Father José Gumilla, SJ
Explorer of the Orinoco



Father José Gumilla, SJ on Venezuela Scott 1604d
VENEZUELA,1992, the 5th centenary of evangelization in Venezuela, Scott 1604d

José Gumilla was born in Cárcer, in Valencia, Spain, in 1686 and came in 1705 with forty-two other Jesuits to New Granada (today Colombia) while still a student. He continued his studies at the Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, was ordained in 1714, and then appointed to revive the old Orinoco mission. In 1701 a colorful Christian Indian from the reduction of Tame had crossed the Andes into Venezuela, won the following of the Beyote Indians there and then asked the Jesuits to send them a priest and to set up a reduction for them. Gumilla went and worked there for 35 years, except for some time as the rector of the school in Cartagena, provincial superior of New Granada, and procurator in Rome. In fact he set up five reductions, drawing on his many talents from carpentry to medicine. The natives loved him so much that when the provincial superior visited, fearing he would take away their beloved priest, they begged Gumilla's permission to kill the man. He managed to talk them out of it. From 1738 when Gumilla went to Rome as the procurator of his province he wrote his masterpiece El Orinoco Ilustrado, published in Madrid in 1741 and pictured on this stamp. He returned to South America in 1743 with Felipe Salvador Gilij, SJ who had been assigned to the mission. Gumilla died at the mission of Los Llanos in 1750. He is credited with introducing coffee into Venezuela probably around 1732, whence it was exported to Brazil. The Social Action Center of the Jesuits in Venezuela is named in his honor.