Pedro Moya de Contreras, Mexico City, 9th day of March,1573, size 450 x 320mm
SIR FRANCIS DRAKE’S ENGLISH PIRATES
Arrest Warrant For English Pirates Signed By The First Inquisitor of New Spain in 1573
Remarkable arrest warrant, signed by the Inquisitor of New Spain, directing the arrest and capture of 5 accused heretics, including two English Pirates, who had recently completed a daring jail break from prison in Mexico City.
This is an official arrest warrant, dated March 9, 1573, ordered by Pedro Moya de Contreras (c. 1528-1591), first inquisitor of the newly founded Mexican Inquisition, addressed to Don Alonso Sánchez de Miranda, Dean of Guadalajara.
Moya de Contreras arrived in New Spain in 1571, as the newly appointed inquisitor, thereafter rising to the office of Archbishop of Mexico City and finally Viceroy of New Spain (1584-1585). This two-fold letter is part of the legacy of the Inquisition in the New World, aimed at ecclesiastical authorities and their flock to raise awareness of the rampant menace of Lutheran individuals in Mexico.
Following the failed attempt by the fabled pirates Francis Drake and John Hawkins to seize San Juan de Ulúa in 1568, about 500 mostly English pirates remained stranded in New Spain. Over the course of the next several years, these 500 scattered throughout Mexico, where they intermingled with the locals. Some 77 of these fell into the hands of Luis Carvajal the elder, alcalde mayor of Tampico. Carvajal, a converso, was the patriarch of the Carvajal family which was later tragically tortured and murdered by the Inquisition as crypto-Jews. They were delivered to Mexico City as prisoners of war, and were given relatively minor sentences of forced labor in various places throughout Mexico.
With the arrival of Moya de Contreras in 1571, the remaining pirates were no longer considered as mere prisoners of war, but as heretics – “Luteranos” – and as such subject to the Inquisition’s regulations. In 1572, Pedro Moya de Contreras issued a general order for all remnants of the Hawkins expedition to be apprehended and put to trial in New Spain. As a result, about 36 were again rounded up, captured and condemned for heresy. This group was processed through the Inquisition’s court, where they were subjected to a grand auto-da-fe in 1574, the largest ever held.
Three of these pirates are mentioned in Moya’s letter to Don Alonso Sánchez de Miranda:
“Guillermo de Siles, a Frenchman of 24 years of age, small in height, with pale features, with little growth of hair on his face, small blue eyes (…)”
“Pablo Haquines de la Cruz (Paul Hawkins), an Englishman [who came] with the armada of John Hawkins, with sturdy shoulders and pale features, with little growth of hair on his face, of about 20 years of age (…)”
“Andres Martin (Andrew Martin) an Englishman with those from the said armada, young man without growth of hair, tall and slim, with pale features of about 18 years of age.”
The three had escaped from the Jail of the Inquisitor by burrowing under the walls of the cell in the middle of the night, an escape which was apparently previously unrecorded. The arrest warrant provides that should anyone contravene the order or give aid to these heretics, they will face the prospect of “latae sentenciae excommunication” including the sequestration of their possessions.
The actions of Pedro Moya de Contreras, at that time under the supervision of Pedro de los Ríos, chief inquisitor in Mexico, clearly reflect all new precepts and creeds from the Tridentine Council (1545-1563) brought along to the New World to reform the Catholic faith.
The following is an English Translation of the arrest warrant, provided by Boris Bruton:
We doctor don Pedro Moya de Contreras, apostolic inquisitor against vile heresy and apostasy, for the city of Mexico and Provinces of New Spain, by our authority apostolic etc., order you, Reverend don Alonso Sanchez de Miranda, dean of Guadalajara, commissary of this Holy Office, to arrest the persons of Gomes de Leon, his Majesty’s servant (or His Majesty’s scribe), resident of Puebla de Los Angeles, a man of about 30 years old, very fair of complexion, of a good height, wearing breeches with a short green cape; and Francisco Gonzales, captain, resident of Toluca, elderly man of about 50 years, grey-haired, short in size, scant beard, hooked nose and tanned as though coming from the mountains, dressed all in black. And William de Siles, Frenchman, about 24 years old, short, fair complected, scant blond beard, small blue eyes, dressed in doublet and pants of coarse cloth; And Pablo Hawkins de la Cruz, Englishman, one of those who came on the fleet of John Hawkins, young man somewhat stooped, heavy-set, fair, beardless, about 20 years old. And Andrew Martin, Englishman, member of the same fleet, young man, beardless, lanky, fair, about 18 years old. Both of these are fluent in Spanish.
Last Sunday. All these men, last Sunday night, the eighth of this month, about midnight, burrowed through one of the cells of this Holy Office and escaped. These men you may seize and remove from any church or any other sacred, exempted place, whether in your district or outside of it, in your own person or others, whom you shall choose by authority of this letter or in prosecution of this our order, as authorized on your own authority, relaying my own warning and order with respect to all the other towns and cities of your bishopric. You are to order, announce, and publish this order, so that no person, whether he be Spanish or indian of whatever class or distinction, shall receive, hide, shelter, help on their way, give any benefit or supplies or mounts (horses) to them;
and anyone who shall have information concerning these felons shall it to you or whomever you will have designated for this. Those who act contrary to this, will be liable for prosecution for having received and sheltered heretics, and in addition, they shall incur the penalty of automatic excommunion (excommunion latae sentenciae) and forfeiture of all their property. To accomplish all the foresaid, we give the power and authority for any person, Spanish, mestizo, indian, negro or mulato, even if he has not been appointed officially by you, to arrest these men, as noted, so that if anyone has given shelter or concealed them , let a report be made of it and send it to us without delay.
Written in Mexico City, the 9th day of March, 1573.
[Signed] Doctor Moya de Contreras / by order of the Señor Inquisitor / Pedro de los Rios
Condition Description: ALS, 2 ff., both folios tide marked on both left and right margins extending into written area, both folios with loss to fore margins, but written area unaffected.