Benavides, Alonso de (ca. 1578–1635)

By: Robert S. Weddle

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 1, 1994

Father Alonso de Benavides, custos of the Franciscan missions in New Mexico from 1626 to 1629, the son of Pedro Alonso Nieto and Antonia Murato de Benavides, was born on the island of San Miguel in the Azores about 1578. He is noted for his memorials, which comprise one of the basic sources for Southwest history. He arrived in New Spain in 1598 and took vows with the Franciscans some three years later in Mexico City. Benavides filled the office of novice master at Puebla for a time and was later associated with the Inquisition, while residing at the friary of Cuernavaca. He was appointed custos in New Mexico in 1623 while serving as guardian at Temanatla. He did not reach New Mexico to assume his new duties until January 24, 1626.

Although his work was handicapped by a shortage of priests, Benavides was able to extend missionary activity in the province with ten new missions. When Fray Esteban de Peréa came to succeed him in April 1629, he brought twenty-nine new missionaries. Benavides returned to Mexico City in March 1630 and proceeded forthwith to Spain. He arrived the following August to present his 1630 memorial to King Philip IV. He then went to Agreda to interview Mother María de Jesús de Agreda about her relationship with Indians of the American Southwest, who claimed to have been instructed in the Catholic faith by the mysterious "Lady in Blue." Madre María told him that through spiritual translocation she had visited among the Indians many times to take them the divine message.

From 1633 to 1635 Benavides was in Rome as confessor to Francisco de Melo. During that time he presented to Pope Urban VIII his "Memorial of 1634," a revision and expansion of his 1630 treatise. On returning to Spain, Benavides received royal appointment as auxiliary bishop of Goa, India. He sailed for his new assignment on April 4, 1635, and died on the voyage. The two Benavides memorials, which complement rather than duplicate each other, are rich in geographical detail, descriptions of mission life, and ethnographic information, some of it pertaining to the Apaches and Jumanos of the Texas plains.

Alonso de Benavides, Benavides' Memorial of 1630, trans. Peter P. Forrestal (Washington: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1954).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robert S. Weddle, “Benavides, Alonso de,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994

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