Tuesday, August 21, 2012

August 21, 2012

Historical Revision in the Nation's Oldest City

I have mentioned many times throughout this blog that I am particularly driven to remember and honor the French Protestants killed near St. Augustine, Florida, in September and October 1565. It is my “calling,” a cause I feel I was chosen to uphold, and I think often of what I can do to keep these men’s memories alive. The Matanzas massacre is a story not very often told. Many might think it insignificant, but I personally feel it was a huge part of early American history and an invaluable reminder of the necessity of religious freedom.

While looking for references about the Huguenots of Matanzas, I came across an online book called “The Catholic Church in the United States of America,” which mentioned St. Augustine founder Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. It has always bothered me how I see terms like “the Matanzas massacre revised” and “rethinking the Matanzas massacre.’ It is as if people seek to diminish the horror. This particular book said of Menéndez: “There is but one blot on his fame, that of the Matanzas massacre, nor is the shame of it palliated when it is ascribed, not to fanaticism or bigotry, but to the reasons assigned by his master – the desire not to risk his own people. If this was, indeed, his motive, it was a worthy one.”

Stop there. This is, sadly, a sentiment I have heard before, that the massacre was “justified” if it was done so that the Spaniards would not starve. They apparently could not risk ‘more mouths to feed.’ Yet even by the cruel standards of 1565, slaughtering Frenchmen because they were a “burden” was not “worthy.” The author went on to say that he does not believe it was done purely for self-preservation, but then continued, “But we must not allow our judgment to be so outraged by this cold-blooded murder as to blind us to his {Menéndez’s} signal merits . . .”

If he had shown remorse, asked forgiveness, expressed regret, I agree. But he never did. It seems that some are desperate to prove the Matanzas massacre was not a religious martyrdom, even though there are various letters (from Menéndez himself and from his chroniclers, including Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales) that clearly state it was done for religious reasons. ‘Evil sect’ is but one way these men referred to the Huguenots’ Protestant faith. I have never understood why I feel so strongly about the 245 Frenchmen slaughtered fourteen miles from St. Augustine. I have been visiting the city for over a decade; it is deep in my heart and soul, and I have stood at the spot where the men were killed. I cannot bear to hear people justifying, revising, re-editing.

I will not forget.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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