September 17 – Honduran Teacher’s Day

Biography of José Trinidad Reyes

Father José Trinidad Reyes y Sevilla is one of the heroes of Honduras and founder of the Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) . He was born on June 11, 1797 in San Miguel de Tegucigalpa, his parents were Felipe Santiago de Reyes and Doña María Francisca Sevilla.

He was baptized on June 14 of the same year, at 3 days old, by the Reverend Father Fray Nicolás Hermosilla, and his godmother was Mrs. María Josefa Araurrenechea. His full name is read on his baptismal certificate; Juan José Sahagún of the Holy Trinity.

Biography of José Trinidad Reyes


He was a fighter against poverty and its causes, assisting the poor and insisting on their right to education not only in matters of faith, but also in secular matters such as culture.

In 1804 he entered a private school in Tegucigalpa and began to learn reading and the doctrine of the Catholic faith with Miss Gómez, one of the so-called «teachers.» In 1812, at the age of fifteen, he learned the Latin language thanks to the friar Juan Altamirano, from the convent of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, he also received drawing classes under the direction of Don Rafael U. Martínez, a Guatemalan painter based in Honduras , as well as music classes.

On January 20, 1815, he left Tegucigalpa for the city of León (Nicaragua), in order to advance in his studies, under the guard of a farmer from the neighborhood of La Plazuela, named Miguel Álvarez, and accompanied by the devotees who went on a pilgrimage to the town of El Viejo, in the city of León.

While there, he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law and, while studying, a position as assistant to the Master of the Chapel at León Cathedral, where he perfected his knowledge of music.

Women’s rights advocate

Reyes was a polemicist in favor of women’s rights, this is reflected in his pastorelas, where the female characters are women with a lot of voice. A piece of hers that appeared under the pseudonym of Sofía Seyers is famous , which is quite a feminist manifesto, where Reyes advocates that the most elementary right of education be fulfilled in women.

Many of the ideas expressed by Reyes in that article are inspired by the French socialists and the enlightened ideas of the French Revolution, of which Father Reyes, in his political facet, was a great promoter.

Promoter of art and culture

Reyes had a spirit related to the Enlightenment, to the best of humanism and religious art. He was convinced of the importance of the arts (of the theater in particular) as instruments to civilize and make nations progress. During his life in Tegucigalpa he waged great battles against the excesses of fanaticism and political and religious superstition.

As contributions to culture, he wrote several pastorelas, reconstructed by Rómulo Ernesto Durón, which are the first theatrical manifestations in Central America, and whose representation of them established the foundations in Honduras for the subsequent appearance of theater.

These pastorelas were presented by Father Reyes in the churches of Tegucigalpa, one of these is Christmas Ours, a classic of contemporary Honduran theater for its harmonious mix of the different traditions present in Honduran Christmas.

Life as a deacon and priest

«What was a misfortune for the religious communities, was a great fortune for Honduras.»
—Ramón Rosa, referring to the exile of Father Reyes to Honduras.

In 1825, due to the civil war unleashed in Nicaragua, the Recollects were expelled and were forced to go to Guatemala. There, Reyes studied the Greek and Latin classics; the Spanish playwrights Lope de Vega and Calderón de la Barca and recognized some theatrical pieces brought from Mexico, especially from Oaxaca and Chiapas, in addition he also completed his humanist and religious training. In 1828, with the permission of his superiors, Reyes returned to Honduras to spend some time near his family; he passed through the city of Chiquimula and stopped at Esquipulas; where he is told that he lost his sense of sight, although he was healed a few days later.

On the afternoon of July 13 of the same year, he arrived in the neighboring village of La Concepción, or Comayagüela, and the next day he celebrated his first mass in the church of La Concepción. Unable to return to Guatemala due to the war that then existed between the conservatives led by Mariano de Aycinena y Piñol and the liberal troops of General Francisco Morazán, he settled in the unoccupied Convent of Our Lady of Mercedes, located in Tegucigalpa, «which It was to be his habitual residence until his death».

In 1830 he wrote a birthday greeting in verse to General Francisco Morazán, then president of Central America, and in 1835 he rebuilt the chapel of the temple of La Merced and the temples of San Francisco and El Calvario. He also built the small temples of Las Casitas, the temple of Soraguara and Suyapa, the latter famous for its little virgin. He also helped Mr. Antonio Tranquilino de la Rosa in the repair of the Parish Church of Tegucigalpa, which was in ruins due to earthquakes in 1809.

In February 1837, he delivered a panegyric sermon on the occasion of the restoration of the Tegucigalpa Parish Church , where he premiered his mass El Tancredo; the same year, due to the help and consolation he offered to the victims of the Asian cholera that devastated neighboring Guatemala, he suffered an attack from it, but managed to save himself after being seriously ill.

In 1838 he wrote his Second Pastorela, called Micol, dedicated to the ladies Juana and Rafaela Robelo. Previously, she had already written Noemí, which, according to reliable sources, is the oldest of all, written between 1828 and this year.

In 1840 he wrote his auto Adoración a los Santos Reyes Magos, divided into three acts and in 1841 he premiered his pastorela Micol in Tegucigalpa.

Election of the Bishop of Comayagua

In his biography of Father Reyes, the liberal writer Ramón Rosa asserts that Father Reyes had been proposed for bishop of Honduras when the priest Jorge Viteri y Ungo went to Europe in 1840 to visit Pope Gregory XVI, and that General Francisco Ferrera, then president of the State of Honduras -supposedly suspicious of Reyes’s independent ideas- sent the news to the Vatican that Reyes had died, for which the pope appointed priest Campoy y Pérez as bishop of the Diocese, and that when he returned from Guatemala to Comayagua in 1845, Father Reyes was there, as a detainee by order of General Ferrera. However, in a critical edition of the work in 1891, José Vicente Martínez explained that he carried out detailed investigations to clarify these facts, since Rosa did not explain the sources he used.

Martínez’s investigations show that Viteri y Ungo was not in Rome in 1840, since it was not until April 6, 1841, that the government of El Salvador communicated to the Honduran government that, authorized by Congress, it had appointed the priest Viteri y Ungo his representative to the Holy See to request the creation of the diocese of San Salvador and that he invited Honduras to send its candidates for the diocese of Honduras and thus take advantage of Viteri’s trip to both states.

Honduras accepted and on February 18, 1842, issued an agreement stipulating that the list of candidates be sent to the envoy Mr. Viteri and Ungo; Among the candidates was Father Reyes. The agreement was communicated to the coadjutor vicar of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guatemala, Antonio Larrazábal, to choose those that should be proposed.

Viteri y Ungo represented the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica before the Pontificate, and was received in a public audience by Pope Gregory XVI at the Quirinal Palace on August 26, 1842. After the meeting with the pontiff, Viteri and Ungo sent two communications to the government of Honduras; the 1st. September 1842 reported that the new Bishop of Honduras would perhaps be proclaimed in November and that the only serious obstacle was the lack of the seven hundred pesos necessary to pay for the expedition of the Bulls.

On October 19, he communicated again with the Honduran government, indicating that the bishop had already been elected – without mentioning the name – and that funds were urgently needed for the preaching in November. Meanwhile, on September 13, the Provisor José Xicolás Irías died in his retirement, who before dying conferred the appointment of interim Provisor of this Diocese to Campoy y Pérez.

This appointment was approved by the Government and confirmed by the Governor of the Metropolitan Church and by the Archbishop Fray Ramón Casaus. The new Provisor moved to Comayagua on December 9, 1842. On September 31, General Ferrara ended his two-year presidential term and left power to the Council of Ministers.

The council was the one that received the Viteri communications and approved the payment of the $700.00 necessary for the issuance of the Bulls. Some of the candidates had already died, and the Council considered that the ideal candidate at that time was the presbyter of Paula Campoy. The Diocese of San Salvador was erected in the Bull of October 4, 1842, and Mr. Viteri was named its first Bishop. On January 29, 1843, he was consecrated as such in Rome, and immediately undertook his return to Central America.

While in Paris, he received the new short list that the Honduran government had sent him and immediately sent it to Rome with the attached file; the Pope approved the canonical process, which Viteri communicated on August 6, 1843 upon his arrival in Trujillo.

The Bull in which Mr. Campoy was appointed Bishop of Comayagua was issued on February 8, 1844, giving the appointee the grace of granting him the degree of Doctor, which was then an essential requirement to be a bishop at that time.

As for the alleged imprisonment of Reyes, the documents that Martínez investigated showed that there was no arrest of the priest. However, in 1845 he did travel to the city of Comayagua, where he treated the recently consecrated Bishop of Honduras, Campoy y Pérez.

Founder of the National Autonomous University of Honduras

On December 14 of this year, the so-called “Society of Entrepreneurial Genius and Good Taste” was installed in the Government House, the cradle of the National Autonomous University of Honduras and of which Father Reyes was rector and founder. Reyes, in his capacity as rector, pronounces on this occasion an eloquent inaugural speech, the text of which has been rescued by the revered teacher Esteban Guardiola in his history of the University of Honduras.

In 1846 he is again in Comayagua, where he writes on May 23, his Elegy to General Don Francisco Ferrera, on the death of his son Fulgencio. This composition demonstrates, relatively, that there was no enmity with General Francisco Ferrera, on the contrary, the text proves a recognized familiarity.

In June 1847, his mother died in Tegucigalpa, for which Reyes returned to that city. On September 19, Reyes inaugurated the University of Honduras, presiding over the act with the Head of State Juan Lindo and Bishop Francisco de Paula Campoy y Pérez. This same year, he organized the first Library of Honduras, called the Library of the Academy and makes the first Printing Press in the country (also called the Printing Press of the Academy) work, which was brought to Honduras by General Francisco Morazán in 1829 after confiscating it in Guatemala.

Also, Reyes brought the first piano to the city of Tegucigalpa, which is believed to be in the municipality of Ojojona, and was owned by the Díaz Zelaya family, as it is not historically proven. This year he wrote one of his well-known When…, satirical compositions full of familiar humor. Only two copies of these compositions survive, written in tenth octosyllables and ending with the exclamation “when”.

Last years of José Trinidad Reyes

In 1848 he wrote, in an invitation that the students made to the society of Tegucigalpa, his well-known: Invitation for the walk to the lagoon, dated February 9 and in 1849 his father died, the victim of a mental illness.

On April 16, 1850, Reyes wrote his poem Honduras, which consists of six octaves in ten syllables and is dedicated to Generals Don Gerardo Barrios, Don Trinidad Cabañas, and to all the soldiers, officers and chiefs of El Salvador and Honduras. On September 29 of the same year he wrote his poem A la Independencia, which consists of seven octaves in ten syllables, and a quartet by the same author, as an epigraph.

On February 2, 1851, Candlemas day, he premiered his Pastorela Elisa, dedicated to the ladies Juana and Jerónima Godoy. It was premiered by the ladies Teodora González, after Vigil and Don Juan Ramón Pereda. By then she had already written and premiered her Pastorelas: Neftalia, Selfa and Rubenia.

The first was dedicated to the ladies María and Isidora Reyes, who was chosen for the role of Sephora. The other two pastorelas were dedicated to the ladies Manuela Vega, after Ugarte; Juana Velásquez, after Bonilla and Maclovia Bonilla, after Dávila.

This year he also prepared his Pastorela Albano, which he dedicated to Miss Raimunda Milla, whose premiere was announced for 1851, but which was finally only rehearsed. «It was not performed because it was announced that they would stone the shepherds due to the allusions to certain political figures. Others affirm that despite the threat, the representation took place».

On September 15, 1852, he gave his Political-Religious Speech at the inauguration of the Central American Congress, meeting in Tegucigalpa, in which he appeared in the front line, as a deputy of the nation. On October 10, he wrote and announced for that occasion his eighth call to the deputies of the National Constituent Congress.

On September 10, 1853, he wrote his Elegiac Song, on the death of the bishop of León, Nicaragua, Jorge Viteri y Ungo.

Death of Jose Trinidad Reyes

He died on September 20, 1855 in Tegucigalpa. At the beginning of 1854, the King began to get sick to his stomach and was treated by doctors Don Máximo Soto and Don Hipólito Matute. This year he published his Elementary Physics Lessons, which in the month of March, with the Academy Press, became a textbook for the youth of the time.

Before the month of June, he undertook a trip to the city of Comayagua, «to visit the most illustrious Bishop, Don Hipólito Casiano Flores, who had come to consecrate himself from El Salvador, and whom he accompanied at his first Pontifical Mass,» says Ramón Rosa .

Close to dying, he wrote his most poetically accomplished pastorale, Olimpia, a name that is probably inspired by the French feminist Olimpia de Gouges, assassinated during the French Revolution for her fight for equality between men and women, since Reyes defended women’s rights. . This work was dedicated to Miss Trinidad Boquín.

He retired to the neighboring village of Soroguara—possibly at the end of July—to recover his health, and returned to Tegucigalpa at the end of August , where he lay in bed from mid-September until his death on September 20, at ten o’clock in the morning. tomorrow, surrounded by his disciples and relatives, in the room that today occupies the National Archives and that overlooks the rear patio of the building. His remains are entombed in the chancel of the Cathedral Church, on the north side.


  • Rose, Ramon; Martinez, José Vicente (1891) [1884-1886]. Biography of Jose Trinidad Reyes . Tegucigalpa, Honduras: National Typography.
  • Woodward, Ralph Lee, Jr. (1993). Rafael Carrera and the Emergence of the Republic of Guatemala , 1821-1871 (Online Edition) (in English). Athens, Georgia USA: University of Georgia Press. Accessed December 28, 2014.