Last week, I enjoyed a really spirited discussion with a group of high school seniors on the subject of using kids to communicate messages from one adult to another. We hit a wide range of topics, but a general sense of the room seemed to be that some messages were appropriate for some ages, and that older kids could generally decide for themselves what issues they wanted to promote.
The Spanish missionaries who accompanied Hernando Cortes to Mexico seemed to think it was appropriate to recruit the sons of caciques (local chieftains) and then turn them loose as junior evangelists. They were offered education at the Franciscan schools, where they learned Spanish, reading and writing, Catholic doctrine (of course), and even some vocational skills. I suspect they would have done better for vocational (in the sense of career) training back in their homes, but whether for diplomatic or personal reasons, the boys were entrusted to the Franciscan schools.
Cristobal, the son of Acxotécatl and Tlapaxilotzin, was held back from the school when his brothers were sent there. Acxotécatl sent three sons, but kept his favorite and heir apparent home. The brothers pestered their father to send Cristobal, and in the end, he did. The lad took to the new faith with zeal, preaching and inveighing whenever he got home. Acxotécatl tried to ignore it, but when the boy began smashing sacred idols and dumping out the pulque (booze) offerings around the house, his dad tried to impress the need to stop upon him. Instead, the lad impressed on his dad that there was but one way to stop it.
Acxotécatl decided to throw a feast and invite his whole family. He gathered everyone, but then ordered all except Cristobal out of the room. He began to beat the boy, bloodying him all over and breaking all four of his limbs. He then dragged his son to a bonfire and threw him in it. As the boy met his death, he thanked his father for bestowing upon him a greater honor than he had ever given to any of his vassals or warriors.
Three other lads -- Antonio, Juan, and Diego -- went off with some itinerant friars to spread the good news. The Spanish brothers warned these lads that this could well be a fatal journey, but the kids were pumped up on the promise of this new faith. House to house they went, inveighing against worshiping false idols and then smashing any religious icons found in the home. Word of their work spread faster than they did and a trap was set for them.
Diego survived the ambush -- perhaps he had the day off. Juan stayed outside the house while Antonio went inside to gather the idols. The owners stepped around the corner and brained Juan, killing him on the spot. Antonio stepped outside with an armload of household deities and asked them why they killed Juan, who hadn't done anything, when it was he who was taking their domestic demons away from them. They brained him too.