[The following entry is from guest blogger, Carlos Tapia, a Sutro student volunteer and a student at SF State University majoring in History. He supplied all the text and images that follow.]

“Dad al César lo que es del César, y a Dios lo que es de Dios”. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. These words were preached in a sermon delivered by Father Pedro Josef Mendizabal on September 30, 1810 in Queretaro, Mexico.

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Title page of Fr. Mendizabal’s sermon

It was delivered just a couple days after Father Miguel Hidalgo’s famous “Cry of Dolores” (El Grito de Dolores), which incited Mexico’s war for independence. However, unlike Hidalgo’s speech for an independent Mexico, Mendizabal’s sermon stressed the need for the suppression of Mexican revolutionaries. While delivering his sermon, Mendizabal wastes no time in vilifying the revolutionary insurgents and reiterates that the people must remain loyal to their faithful king. Although Mendizabal’s stance is from a religious point of view, it nonetheless offers intriguing insight into the relationship between religion and monarchy as well as how faithful the Catholic Church was to King Ferdinand. Thus the words, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”, perfectly summarizes Mendizabal and the Church’s stance on the Mexico’s independence movement.

 

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The beginning paragraphs of Mendizabal’s sermon, which comprise the first reading, is where the majority of his arguments are presented and in my opinion is where my curiosity spiked. Like any religious figure would begin speaking, Mendizabal warns his audience of a grave threat, of people who pretend to be Catholic worshipers but in reality are wolves in sheep clothing. In turn, the people must take up arms, just as the Archangel Michael did, and destroy the enemies of peace. He follows this up by asking the people whose rosette and cockades do the people wear and whose image is featured on the Spanish Medallion? Mendizabal answers, “King Fernando of course, ‘Rey Catolico de España y de las Indias’. Thus give to King Fernando what is his, and to God what is his” (Mendizabal 2). The entirety of Mendizabal’s sermon can be attributed to that specific prayer of Caesar, which again emphasizes the relationship between God and a monarch. Mendizabal asks another question which goes as follows, “Can we, with clarity, become true vassals of Fernando, uphold the rights of his throne, and be true Christians if we follow in the perverse footsteps of Dolores, de Allende, Aldama, Abasolo, and their evil minions? Not for certain, but I will state the answer in my sermon” (2). It is plainly observant that Mandizabal is strongly opposed to the Mexican insurgents and plays on the people’s fear of not being faithful Christians if they were to support such individuals. It also once again stresses the idea that any unlawful acts against the king is a direct act against God. Further on into the first reading, he once again warns the people to, “not be seduced by their promise of false happiness” and calls the named revolutionaries as disciples of the infamous Napoleon (4).

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Despite Mendizabal’s outcry against Dolores and other insurgents, he somehow manages to also call for unity through an interesting approach. In a brief section, Mendizabal discusses about the history of Spanish blood ties. He mentions the Gachupin, the Spanish father, grandfather, and uncle born on the opposite side of the ocean. He also mentions the Criollo, the Spanish son, grandson, and nephew born in the New World. By enforcing the shared blood ties, Mandizabal argues that, “other than being true sons of the Church, we are also without doubt equal vassals of Fernando” (5). Mendizabal plays an interesting point regarding race, which to me is unique because it calls for unity between two distinct races that nonetheless share the same blood. He also argues that the two should not murder one another. However, he finishes the first reading by stating that if the people give to God what is God’s, “he’ll take up arms against Allende, Aldama, and the evil minions of Dolores” (6).

In the second sermon, Mendizabal explains how the ten commandments have been violated by the insurgents. The numbering of the commandments mentioned in Mendizabal’s sermon is different compared to today’s but they still mean same. Beginning with the fourth commandment of honoring your father and mother, he applies this concept to not parents born in Europe, but also towards the Spanish Sovereignty and the motherland (7-8). For the fifth commandment, which upholds the divinity of the Creator, Mandizabal argues that the insurgents have seduced those who are ignorant by encouraging ideas that contradict the commandments. Lastly, the seventh commandment that Mendizabal mentions, states that thou shall not steal. For Mendizabal’s argument, he states that the insurgents have stolen the hard sweat and work of the people and have destroyed the rights that they were born with as well as stealing the good and riches of their parents (9). Mendizabal ends his sermon with a prayer to God and calls for victory against Napoleon, to stop those that threaten to destroy the Catholic religion, and calls for peace and tranquility.

Mendizabal’s sermon was a well written transcript in that it discussed the notions between church and state in the 19th century and the racial discussion between the ganchupin and the criollo. Aside from those two discussions, what I personally thought was intriguing was drawing comparison between the American Revolution and the Mexican War for Independence from a religious standpoint. Just as Mendizabal placed heavy emphasis on King Ferdinand’s given authority from God, the same can be said between King Edward III and the Church of England. King Edward III was the head and face of the Church of England, which many colonists, especially those deeply religious, saw that any act of rebellion was an act against the Church and God. That was one revelation that heavily sparked my interest to further delve into Mendizabal’s sermon and explore what similarities and differences did the church play in both American and Mexican independence. Mendizabal’s sermon is one that will catch the attention of anyone interested in notions of religion, government, and race.

–Carlos Tapia, SFSU History undergraduate class of 2019 and student volunteer at Sutro Library

List of References:

Mendizábal y Zubialdea, Pedro Josef de.:
Sermón que en el tercer día del solemne novenario de Nuestra Señora del Pueblito conducida en secreto … /predicó … Pedro Josef de Mendizábal..
   México : Arizpe, [1810].
  11 p. ;  20 cm..

Location Sutro Library ; Vault ; BX816.M6 C65
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