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Sun, 12.09.1579

St. Martin de Porres, The First Black Saint in the Americas

St. Martin de Porres, statue

*On this date, in 1579, St. Martin de Porres was born. He was an Afro Peruvian patron saint.

From Lima, Peru, he was often called Saint Martin of Charity; and the Saint of the Broom (for his devotion to his work, no matter how menial). De Porres was the Illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed Black slave; he grew up in poverty.  De Porres spent part of his youth with a surgeon-barber, where he learned some medicine and how to care for the sick. At age 11, he became a servant in the Dominican Priory.

Promoted to Almoner, he solicited (begged) more than $2,000 weekly from the rich to support the poor and sick of Lima. He was in charge of the Dominican's infirmary and was known for his care of the sick and spectacular cures. His superiors dropped the stipulation that "no black person may be received to the holy habit or profession of our order."

De Porres also took vows as a Dominican brother; established an orphanage and children's hospital for the poor children of the area's slums. He even set up a shelter for stray cats and dogs and nursed them back to health. Martin de Porres lived in self-imposed austerity, never ate meat, fasted continuously, and spent much time in prayer and meditation.

He devoted greatly to the Eucharist and was venerated from the day of his death. The first Black saint in the Americas, Martin de Porres, died of fever in 1639.

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An Encyclopedia of African American Christian Heritage
by Marvin Andrew McMickle
Judson Press, Copyright 2002
ISBN 0-817014-02-0

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