Abstract: This essay uses the Gateway to the Americas International Bridge at the Port of Laredo to examine Catholic parish life at la Parroquia Santo Niño in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Considering how infrastructure works, how it literally keeps people and objects moving, nuances our understanding of the devotional rhythms and space sacralization processes of actors who move and wait in a border environment. Contributing to debates about rhythm and mobility in border studies, it highlights religion’s temporal particularities—specifically the role that an international bridge plays in influencing where, when, and how often border-based actors manage worship and spaces of reflection. Thinking with scholars of material religion, this essay maintains that accounting for border infrastructure is worthwhile. Using infrastructure as a primary reference point can productively challenge still influential distinctions between American and Latin American religion. It will also show that infrastructure not only animates religious practice and dictates devotional rhythms within the walls of la Parroquia, but also facilitates or at times deters movement to and from that site of worship. Mapping out routes and relationships among objects, places, and people, it traces how parish life and international bridge usage are inextricably linked across several planes—geographic, temporal, cultural, and economic; it is impossible to understand the significance of one without attending to the other.
Abstract: A double referent connoting both movement and immobility, the border region has been, for more than a century, the setting for those who come to stay, those who try to cross over into the United States, and, more recently, those who are deported from the US. Accordingly, the religious practices in this area flow along with the shifting populations and are transformed by them. From a socio-anthropological perspective, this article examines the main religious figures venerated in the city of Tijuana, located just south of the US-Mexico border, and the social contexts of their devotees, who have come from other parts of Mexico. This religious panorama does not display a homogeneous group of creeds, but rather reflects a variety of regional traditions in which religion is practiced and divine figures are revered.
Everett, Margaret & Michelle Ramirez. 2015. Healing the Curse of the grosero Husband: Women’s Health Seeking and Pentecostal Conversion in Oaxaca, Mexico. Journal of Contemporary Religion, 30(3): 415-433.
Abstract: Drawing on anthropological research in Oaxaca, Mexico, this article describes the role of health seeking in women’s experiences with Pentecostal conversion. The present study confirms that Pentecostalism’s promise of reforming problematic male behavior is a significant draw for women. Women’s stories of conversion are strikingly consistent in their accounts of male drinking, womanizing, and domestic violence. However, the findings also demonstrate that when efforts to domesticate men fail—and they often do—women still find significant ways in which Pentecostalism addresses suffering. The study provides a unique contribution to the literature by exploring that paradox in detail.
Abstract: This article explores Jehovah’s Witnesses’ use of Oaxaca Chontal, an endangered language spoken in Mexico. The Witness religion is highly centralized and standardized: Witnesses obeyed instructions to use Chontal because these instructions bore the authority of the Watch Tower Society institution. This article proposes the concept of the globalizing textual community, which synthesizes understandings of community from throughout social science literature, in order to explain how religious identity can supersede national, ethnic, and linguistic identities. A central mechanism of this community is the discourse of the “pure language,” which renders language choice irrelevant even as it provides a warrant for extensive translation.
Abstract: The last two decades have seen an accelerated production of novel devotions at the margins of the Catholic Church in Mexico. Celebration of Santo Niño Jesús Doctor, the infant Jesus dressed as a medical doctor, is one of the fastest-growing new religious expressions in contemporary Mexico. This paper takes this particularly productive moment as an opportunity to theorize novelty and innovation in Mexican religion. In spite of the increase in non-Catholic religious alternatives, including most importantly a range of novel Protestant expressions, I suggest the possibility that at the beginning of the twenty-first century Roman Catholicism is the primary field of religious innovation in Mexico, and that it frequently has been an important locus of innovation since its arrival in the New World. An analysis of devotion to this new manifestation of the infant Jesus reveals the cultural mechanisms that allow for and sustain religious innovation in Mexico.
This article discusses conversion to Protestantism in the Zapotec communities of the State of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico. Conversion to Protestantism in these predominantly Catholic villages has a rupture effect on converts’ relationships with their families as well as the Catholic majority. This transformation can be interpreted as a ‘social cost’, which influences religious choices made by individuals and the sustainability of their new religious affiliations. The cost is generally higher for native villagers than for migrants to the communities. Focusing on the adverse effects of conversion and scrutinising the choices of individuals who do not convert or who return to their previous faith contributes to a more nuanced understanding of religious change. The process is often far more complex and multi-directional at the local level than macro-level trends of rapid Protestant growth suggest.
Abstract: In recent decades, Protestant population has grown rapidly in most Latin American countries, including Mexico. The growth has been particularly fast in rural and indigenous areas, where Protestantism is often claimed to trigger profound socio-cultural changes. This article discusses the impact of Protestant growth on customs, collective practices and local identities using the example of indigenous Zapotec communities of the Sierra Juárez in northern Oaxaca. Drawing on the author’s intermittent fieldwork in the region since 1998, most recently in 2012, the article first scrutinises some of the recurring local perceptions of Protestant growth in the Sierra Juárez and their impact on communal life. Particular attention will be paid to converts’ break with various customary practices pertaining to what locally is referred to as usos y costumbres. The article will then critically revise the claims about the culturally destructive influence of Protestantism, suggesting that the socio-cultural changes in contemporary indigenous communities of Oaxaca may actually be caused by more general modernising and globalising forces, and that the transformative role of Protestantism is often exaggerated.
Abstract: This article discusses conversion to Protestantism in the Zapotec communities of the State of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico. Conversion to Protestantism in these predominantly Catholic villages has a rupture effect on converts’ relationships with their families as well as the Catholic majority. This transformation can be interpreted as a ‘social cost,’ which influences religious choices made by individuals and the sustainability of their new religious affiliations. The cost is generally higher for native villagers than for migrants to the communities. Focusing on the adverse effects of conversion and scrutinizing the choices of individuals who do not convert or who return to their previous faith contributes to a more nuanced understanding of religious change. The process if often far more complex and multi-directional at the local level than macro-level trends of rapid Protestant growth suggest.
Publisher’s Description: Since 1990, direct sales have attracted over two million recruits in Mexico and are characterized by a belief in the power of positive thinking. Through an ethnographic portrait, Peter S. Cahn demonstrates that the quasi-religious commission of self-empowerment—more than any economic commission— accounts for the explosive growth of commission-based sales in the developing world. This book offers an in-depth exploration of the intersection of the spiritual and the economic, to reveal the ways in which people of faith blur the line between sacred and secular.