
*"Apología y relaciones de su vida bajo el título de Memorias", Madrid: 1924. 2nd ed., Mexico City: 1946.
*"The Memoirs of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier (Library of Latin America)", Oxford University Press, USA (October 29, 1998).

References

*"Mier Noriega y Guerra, José Servando Teresa de," "Enciclopedia de México", vol. 9. Mexico City: 1987.


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