Martin de Porres was the unwanted child of a Spanish Grandee and a freed African slave. He was born in Lima, Peru scarcely forty years after the bloody destruction of the Inca Empire. He raised himself, for the most part, and became an apprentice to a barber-surgeon so that he would have a trade. At fifteen, he began his long relationship with the Dominican Order, first as a tertiary and then as a brother with vows.
His painful childhood taught him compassion and generosity. As a Dominican he doctored Lima's sick. While surgery was primitive in his day, he had a vast knowledge of herbal medicines. With herbs he treated illness ranging from infections and fevers to intestinal ailments and sprains. In addition to his free services as a doctor, he distributed thousands of dollars worth of food and clothing to the poor each week - all of which he had first begged from wealthy families. He founded an orphanage for abandoned children and staffed it with the best teachers, nurses and guardians he could hire. On the hills near Lima, he planted fruit orchards for the poor. He is also remembered for his love of animals.He wore the oldest, most patched garments he could find, and spent long hours in prayer. Other Dominicans sometimes found him suspended in the air many feet above the church floor, in ecstatic prayer before the large crucifix. During his lifetime he was called the "flying brother," because of the many times he bilocated in distant places like the Philippines, Japan or North Africa, and was seen there by Peruvian merchants who knew him. He was also gifted with prophecy and clairvoyance. He died at the age of sixty, during a severe fever. His beloved poor never allowed his memory to fade, and today he is one of the most popular saints of the Americas.