Reverend Francisco Stodola, Pastor
November 30, 2023 by
Reverend Francisco Stodola, Pastor


By Reverend Francisco Stodola, Pastor

Nuestra Señora del Rosario Catholic Church

Laredo, Texas

I am grateful to the representatives of Regina Catholica for inviting me to share with its followers the importance that Queen Isabella has for Americans.  In recent weeks I have spoken to numerous people about the prospect of this 15th century figure being elevated to the ranks of sainthood and the response was highly favorable.  Not only do people feel that it is warranted, but also, highly overdue.

Though I am unfamiliar with what is being taught in the textbook of school aged children in the United States nowadays, I can say that in the past, the teaching that was given regarding Queen Isabella was always inextricably linked to the voyage that Columbus made to the Americas in 1492 at her behest.  Columbus, in recent years, as we all know, has become, at best, a controversial historical figure, and at worst, the man who put in motion an oppressive system of colonization that would last for centuries.  But as one who is guided by reason, I would submit that the extremes in any argument are wrought with emotion and are usually not representative of what is actually fact.

If nothing else, we should analyze the viewpoint that the Spanish explorers of the 16th century held toward the native peoples as opposed to the viewpoint held by the British explorers of the 17th century.  In the former, the Spanish saw the native peoples as souls to be converted to Christ.  They intermarried with them and formed a new race, composed of native blood mixed with European blood.  They were given a religion and a rich cultural heritage has developed over the centuries. In the case of the latter, the indigenous peoples were looked upon as savages to be exterminated.   According to the Colonial Office of the National Archives of the United Kingdom, the British colonization was marked by “wars, broken treaties, and discriminatory policies that decimated the indigenous North American populations and still impact Native Americans today.”  The United States, unlike Mexico and countries further south does not have mestizaje which is the mixing of cultures.  Our native Americans were sent to reservations, or at least those who survived were.

This was not the policy of Queen Isabella, who sponsored not just one voyage to the New World, but nine.  According to the instructions she gave to Columbus and his men (which are available online (courtesy of the New York Historical Society) they were to:

  1. Promote the Catholic Faith in order to save souls
  2. Impose a system of laws based on social justice
  3. See that the Indians were respected and kept safe
  4. Only marry native women if they were in agreement and avoid all forced marriages
  5. Negotiate with the Indians so that their financial tribute to the Crown would not be overly burdensome
  6. Establish towns and forts for the protection of the native peoples
  7. Protect trees and natural resources
  8. Safeguard a system for the smelting of gold
  9. Protect the Native peoples against foreign invaders
As far as how the figure of Queen Isabella is important to Americans today, all of these previously mentioned facts are indicative of a rich cultural, legal, economic, and religious heritage that have come to the Americas through her.  Hispanic Catholics now form a religious majority in Texas, family law and water law are derived from the Spanish rule, while mestizaje does not exist in Anglo culture, it is very prevalent in Texas, the missions of Fray Junípero Serra in California and the San Antonio missions of Fray Antonio de Olivares in Texas give an account, not only of the Spanish establishment of  the Christian Faith in the new World, but they also depict how the native peoples were instructed in methods of farming and how they were taught different trades so as to make them less nomadic.

With all of the talk of global climate change and damage to the environment, it would seem that Queen Isabella was centuries ahead of her time. Among her detailed instructions, we find this:  “We have been informed that good practice has not been followed in the cutting of brazilwood, many trees being cut down to the base so that more dye can be obtained, thus doing great damage to the forests, you are to give orders that no one is to cut down the trees at the base.”

The other great contribution of Queen Isabella was that of a common language.  Currently over 418 million people speak Spanish in America.  There are 42 million Spanish speakers in the Untied States, 55% of whom were born in the U.S.  The second most spoken language in South America is Portuguese.  Queen Isabella’s mother was Isabella of Portugal.  It seems ironic that in Spain today there is such a debate over regional languages when one of the greatest legacies that Spain left to the New World was the Castilian tongue.

But above all, and foremost in the Queen’s wishes for the New World, and this is what she mentions first, “you are to work diligently in those things that pertain to the service of God, . . .it is our will that the Indians convert to Our Holy Catholic Faith and their souls be saved, since this is the greatest benefit We can desire for them.”  

This latter point is sufficient enough to warrant sainthood.  Mothers throughout the world lovingly nurture their children in the Faith from the time they are baptized.  The merits attached to converting an entire continent are immeasurable.

Share this post