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Converting the Natives: A Bilingual Catechism

Francisco Pérez. Catecismo de la doctrina Cristiana en lengua Otomí . México: Impr. de la testamentaría de Valdés, a cargo de José María Gallegos, 1834. (Pamphlet [4], [iv], 17 p., [5], 20cm x 15cm)

The Otomí are an indigenous American tribe residing in the central plateau region of Mexico, most heavily concentrated in the states of Hidalgo, Mexico, Puebla, Veracruz, and Michoacan, and who speak one of four dialects of the Otomí language. In this catechism, Francisco Pérez first gives a detailed explanation in Spanish of the different sounds of the Otomí language and how to pronounce them. However, the language has been noted for the difficulty in reproducing it using Roman letters, and for this reason according to Nicolas Leon, “their few printed texts provoked the censure of the Fourth Mexican Council and serious controversies between the professors of that language of that era.” Texts in Otomí are fairly uncommon among bilingual translations for these reasons.

In the catechism, Francisco Pérez provides a side-by-side translation of Otomí and Spanish. He includes the prayer for making the sign of the cross, a prayer to God the Father, the prayer of the Ave María, the prayer for the foundation of the great belief, the salve Regina, the Ten Commandments of God, the five commandments of the Holy Mother Church, the seven sacraments of the Church, the fourteen articles of the Faith, the fourteen works of mercy, the seven works of spiritual mercy, the seven mortal sins, the proper method for confession, a small dialogue between a priest and a student, the act of contrition, and a protestation of the faith.

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