Before Columbus, the Americas were populated by many indigenous cultures, with a great diversity of religions. After 1492, European governments and churches dominated religious life. While Roman Catholicism was the official religion, great religious hybridization occurred, mixing European, indigenous, and often African traditions into distinctly New World forms.
Latin American Religions provides an introduction through documents to the historical development and contemporary expressions of religious life in South and Central America, Mexico, and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. A central feature of this text is its inclusion of both primary and secondary materials, including letters, sermons, journal entries, ritual manuals, and ancient sacred texts. These documents provide readers with direct access to the voices of adherents, enabling them to act as academic investigators, experiencing and interpreting the same texts on which historians draw. The documents are framed by substantive introductions which provide both historical context and theoretical insights for the study of these religions traditions and the ways in which they have developed over time.
From the religious traditions of the Mayas and Aztecs and of the African diaspora, to official and popular Catholicism, to liberation theology, the rise of Pentecostalism, and emerging trends and new religious movements in Latin America, this new work offers a concise overview of this fascinating field.
1 Introducing Religion in Latin America
2 Indigenous Religions
3 Colonial Encounters
4 Religions of the African Diaspora
5 Independence and Modernity
6 Protestantism in Latin America
7 Postconciliar Roman Catholicism
8 Contemporary Religious Diversity and Change
"Historically, religions all too often have been understood as a side bar to political, social, economic, and historical contexts. Before this reader, no book existed to introduce students to the complex sweep of religions and religious history in Latin America. Latin American Religions fills this yawning gap admirably. Gone is the idea that all Latin Americans are Catholic. . . . We learn about indigenous traditions, the African diaspora, Catholicism, Protestantism, other alternative Christianities, and various world religions. This book should prove a must for any introductory course on Latin America, or for any individuals—beginning or advanced—who wish to deepen their knowledge of the continent."
-Kay A. Read,Saint Vincent DePaul Professor of Religious Studies, DePaul University
"A truly impressive achievement. Peterson and Vásquez have focused unfailingly on the most important trends and turning points in over a half a millennium of Latin American religious history. The volume is that rarest of things: a work of scholarship that is both broad and deep."
-John Burdick,author of Legacies of Liberation: The Progressive Catholic Church in Brazil at the Start of a New Millennium
"This exploration of Latin American religious history is broad yet detailed. Like the region, religious views in this compilation are varied and diverse. Ranging from indigenous and colonial times to contemporary forays into Buddhism and Mormonism, the book explores all of the region's major religious movements to provide a thorough introduction and summary. . . . this work's scope and breadth likely will make it an important textbook for Latin American studies as well as an excellent introduction to the topic for any reader."