Fray Bernardino de Sahagún: The New World’s First Ethnographer

Little known today is the courageous Catholic friar, linguist, and ethnographer Fray Bernardino de Sahagún.  He was born in Sahagún, Spain, in 1499 and drank deeply from the well of Renaissance humanism that had been washing over Europe for several decades.  Mastering Latin at an early age, he startled his instructors with the intensity and depth of his observational powers.  He arrived in Mexico (New Spain) in 1529 with a group of Church prelates whose job it would be to convert the natives to Catholicism.

Continue reading