Proto-Martyrs of the Americas
Despite being conquered and having the institutions of their religion
destroyed, the Aztecs did not readily adopt the new religion brought by the Spanish. This
was also true for the surrounding peoples. The story of the proto-martyrs of the Americas
clearly illustrates this.
Since the people of the Republic of Tlaxcala had assisted the Spanish in
the conquest of Mexico, as the city and valley of the Aztecs is still known, they were the
first to be evangelized by the Church. The first converts were four senators of the
Republic, aristocracy from among the ruling families. In 1520 they were baptized, with
Cortes acting as godfather. However, many of the aristocracy and people resisted the new
way. Among these were the families of two boys, Cristobalito and Antonio (identified here
by their Christian names). Catechized by the Franciscans, they acted as interpreters in
helping teach the faith to others. Returning home one day in 1527, Cristobalito was
attacked by his own father and killed "in odium fidei" (in hatred of the faith).
In 1529 the father of Antonio visited the same punishment upon his thirteen year old son,
and upon Juan, his servant and brother in the faith. Pope John Paul II beatified all three
at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his last trip to Mexico in May of 1990, calling
them the "First Martyrs (Proto-martyrs) of the Americas."
This mural from the Seminary of Tlaxcala shows the Proto-Martyrs Antonio, Cristobalito and Juan (left to right) in
life, in death and in glory.