While several saints of the Catholic faith have celebrations connected to them, such as St. Patrick and St. Nicholas, a Black saint from Peru has not enjoyed the same level of recognition. St. Martin de Porres is the patron saint of racial harmony, barbers, mixed-race peoples and public health workers.
Porres was born December 9, 1579 in Lima, Peru. He was the illegitimate child of a Spanish nobleman and a former Black or indigenous slave. Because of his race, Porres, who was deeply religious, was not allowed to become a full member of any religious order in Peru but was able to work as a volunteer level with the Dominican clergy.
Reportedly, he refused full brotherhood status for years because he didn’t feel he deserved the right due to being mixed-race.
However, his charity to the poor, a deep knowledge of health practices of the time, and his unyielding faith endeared him to the Dominican clergy who him as a brother. He cared for everyone that came to him and was adored by many, and yet he considered himself nothing but a “mulatto” and “poor slave.”
Saint Porres died in 1639. Pope John XXIII officially canonized him in 1962.
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