Manualito de Parrocos-1839


By Rev. Juan Romero

The Manualito de Párrocos, a bilingual (Latin-Spanish) ritual published by Padre Martinez on his own press in 1839, can lay claim to being the first book published in New Mexico. The Manualito (Handbook for Pastors), with its heft of fifty-five pages, definitely qualifies as a book.  The booklet Cuarderno de Ortografía, a speller of twenty-two pages, was published on the same press about five years earlier than the Manualito.  However, since the Cuaderno is only half the heft of the Manualito, the speller might more properly be called a booklet, and thus not qualify as a book.  What makes a book a book?  When is a publication a “booklet” instead of a book?  Who decides?  What are the criteria?  If the Manualito is a book, and the Cuaderno is a booklet, then the Manualito is the first BOOK published in New Mexico.

Both were printed on the same press that Josiah Gregg, author of Commerce of the Prairies, brought to Santa Fe in 1834.  The speller was printed in Santa Fe that same year, and was dedicated to the children of the Martinez clan.  The Padre, a strong advocate for education on every level, surely had something to do with that.  Padre Martinez obtained the press and took it from Santa Fe to Taos where he used it—among other things-- to publish the Manualito for the young men being ordained and assigned to serve at various parts of the New Mexico that was at least three times larger than its configuration today. 

The Manualito is a practical handbook or “manual” for priests to use in their spiritual ministrations to the Catholic people in the priest-starved regions of the northern frontier of the Mexican diocese of Durango while the territory was part of the Republic of Mexico. For a few years, Padre Martinez, from his residence in Taos, had been preparing young men in their earliest stages of formation for priesthood.  They would then go to Durango for their theological formation where Padre Martinez had done his studies, and afterwards return as priests to serve the people of northern New Mexico.

The Manualito de Párrocos was a “handbook for pastors” to be used in the celebration of the sacraments of baptism and marriage as well as the funeral rite.  It also contained some common blessings and the ritual for the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick that used to be known as Extreme Unction.  The Manualito is a jewel among the publications on the Padre’s press.  The copy of Manualito de Parrocos, belonging to the Archives of the Sate of New Mexico, is to be found in its collection of the Benjamin M. Read papers.  The copy of Manualito belonging to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California is located in its Rare Book and Manuscript Collection within the William Ritch Papers and Manuscripts. The Huntington’s copy of the Manualito was much too brittle and delicate for the Library to copy or scan for my use. Yale University is a treasure trove of works written or published by Padre Martinez, but it does not have a copy of the Manualito. The heirs of Pascual Martinez, the youngest brother of Padre Martinez, own a copy of Manualito in mint condition.

Padre Martinez’ publication of the bilingual (Latin -Spanish) ritual Manualito de Párrocos is s pioneer achievement of distinction.  It was way ahead of its time by almost a century and a half.  Only relatively recently, since the mid ‘70s, have  pastoral centers such as the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio (now called the Mexican American Catholic College) began preparing and publishing bilingual (Spanish-English) rituals. 

The publication of the Manualito corresponds to an obvious spiritual need of a deeply religious people living in northern New Mexico (that included southern Colorado during the first third of the nineteenth century when priests were quite scarce during the era of secularization.  It spiritual impact was great over the broad area of New Mexico where the clergy trained by Padre Martinez served.  Thereafter for many years, a number of priests working in New Mexico used the Manualito de Parracos for blessings, spiritual comfort and administration of sacraments to the people throughout New Mexico.

Related Materials:

Manualito de Parrocos

Virtual book-Manualito De Parrocos

© 2004-2020  New Mexico State Record Center and Archives