Editor’s note: words in square brackets [ ] were added by the editor for clarity. Some slight editing was done to improve grammar. The rest of the article is as originally written by Dr. McArdle. 

These days in Chile there is a pejorative used by most that is aimed directly at anyone religious who is NOT Catholic in that country. “Canuto” is the designated label for the “protestants” of Chile (at least according to the official Spanish language dictionary of the Royal Academy of Spain), who even to this day continue to “protest” the abuses of the Catholic Church. This nickname was taken from the proper surname of a Chilean street-preaching gentleman named Juan Bautista Canut de Bon.

Juan Canut de Bon monumento en Chile

The history of protestant Christianity in Chile is a rich one, in spite of the fact that the “evangelical” movement in Chile has fallen into total apostasy. But the history of Chilean Protestantism has always had at its core street preaching, the Valera Bible, and the man that, by the grace of God, started it all. Because, who was the first to preach the highways and hedges of Chile and proclaim the word of God? Who was the first man who with lifted up voice preached the train stations of Chile? His name is Juan Bautista Canut de Bon. And from him comes the pejorative nickname used today in Chile, canuto. But, who was this señor Juan Bautista Canut de Bon Gil? How did he get to Chile and what is his personal story?

Pastor Canut de Bon was born in Valencia, Spain on 30 September, 1846, at 9 PM. He was the youngest of five brothers. He received his UNholy confirmation into the Roman church in Los Santos Juanes de Valencia and at nine years of age was already a student in the Pía school of Valencia in the class of one padre Luis, in the convent cloister. The Jesuits gave Canut de Bon the job of making frocks for the priests of the Company of Jesus (Jesuits) convent workshop in Tortosa, Spain. In 1870 he was sent, along with other members of the order, to the “Chilean-Paraguayan Mission” that the Spanish Jesuits maintained in the territories of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. In Argentina he was once again ordered to another region, and on the back of a donkey he crossed the Andes range, the only way then available. His destination was Valparaiso, Chile. Once in Chile he joined up with the Jesuits stationed there.

In the year 1871 Canut de Bon left his ecclesiastical order; at least that is what is recorded in the archives of the Jesuit mission of that region, with the date April 30. Nevertheless, it cannot be concluded from this action that he had completely renounced Catholicism altogether. Supposedly his motive was nothing more than the vehement desire that he had to continue study, which thing was not permitted by the leader ship of his order.

Canut de Bon established his residence in a town called Los Andes, and opened up a local frock and material store in San Felipe. On August 5, 1872, he married one Virginia Robles Aguilar of Los Andes, Chile.

While Canut de Bon established his home and his new life with his wife in San Felipe, the Lord was setting the stage behind the scenes in other ways. Robert McLean, a protestant missionary newly arrived in Chile with his wife in October 1877, was installed in the very same town of San Felipe in order to begin a Castilian-speaking Presbyterian mission. McLean was, not only a pastor and missionary, but also a colporteur, that is, a distributor of Bibles, tracts and other Christian literature.

And here is where the story gets interesting, for McLean was a representative of the Valparaiso Bible Society, the official [Chilean] branch of the American Bible societies in Chile! So, the first contact that Canut de Bon had with Christ originated precisely because of the work of a colporteur at the end of 1876 he found a New Testament left at the train station in a town called Quillot. According to historian Juan Wherli, the same New Testament found by Canut de Bon was left in the station by a colporteur named don Manuel Ibáñez Guzmán, who ministered at that time for the Valparaiso Bible Society. The reader is free to guess which version of the Spanish Bible was found by our as yet unconverted Jesuit priest (we’ll identify it for you later). But Canut de Bon himself wrote with his own hand in his Bible about his entire conversion experience with these words, “first encounter I had with gospel”. Well, of course! The Catholic Whore absolutely forbade the reading of the Bible!

Canut de Bon credited his newly found Bible 100% for his conversion to Christ. And once Robert MacLean met Juan Canut de Bon he recognized immediately the call of the Lord Jesus Christ on him. From that encounter and friendship was born a firebrand preacher of the gospel. On November 9, 1878 is recorded the newly acquired Chilean citizenship of Pastor Juan Bautista Canut de Bon Gil and with that and his command of the local vernacular, Canut was transformed into the fiery preacher of Christ who passed on his surname to all non-Catholic [protestant] Chileans alive today.

I have here in my hands a pamphlet titled Report From The Seventh Annual Meeting Of The Valparaiso Bible Society. They were distributing the Bibles they had “on deposit” until 1868, the seventh year of the existence of the society. All the Bibles came directly from the American Bible Societies, by means of their representative missionary, David Trumbull. And from 1865 on, and for many years there after, the ABS only printed one version of the Spanish Bible, the Valera 1865! Our brother Juan Canut de Bon was converted to Christ through an 1865 Valera Bible!

While the presence of Presbyterian missionaries from North America was tolerated by the Roman church that control the government of the region, the irruption of a local preacher, recently converted from the Whore, provoked immediate resistance. Canut de Bon began to preach against the abuses and sins of the Roman Church. This became a problem for the Presbyterians who were trying to find ways to avoid direct confrontations with the Catholics. In spite of Canut’s different approach to evangelizing the region, he was received by the Presbytery of New York in June 1878. In his recommendation, MacLean declared that Canut de Bon was an “active, untiring and efficient” preacher of the gospel.

The result of Canut de Bon’s belligerent style was that he began to lose his base of customers for his fabric shop, and finally had to leave San Felipe all together. The priests encouraged a boycott with these words:

“Those signing here, using the only means available to us, and carried by our desire to combat against the wicked propaganda that the sectarian Juan B. Canut and those with him have dared to disseminate in our Catholic city, and knowing that among them are to be found some who are businessman in the central plaza of the city, have formally agreed to NOT frequent with our business the same aforementioned well known merchants, and instead to do business with only the stores of Catholic merchants or of honorable protestants who do not hurt our religious sentiments with manifestations contrary to our beliefs.”

Owing to all of this, Canut de Bon was sent to Santiago, the capital, to preach with another missionary named Julius Christen. He also continued his studies, now under the supervision once again of Robert McLean. But always his caustic style of preaching caused a stir, this time with the priests in Concepción.

The complaints that the priest had against Knute provoked the Presbyterians to take away his “license” to preach in March 2018 81. This is exactly what modern Christians will do when a negative “prophet of doom” stands up against their sinful and idolatrous life. They do exactly as was done to Jeremiah: Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt (Jeremiah 38:4). And exactly as they responded to Elijah: And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? (1 Kings 18:17).  The world considers us Christians to be “troublemakers”.

Once cut off by the Presbyterians, Canut de Bon was received by the Methodists, who sent him to the “frontier” towns of Coquimbo and La Serena. Better to isolate the man of God, although to their credit, the Methodists did receive him (3 John 1:8). Canut de Bon continued confronting the Catholics and they also continued with their irate reactions. The Methodist missionaries understood that those reactions were inevitable if they were going to convert the Chilean people to Christ. Nevertheless, the Methodists restricted him to preaching in private homes and not in any Methodist pulpits.

The persecution continued. Even the preaching in the “private sector” in private homes was attended with cursing and [thrown} rocks. In a local newspaper was written the following information concerning Canut and his ministry in the homes of the people:

“The conferences take place two times a week on the property of a private home on Cathedral Street, in accordance with the law and article 5 of the State Constitution… Many who attend come ready to cause disorder and interrupt the preacher at every turn,” El Coquimbo, May 29, 1890.

The commotion that accompanied the ministry of Canut de Bon kept growing. The people came to the homes where he preached until there was no longer room enough to accommodate the masses. The multitudes included, not only people who desire to hear the gospel, but also those who oppose the ministry of Canut de Bon. While he preached inside, and through the shouts on the one hand of his accusers and the arguments on the other of those who defended him, the fight would end up in the streets, requiring very often the intervention of the local authorities. And it was for that reason that Canut de Bon began to deliberately preach on the streets as the appropriate place to be able to continue preaching the gospel of Christ and to continue preaching against the Great Whore. He wrote in his letters: 

“Each morning I go out at around 6 AM and speak to all those that I encounter on the street…and I enter in all the houses that I can to read the word of God and exhort (*February 17, 1890). Now some times I go accompanied by others in order to have a more successful ministry. I speak in a loud voice, as if I were speaking to my partner, and in this way they can hear me up to a block away, and in this way I have begun to preach the streets as well, glory to God!!!” (May 28, 1890).

With these events those who opposed Juan Canut de Bon began to use the terminology “canuto”, first as a derogatory term against him with his last name and then later they applied the pejorative to his followers:

“Every day is heard nothing more than the shouts, insults, and jeers, etc. The most common shout is ‘thief, canuto, murdering cult leader, ravening lion, renegade wolf’, and many other vulgar terms. I pass by serenely smiling and at times they make me laugh and I respond with a tip of my hat. The young ladies spit on me when I walk by. Some, while I am passing, throw out their garbage in front of my path. In all the street there is graffiti giving me nicknames that are reserved for dogs, horses, donkeys and oxen and of course ‘canuto’ which is also what they call the people who attend our church and the women they called ‘canutas’” (May 16, 1890).

Canut de Bon very rarely defended himself. But on one occasion he wrote these words:

“I thought not to answer a word of what is spoken against me, but I fulfill my Christian duties… My first answer is that as the disciple of Jesus Christ I forgive from my heart those who bother to persecute and speak ill of me, for if they slandered, persecuted, miss treated and killed my master Jesus Christ, the disciple can hope for nothing else… What I deal with in my preaching is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, putting the Savior before men so that they might repent of their sins and leave behind a wicked life off of vices and crimes and lying and anything offensive to God, so that they might seek Jesus Christ with a new life as true Christians…”

The mission of Juan Canut de Bon in the “frontier” had its first base in the Chilean city called Concepción, where he organized a local church, and from whence he made mission trips to other parts of Chile like the “charcoal region” and others called Temuco, Nueva Imperial and Angol. His ministry was spent not only in the preaching of the word in order to gain new conversions, but also with the preparation of some “Timothy” preachers, which he set up as pastors of other new churches that were raised up in that region of Chile.

Knute became even more famous when he began to preach inside the train stations and on board the train cars themselves during trips. With a powerful voice he would begin to say: “I am going to give you oh wonderful news: the word of God says…”

Today Chile has a lower percentage of Catholics than almost any other country in Latin America. Less than 70% of the Chilean population is Catholic, down from 100% during the time of Canut. And this reality can be attributed directly to the man who has lent his name to the non-Catholic Chilean population found there today.

The strange case of Juan Bautista Canut de Bon Gil is so significant, that even today his last name has metamorphosed into a verb and so we have the word canutize (canutear). This is precisely for me how I came to know the story of this street preaching men. One day while witnessing to a man in Chile he tuned me out and told me to stop preaching at him and said, “Don’t canutize me, please!” He looked at my puzzled face and said, “You don’t know what that means, do you?” He left without telling me what it meant and I began to investigate. And now you, my dear reader friend, know the story as well.

 Those who criticize us, the defenders of the old Valera Bible in Spanish, say that it has no “history” like that of the King James Bible in English. To a certain point they are correct. The reach and influence of the King James Bible has no equal in the history of the human race. And the Valera Bible society thinks God in heaven for His Magnum opus, the King James Bible in English.

But those who criticize the Valera 1865 don’t realize that they have overlooked a Bible that made Chile 30% NON-Catholic. They fail to appreciate this wonderful Volume whose words resonated in the heart of a Jesuit priest and lit a fire in his breast so hot that he could do nothing else but preach against the darkness that is the belly of the great Roman beast, the Great Whore. They have forgotten about a Book that moved a generation of street preachers to stand firm on the street corner of chili and with voice lift it up proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They see this Bible as a light matter and so go about trying to change it and destroy its beauty. We believe that Juan Bautista Canut de Bon Gil would not agree with such wicked designs. Amen!