|Sebastian's statue in his hometown in Spain|
Born in 1502, Sebastian was his parents' only son to survive the Black Death. He worked as a shepherd and field hand to support his family, and eventually worked his way up to become a gentleman's valet. That alone is probably more social mobility than someone could expect in the sixteenth century, but eventually he found his way to Veracruz, New Spain (Mexico), the land of opportunity for anyone except the indigenous people. He set himself up in the little city of Puebla de los Angeles, where he began to capture and re-domesticate feral cattle and horses. Sebastian observed that the supply lines between Veracruz and Mexico City were really just trails over which indigenous Mexicans carried packs. He conceived and built a highway -- four hundred sixty-six miles of road -- on which his animals would pull his carts bearing other people's freight. He arranged a partnership with a carpenter and set about building a commercial empire. Later, he constructed another roadway and freight company.
|The Patron Saint (well, beatus) of Mexican transportation|
Having become tremendously wealthy, Sebastian demonstrated great compassion and generosity for the poor. He married twice, at age 60 for the first time -- perhaps living chastely -- and outlived both his wives. At age seventy-two, he became a Franciscan and donated all his wealth (vast wealth) to the poor. He became an almoner (beggar) on behalf of his monastery, going door to door through the streets of Puebla, Veracruz, and Mexico City. He must have looked like Warren Buffett panhandling in Manhattan, but such humility would only add to his sainted reputation.