Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/239

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207
FRAY MARTIN DE VALENCIA.

present name is Puebla de Zaragoza, in honor of the brave general who defended it against the French, on the 5th of May, 1862.

Thus the efforts of the viceroys were ably seconded by the zeal of the first ecclesiastics of the church of Mexico. Fray Juan de Zumarraga was the first bishop presented by the emperor to Pope Clement VII., in 1527. The next year he arrived at Vera Cruz, bearing the titles of bishop-elect and protector of the Indians, honors which he fairly earned by his interest in them and his devotion to their cause.

These holy men worked zealously with the natives and by adroitly substituting for their heathen superstitions, the legends and miracles of the Catholic Church succeeded in engrafting the new faith upon the old without violence. The Indians accepted readily the narration of the life of the Saviour, his miraculous power, his spotless life, his death upon the cross, but their favorite object of worship and reverence was from the first the Holy Virgin, the mother of Jesus. To her they transferred all the fervor of their idolatry. Her image has always been to them most sacred, her shrine the constant place for votive offerings of flowers, ribbons, and all small objects of familiar use. To the superstitious minds of these people, it was possible to introduce every form of miracle without danger of incredulity; they were soon closely bound to the Church by their faith in the supernatural interference of the heavenly powers, and above all of the Virgin. These superstitions still remain in Mexico, and are so closely held