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Letters from the Mariana Islands, 1678-1687


The Burns Library holds a collection of letters from Spanish missionaries to the Mariana Islands. These letters are now available digitally  for the first time.  The letters were all handwritten in Spanish between 1678 and 1687 by missionaries to the Marianas. They include descriptions of the European arrivals on the islands, Spaniard and indigenous peoples’ encounters, and daily life and Jesuit missionary work, as well as reports of Jesuit deaths, ship and supply status, and requests for additional materials and/or men.  The original letters are available for research in the Burns Library reading room.

The Mariana Islands were discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and colonized by Spain in 1668. These lightly populated volcanic islands are located in the western Pacific Ocean, just north of Guam and were named for Queen Mariana of Spain in honor of her financial support for the missionary work there. Starting in 1688, Jesuit mission work brought the construction of churches and religious schools in attempts to convert the indigenous people of the islands to the Catholic faith. Native inhabitants resisted and revolted against the Spaniards’ efforts at conversion.