Monday, November 4, 2013

National Black Catholic History Month: Who was the first black Catholic in the Americas?

Who was the first black Catholic in the Americas? Nobody knows for sure, but there are some historical candidates for the position.

Maybe it was Estevanico, the sixteenth-century man who was the first person in modern recorded history both to have been born in Africa and to have spent time in what is now the continental USA (it's been rumored that he never gave up the Islamic faith of his youth, though).

Maybe it was even Pedro Alonso Nino, who sailed the ocean blue with Christopher Columbus in 1492 (there's a Facebook page devoted to him, too!). It could even have been Juan Valiente, the sixteenth-century conquistador who traveled with Pedro de Alvarado's trips to Chile and Guatemala and helped develop Santiago de Chile. Or Juan Garrido (John the Handsome), said to have been a freedman of West African heritage who traveled with Hernan Cortes to Mexico (and even may have had some role in the Tenochtitlan massacre).

We may never know.

We know for certain, though, that more than a decade before the first enslaved Africans were brought to U.S. shores, a child of African heritage born on January 3, 1606, was baptized in St. Augustine, Florida. The baptismal records are reportedly still in the storied city's archives.

(Image via

It's National Black Catholic History Month
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