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Rafael Ferrer



A Spanish missionary and explorer; b. at Valencia, in 1570; d. at San José, Peru, in 1611. His father had destined him for a military career, but he entered the Society of Jesus, and in 1593 was sent to Quito, Ecuador. In 1601 he penetrated the territory of the Cofanis, a hostle tribe who had been a source of great trouble to the Spanish Government. Within three years the Indians of several villages were so civilized by the influence of religion that the surrounding country was open to colonists.

In 1605, at the command of the viceroy of Quito, Ferrer went among the. uncivilized tribes of the River Napo. He was well received by the Indians, and on this journey which lasted two and a half years, he travelled 3600 miles into the interior, bringing back with him a chart of the basin of the Napo, a map of the country he had explored, and an herbarium which he presented to the viceroy. He was appointed governor and chief magistrate of the Cofanis, and received the title of "Chief of the Missions of the Cofanis". After a period of rest at the mission he next journeyed northward from Quito through unexplored forests, and discovered a large lake and the River Pilcomago. In 1610 he returned to his labours among the Indians, bending his energies to the civilization ot the few tribes of the Cofanis who were not yet within the range of his influence. He met his death at the hands of the chief of one of these tribes, whom he had compelled to abandon polygamy. The murderer was slain in turn by his tribesmen, who were enraged on learning of his deed. An extract from Father Ferrer's account of his explorations was published by Fr. Detré in the "Lettres Edifiantes", and the same extract was also published by Father Bernard de Bologne in the "Bibliotheca Societatis Jesu", but the original manuscript was lost and has never been published in its entirety. Besides compiling his "Arte de la Lengua Cofana", Father Ferrer translated the catechism and selections from the Gospels for every Sunday in the year into the language of the Cofanis.

Blanche M. Kelly








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