Latin America: Religion

religion in Latin America
Figure 1.-- Since the conquest of the Native Amerucan empires (16th century) South anbd Central merica have were aathikic preserve. Protestabts were prohibited from entering and even after the Latin American Wars of liberation, few Protestants churches appeared in the region. After World War II, Protestantism led by evangelicals did appear, opening modest churches like the one here in an unidentified Latin American country, probably in the 1950s. With little institutional support, Potestantism has grown throughout the region. Led by evangelicals, they commonly have more committed followers than the Catholic Church. Marxism began to attract adherents, and leaders like Fidel Castro have sharply resticted the role of the Church. And within the Catholic Church we see the development of liberation theology. This movement has made little headway within the Protestant Churches.

The history of religion in Latin America is a facinating study of contrasts. The religions of the great civilizations of Meso-America, but less so the Andes, were some of the most violent and bloody if not the most barbaric religious traditions in human history. We know of nothing like this in ancient civilizations around the world. Just why this is we do not know. It is sometimes attrivuted to the austere environment in which the Aztecs developed, not all of Meso-America was like that. And interestingly the more primitive tribes had less violent religious orientations. Beginning with Columbus (1492), this all became crashing down. The Spanish and Portuguese in only a few decades destroyed the Native Anerican empires and their religions, espcially the Spanish which were the Europeans that came in contact with the great Native American empires. The Spanish were of course horrified with the idols and gore they found in Aztec religion. And considering the fact tht they were horrified with Luther and Protestahbtism, one can imagine the reaction to Native American religion. And the Conquistadores and padres in short order destroyed the temples and religious artifacts on which they could lay their hands. The Native American religions were not entirely rooted out, but any open practice was. Latin America was the one place in the world that European imperialism completely destroyed and replace local religions and culture. And while they incororated superficial aspets of the old religion, it was a huge and massive chanbge. Catholcism became a major part of Latrin American culture. And because the Reformation began as the Spanish and Portuguese were building theur empires, the Inquisition went to great lengths to keep Protestaants out of the New World. The Church worked to limit the brutality of the Conquistadores and resulting Repartimiento/Encomienda. On the other hand the Church supported the Spanish/Portuguese social order and the subgegation of the Native American peasantry. Even after the Latin American Was of liberation, Protestants made little inroads in Latin America. The Catholic Church dominated religious life in both the Spanish Empire and the Portuguese Empire (Brazil). The role of the Church was a major issue in the 19th century debate between conservatives and liberals. Only after World War II did the religious environnment in Latin America begin to change. There have been two major influences. First, without the Inquistion, Protestantism began to enter the region. With little institutional support, Potestantism has grown throughout the region. Led by evangelicals, they commonly have more committed followers than the Catholic Church. Second, Marxism began to attract adherents, and leaders like Fidel Castro have sharply resticted the role of the Church. And within the Church we see the development of liberation theology. This is movemennt primarily within the Catholic Church and has made little headway within the Protestant Churches. Today authors are begining the discuss the decline of Catholic culture in the region.

Native American Religions

The religions of the great civilizations of Meso-America, but less so the Andes, were some of the most violent and bloody if not the most barbaric religious traditions in human history. We know of nothing like this in ancient civilizations around the world. Just why this is we do not know. It is sometimes attrivuted to the austere environment in which the Aztecs developed, not all of Meso-America was like that. And interestingly the more primitive tribes had less violent religious orientations. Beginning with Columbus (1492), this all became crashing down. The Spanish and Portuguese in only a few decades destroyed the Native Anerican empires and their religions, espcially the Spanish which were the Europeans that came in contact with the great Native American empires. The Spanish were of course horrified with the idols and gore they found in Aztec religion. For a long time, the scholars saw the Maya as less war-like and violent than the Aztecs to the north. More modern scholarship suggests that this was not the case and there was ceremonial human sacrifices, although on a smaller scale than the Aztecs. And considering the fact tht they were horrified with Luther and Protestahbtism, one can imagine the reaction to Native American religion. And the Conquistadores and padres in short order destroyed the temples and religious artifacts on which they could lay their hands. The Native American religions were not entirely rooted out, but any open practice was.

Spanish and Portuguese Empires: Catholicism

Latin America was the one place in the world that European imperialism completely destroyed and replaced local religions and culture. And while they incororated superficial aspets of the old religion, it was a huge and massive change. Catholcism became a major part of Latin American culture. And because the Reformation began as the Spanish and Portuguese were building their empires, the Inquisition went to great lengths to keep Protestaants out of the New World. The Church worked to limit the brutality of the Conquistadores and resulting Repartimiento/Encomienda. On the other hand the Church supported the Spanish/Portuguese social order and the subgegation of the Native American peasantry. Even after the Latin American Was of liberation, Protestants made little inroads in Latin America. The Catholic Church dominated religious life in both the Spanish Empire and the Portuguese Empire (Brazil). There is more than just a theological dimension to this the Catholic domination of the e continent, there are importnt was the idea of fredom. Nothing until yhe advent of the great totalitarian powers of the 20th century is more antithetical to the idea of freedom than the Inquisition. Catholcism like Protestantism had both political and economic aspects. Notice that it Protestabt northern Europe that invented both democracy and capitalism as well as brought science to its ultimate development. And we see that even today with Latin America lagging behind not only Europe, but Asia as well. And notice how Pope Benedict, the first Latin Amerivan primate and an undeniable humanitarian, is deeply suspious of capitalism. And this even though the only prosperous countries in the world, unless they sit on a pool of oil, have core capitalist economies.

Independent Republics

Most Latin Ameriucans achieved their independence during a series of wars with the Spanish authorities (early-19th century) The role of the Church was a major issue in the 19th century debate between conservatives and liberals.

Modern Developmnents

Only after World War II did the religious environnment in Latin America begin to change. There have been two major influences. First, without the Inquistion, Protestantism began to enter the region. With little institutional support, Potestantism has grown throughout the region. Led by evangelicals, they commonly have more committed followers than the Catholic Church. Second, Marxism began to attract adherents, and leaders like Fidel Castro have sharply resticted the role of the Church. And within the Church we see the development of liberation theology. This is movemennt primarily within the Catholic Church and has made little headway within the Protestant Churches. Today authors are begining the discuss the decline of Catholic culture in the region.







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Created: 12:30 AM 5/18/2015
Last updated: 12:30 AM 5/18/2015