Giovanni Maria de Agostini, Wonder of the Century: The Astonishing World Traveler Who Was A Hermit
by David G. Thomas, published in the Mesilla Valley History Series, Las Cruces NM, Doc45 Publishing, 2014, 208 pages, $14
This book is about a remarkable man, Giovanni Maria de Agostini, born in
Italy in 1801, who combined two seemingly contradictory aspirations: a
fervent desire to devote his whole life to “perfect solitude” and an
astonishing urge to travel incessantly.
Following extensive travel in Europe, Agostini takes vows revocable only by
formal dispensation from the Pope. He immediately leaves forever his
“beloved Italy” for South America. Twenty-one years he spends traversing
that, at the time, greatly unexplored continent, visiting Venezuela,
Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Chile.
Seeking change and another continent, Agostini leaves South America for
Mexico, passing through Panama and Guatemala, and then Mexico for North
America, passing through Cuba. In Cuba, he is hailed as an extraordinary
adventurer, his photograph is taken, and he is proclaimed “The Wonder of
After arrival in New York, he walks to Canada, where he spends almost a
year, then “goes west,” eventually reaching, in the midst of the American
Civil War, the Territory of New Mexico, where he meets his merciless fate.
"David G. Thomas has finally pulled back the veil of obscurity that long
shrouded one of the most enduring mysteries in New Mexico's long history to
reveal the true story of the Hermit, Giovanni Maria de Agostini. Tracking
Agostini from Italy throughout South and North America to his final resting
place in Mesilla, Thomas has once again proven himself a master history
detective. Of particular interest is the information about the Hermit's
life in Brazil, which closely parallels his remarkable experience in New
Mexico, and required extensive research in Portuguese sources. Thomas's
efforts make it possible to understand this deeply religious man." -- Rick
Hendricks, New Mexico State Historian
20 maps and 65 images, including two rare photos of Agostini, one taken in
Chile in 1857 and one taken in Havana in 1861.