Personalities: Fray Junipero Serra and Pedro Cieza de Leon commemorated on Spanish stamps

Personalities: Fray Junipero Serra and Pedro Cieza de Leon commemorated on Spanish stamps

This issue is dedicated to Popular Characters, and commemorates the names of Fray Junipero Serra and the 300th anniversary of his birth; and Pedro Cieza de Leon, explorer and chronicler of the Indies.

Fray Junipero Serra, named Miquel Joseph Serra, was born in Petra, Mallorca in 1713 and died in Monterrey, California in 1784. He studied with the Franciscans and entered the order as a monk, changing his name when he took his vows. In 1749, he was sent with other Franciscans to New Spain, now Mexico, where he was a missionary in Sierra Gorda, Queretano, preaching the gospel in various parts of the country. After the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain in 1767, Fray Junipero and other monks were sent to Lower and Upper California to found a range of missions reaching up to the bay of San Francisco in the USA. Over the years, these missions became important cities, such as San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento. The missions were set up peacefully and, as the population was converted to Catholicism, the monks provided them with seeds and animals, and taught them how to plough, animal husbandry, construction and cloth weaving. He was beatified in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

Pedro Cieza de Leon (Llerena, Badajoz, 1520 – Seville, 1554), came from a wealthy family and left for the Americas as a soldier when he was just 15 years old. He took part with the explorer Alonso de Caceres in the expedition to San Sebastian de Buenavista and Urate. He also founded the cities of Anserma, Cartago and Antioquia in Colombia with Jorge Robledo. In 1548, he set off for Lima, Peru, where he was appointed official chronicler of the Indies. He travelled round Peru and Bolivia for two years collecting stories and information directly from the indigenous tribes to write his work. On returning to Spain in 1551, he settled in Seville, where he published the First Part of the Chronicle of Peru two years later in 1553. He died the following year, without publishing the rest of the work. The second and third parts of the Chronicle of Peru were published in the 19th and 20th centuries respectively. His work is characterised by its impartiality and, as well as history, there is an in-depth description of the geography, ethnography, flora and fauna of the Andes.

The first stamp depicts Fray Junipero and a map of Baja California. The second stamp depicts a sculpture of Pedro Cieza de Leon and the symbol of a pen, with the square of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento in Llerena, Badajoz in the background.

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