Juan Bautista and Jacinto de los Ángeles
Bl. Jacinto de los Ángeles and Bl. Juan Bautista were born in 1660 in San Francisco Cajonos, State of Oaxaca, Mexico. These Servants of God were martyred together on 16 September 1700, confessing and defending the Catholic faith from the act of idolatry.
Juan Bautista was married to Josefa de la Cruz, and they had a daughter named Rosa. Jacinto de los Ángeles was married to Petrona de los Ángeles, and they had two children, Juan and Nicolasa. Jacinto was a descendant of important tribal chiefs. These two laymen belonged to the Zapoteca tribe of the State of Oaxaca. As qualified "attorneys general", their main duty consisted in watching over and ensuring the purity of the faith and the moral practices in the town, and, in helping the priest do so, especially in outlaying places. As Oaxaca was a newly evangelized area, "vigilance over the flock" was a priority since idolatry had been common practice before the arrival of the first Christian missionaries. In the Zapotecan social and religious hierarchy, to reach the grade of an attorney general, one began as an altar server, progressing to judge, councilor, municipal president, constitutional mayor, and finally attorney general. These categories were established by the Third Provincial Mexican Council in 1585. Juan and Jacinto, dutiful assistants of the priest, were loyal to the Catholic faith throughout their lives and, moved by their fidelity to the Church and the responsibility entrusted to them, remained staunch defenders of the truth. They communicated to the ecclesiastical authorities any problems or controversies that arose. The sacrifice of their lives is the testimony they have left to us of their supreme fidelity.
The letters written by two Dominican religious, Fr Alonso de Vargas and Fr Gaspar de los Reyes, in charge of the parish of San Francisco Cajonos, confirm that Juan and Jacinto were attorneys, and the testimonies of those who were present when they were killed contain important information about their martyrdom.
On 14 September 1700, Juan and Jacinto learned that on that evening, a rite of idolatry was to take place in the home of the local Indio José Flores. The attorneys notified the two Dominicans and it was decided that they should intervene. That evening, they went in secret to the home of José, where they surprised the idolators and those present at the ceremony. When the attorneys and Dominican religious began to reprove them, the Indios blew out their candles and ran out of the house covering their faces. Confusion followed, and the idolaters' sacrilegious instruments were confiscated and taken to the Domincan convent.
The following morning the Dominican Provincial Superior of Oaxaca and the authority of Villa Alta of San Ildefonso were informed of what had happened. By noontime, the attorneys had received notice that the idolaters were preparing to retaliate and so they took refuge in the Dominican convent. At around 8.00 p.m., the rebel Indios went to the convent armed with spears and clubs, and their faces and feet were covered (so as not to be identified). They demanded that Juan and Jacinto be handed over to them, or else they would kill everyone in the convent. Besides the attorneys and the religious, there were other faithful who had accompanied them to the rite of idolatry.
Fr Gaspar and Fr Alonzo would not hand them over. The rebellious Indios threatened to burn down the church and in their fury they broke down the doors of the convent, reclaiming the instruments of idolatry that were in the storehouse. They set fire to the nearby home of Juan Bautista. Finally, realizing that there was no other choice since everyone in the convent would be in danger, the two attorneys were handed over.
When Juan was consigned, he said: "Here I am. If you have to kill me tomorrow, do it now instead". Jacinto asked the Dominican priest for Confession and Holy Communion before leaving, because he wanted to "die for love of God and without using weapons". The attorneys were brutally beaten and tortured by the rebel Indios, who tried to persuade them to abjure their faith and to approve idolatry. The attorneys never defended themselves or complained, but only responded: "If your religion is authentic, why don't you build temples for public worship instead of practising at night to trick the poor Christians who are ignorant?". They were then taken to the local prison for further torture; the next morning, they were moved to the nearby village of San Pedro, to Tanga Hill.
On Thursday afternoon, 16 September, Juan Bautista and Jacinto de los Ángeles were thrown down Tanga Hill (now called Monte Fiscal-Santos), and were then beaten with clubs and cut up with knives. Their chests were cut open and their hearts were taken out and given to the dogs.
Their mortal remains were thrown into an open pit, where they were eventually collected and preserved in the Church of Villa Alta. In 1889 their remains were given to the Bishop Eulogio G. Gillow y Zavalza of Oaxaca, who took them to the Cathedral of Oaxaca, where they are venerated today. The place of their martyrdom continues to be a centre of pilgrimage and a testimony in the face of the difficulties and perversions that the evangelization of Mexico encountered, and their supreme witness of fidelity continues to bear fruit.