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MEXICO: Religion, Catholic and others

Tim Brown writes about religion in Mexico: "Susana Hayward might find LaFaye's books Quetzalcoatl y Guadeloupe (Mexico, Ediciones Gallenard, 1974) and Mesias, Cruzadas, Utopias (Mexico, Gallenard, 1984) interesting efforts to grapple with the question of how Europeanate culture clashed with the historical belief and value systems and pre-Colombian socio-cultural heritages of Native American identity groups in Mexico. John Phelan"s The Millenial Kingdom of the Franciscans of the New World, (Mexico, UNAM, 1974) is another interesting take on this question as it explores why Franciscanism appealed more to these groups than did Dominicanism and its Jesuit variant. None of these works is fully satisfying, and many of the ideas will seem passing strange. But these writers do something I feel is important and worth considering. They challenge one to reconsider much of the basic conventional wisdom as to what really has taken place in the Americas since the Spanish Conquest by going beyond the near ubiquitous focus of traditional studies on the secondary political, economic and visible social levels and considering what has transpired at the primary identity level.

On Chiapas, I would suggest that that region, especially the Pacific side region that once comprised Soconusco, is a residual microcosm of what happened in earlier years and centuries under less intensive external scrutiny throughout much of the Americas. In this instance it is largely a three way competition for dominance between the more traditional highland Maya, dominant and more globalizing Europeanate Spanish elite, and invading neo-Hispanicized ladinos (ladino as in to commingling of cultures, not mestizo as merely the commingling of genes) from non-Maya base native American groups engaged in the post-Conquest socio-economic survival behavior pattern of advancing into a perceived peasant frontier, in this instance challenging an important pre-Colombian identity group for territorial dominance at the non-monetarized (or less monetarized) small agricultural level where a local economy functions beneath a more visible globalized Europeanate one that outsiders like ourselves normally find more visible and therefore more understandable because it is much like the one in which we ourselves live. It is exactly the sort of tumultuous socio-economic stress generating situation within which many proselytizing groups, be they Mormon, Muslim, Marxist, socialist, fundamentalist non-Catholic Christians, millenarianists, or what have you find good pickings".

Ronald Hilton - 5/1/03