Blessed Juan Maria de la Cruz (born Mariano García Mendez) was born in San Esteban de los Patos (Ávila) on September 25, 1891. He was baptized on September 27 and, after two years, was confirmed on April 13, 1893. The first of fifteen children, he received an excellent religious formation from his parents and at the age of 10 he began to feel a strong desire to enter the priesthood. He was accepted as an external student at the seminary in Ávila (1903-1907). He began philosophical and theological courses and finished in 1916, with excellent grades. Among his companions he left a memory of exemplary conduct During this period he had a brief experience with the Dominicans of Ávila in 1913.