All Religions Are Good in Tzintzuntzan

All Religions Are Good in Tzintzuntzan

PETER S. CAHN
Copyright Date: 2003
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/705388
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  • Book Info
    All Religions Are Good in Tzintzuntzan
    Book Description:

    Since the 1960s, evangelical Christian denominations have made converts throughout much of Roman Catholic Latin America, causing clashes of faith that sometimes escalate to violence. Yet in one Mexican town, Tzintzuntzan, the appearance of new churches has provoked only harmony. Catholics and evangelicals alike profess that "all religions are good," a sentiment not far removed from "here we are all equal," which was commonly spoken in the community before evangelicals arrived.

    In this paradigm-challenging study, Peter Cahn investigates why the coming of evangelical churches to Tzintzuntzan has produced neither the interfaith clashes nor the economic prosperity that evangelical conversion has brought to other communities in Mexico and Latin America. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, he demonstrates that the evangelicals' energetic brand of faith has not erupted into violence because converts continue to participate in communal life, while Catholics, in turn, participate in evangelical practices. He also underscores how Tzintzuntzan's integration into global economic networks strongly motivates the preservation of community identity and encourages this mutual borrowing. At the same time, however, Cahn concludes that the suppression of religious difference undermines the revolutionary potential of religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79870-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. PREFACE Confronting Interreligious Violence
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  5. ONE SHARING THE BURDEN OF FIESTAS ACROSS BORDERS
    (pp. 1-26)

    When George Foster began his ethnographic research in the central-western Mexican community of Tzintzuntzan in 1944, he heard a common refrain. Tzintzuntzeños answered any question about who were the wealthiest families or the most macho men in town with a denial of differences: “Herewe are all equal” (Foster 1967:12–13). The physical landscape tended to reinforce that idea. Surrounded by steep hillside on three sides and bordering Lake Pátzcuaro on the other, Tzintzuntzan had no room for the acquisition of large-scale landholdings. The population of twelve hundred lived in one-story adobe houses with tile roofs, all resembling one another. Every...

  6. TWO DRINKING AND THE DIVINE IN CHIAPAS AND TZINTZUNTZAN
    (pp. 27-62)

    Before getting settled in Tzintzuntzan, I made a pilgrimage to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, whose overwhelming two floors of exhibit halls illustrate the pre-Hispanic and contemporary lifeways of dozens of indigenous groups. I focused on the displays related to religion. In the hall devoted to present-day Maya peoples, I admired the life-sized dioramas depicting Catholic fiestas and the colorful attire of cargo holders. Given that the southern states boast the highest concentration of evangelical churches in Mexico, I found it curious that the wall labels made no mention of the Maya who have opted out of...

  7. THREE ACCOUNTING FOR MISSIONARIES AND MONEY
    (pp. 63-91)

    In Latin America, it is a standard refrain of Catholic and civil leaders alike that new churches constitute a foreign imposition, taking root only with the help of North American resources and malevolent chicanery. They blame missionaries for luring men and women away from the Catholic Church with cash, clothing, and the promise of further riches. La Farge raised this concern as early as 1932 on a visit to two Maya communities in Guatemala. While the parish priest evinced little interest in delivering more than the basic sacraments, three evangelicals from the United States operated a health clinic, from which...

  8. FOUR RESPONDING TO THE MINORITY: CATHOLIC SELF-IMPROVEMENT
    (pp. 92-120)

    One Monday afternoon in Santa Fe, I joined a prayer circle with Dr. Cook and a group of two dozen Purépecha women and children. An assistant minister delivered a sermon in the indigenous language. Then Dr. Cook, in sandals and poncho, called in Spanish for those who were suffering to kneel. Approaching each woman, he placed his hands on her head and prayed for her by name. Meanwhile, his partner sang a lilting tune a cappella: “Jesus, I know you are great. Jesus, I know you are strong.” When Cook finished, he hugged each woman. I then walked two blocks...

  9. FIVE RESPONDING TO THE MAJORITY: DOCTRINAL DISOBEDIENCE
    (pp. 121-140)

    Early on the morning of the Jehovah’s Witness District Assembly, I took a taxi with Norma, Ricardo, and their children to Quiroga, where a chartered bus waited to take members of the congregation to Morelia. Along the way, Ricardo chatted amiably with the driver, who had agreed to squeeze seven people in his compact sedan. When we arrived in Quiroga and hurried out to board the bus, I happened to look back at the taxi. The driver stashed the fare under his dashboard cover, then made the sign of the cross. Many Catholics make the sign of the cross after...

  10. SIX CONSIDERING THE CONSEQUENCES OF CONVERSION
    (pp. 141-164)

    Within Mexico, Catholic observers commonly perceive evangelical churches as mere extensions of North American denominations with their conservative ideology. They accuse evangelicals of undermining the traditional structures of spirituality and participation that unite communities. To critics like Miguel, the local official in Santa Fe, converts consider the modern world sinful and withdraw from it into the protected world of prayer. Academic accounts of new religious movements in Latin America also claim that evangelical conversion will challenge the status quo represented by the fiestas. However, they are more sanguine about the prospect of upsetting Catholic authority, which to them represents a...

  11. CONCLUSION Mobilizing Religion
    (pp. 165-172)

    The communities around Lake Pátzcuaro, much like the rest of Latin America, are experiencing an explosion of religious diversity. Evangelical Christian churches have arisen in the past thirty years to challenge the Catholic Church’s centuries-old monopoly on Tzintzuntzeño spirituality. At the same time that international migration and economic integration with global capitalism have accelerated in Tzintzuntzan, its residents have embraced a wider range of religious identities. In other parts of Mexico and the world, the sharing of space between members of different faiths has occasioned outbreaks of violence. My ethnographic account of Tzintzuntzan examines an instance where the peaceful coexistence...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 173-178)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 179-192)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 193-197)