Caribbean Religious History

Caribbean Religious History: An Introduction

Ennis B. Edmonds
Michelle A. Gonzalez
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 270
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  • Book Info
    Caribbean Religious History
    Book Description:

    The colonial history of the Caribbean created a context in which many religions, from indigenous to African-based to Christian, intermingled with one another, creating a rich diversity of religious life. Caribbean Religious History offers the first comprehensive religious history of the region.Ennis B. Edmonds and Michelle A. Gonzalez begin their exploration with the religious traditions of the Amerindians who flourished prior to contact with European colonizers, then detail the transplantation of Catholic and Protestant Christianity and their centuries of struggles to become integral to the Caribbean's religious ethos, and trace the twentieth century penetration of American Evangelical Christianity, particularly in its Pentecostal and Holiness iterations. Caribbean Religious History also illuminates the influence of Africans and their descendants on the shaping of such religious traditions as Vodou, Santeria, Revival Zion, Spiritual Baptists, and Rastafari, and the success of Indian indentured laborers and their descendants in reconstituting Hindu and Islamic practices in their new environment.Paying careful attention to the region's social and political history, Edmonds and Gonzalez present a one-volume panoramic introduction to this religiously vibrant part of the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-2284-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
    E. B. E. and M. A. G.
  4. [Map]
    (pp. x-x)
  5. 1 Introduction: Caribbean Crossroads: Historical and Theoretical Considerations
    (pp. 1-14)

    The successful transatlantic crossing of Columbus and his crew in 1492 brought the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas into the mainstream of world history, initiating a process through which the area became an important arena in which European powers competed for political and economic dominance. This colonial experiment spawned the diversity of peoples, languages, and cultures that is the present reality of the Caribbean. An important part of this cultural mix is its variety of religious traditions. As these traditions encountered one another and their new environment, a process of accommodation, adaptation, and transformation began that has resulted...

  6. 2 Amerindians and Spanish Catholics in Contact
    (pp. 15-44)

    The historical and archaeological evidence suggests that the islands of the Caribbean and the Bahamas have been continuously occupied since 4000 B.C.E. From that time on, repeated waves of migrations brought various groups to the area. Through interaction with one another and with their natural surroundings, these migrants made the Caribbean a dynamic and evolving social and cultural environment in which each wave of immigrants replaced or integrated with earlier inhabitants, adapted to the environment, and fashioned a coherent way of life. By the time Columbus arrived, in 1492, the Caribbean showed evidence of the dynamics of such migrations and...

  7. 3 Early Colonial Catholicism
    (pp. 45-64)

    The history of the Roman Catholic Church in the colonial era is marked by the Church’s complicity with and support of Spanish colonial domination and exploitation of indigenous and African peoples throughout the Caribbean. This was a chapter in the Catholic Church’s history in which the Church and the state remained united in their efforts to conquer the Americas, territorially, spiritually, and culturally. While Spanish Catholicism was not unilateral in its support of the conquest and the transatlantic slave trade, voices of dissent were the exception and not the rule. While one finds various clerical voices that argued for and...

  8. 4 For God and Nation: Protestantism in the Colonial Caribbean
    (pp. 65-92)

    As we saw with Spanish colonialism, the entrance of northern Europeans into the Caribbean region was inspired by a combination of religious and political motives. Thus, the challenge to the Spanish monopoly in the Caribbean was at the same time a challenge to the dominance of Catholicism. As much as the English and the Dutch wanted to break the political and economic stronghold of the Spanish in the region, they also wanted to open new territories in which they could spread their “superior” Protestant faith.

    By the second half of the 1500s, the English were deluged with national propaganda that...

  9. 5 Creole African Traditions: Santería, Palo Monte, Abakuá, Vodou, and Espiritismo
    (pp. 93-120)

    The late colonial era in the Caribbean was marked by an explosion of religious traditions that both drew from and challenged the normativity of Christianity. The importation of large numbers of Africans for slave labor on the plantations introduced numerous ethnic groups and their cultural heritages to the Caribbean. In an attempt to negotiate their own diversity and their contact with Europeans, Africans created religious traditions such as Santería, Palo Monte, Abakuá, and Vodou, with adherents that crossed ethnic lines. Among Spanish colonists, the religio-philosophical system of Espiritismo became an alternative for Catholics who were becoming increasingly alienated from the...

  10. 6 Afro-Christian Faiths: Revival Zion and Spiritual Baptists
    (pp. 121-154)

    The historical trajectories of Revival Zion in Jamaica and Spiritual Baptists in Trinidad (and other eastern Caribbean islands) provide salient examples of cultural convergence, adaptation, and agency at the Caribbean crossroads. These faiths arose from the meeting of various religious traditions from Africa and Europe in the Caribbean arena. They also emerged from the need of Africans under slavery to fashion a cohesive worldview and a cultural identity that reflected their African heritage and the realities of their lives on the plantations. Once formed, these traditions never became static cultural artifacts but were dynamic, evolving traditions that responded to new...

  11. 7 Mainline and Sideline: Post-Independence Mainline Protestantism and Pentecostalism
    (pp. 155-176)

    The 1900s were marked by the departure of Europe from the Caribbean as colonies struggled for their independence. However, as European powers faded into the background, the United States emerged as a dominating presence. The new U.S. hegemony was fueled by the Monroe Doctrine, in which the United States declared its intention to be the gatekeeper of Latin America and the Caribbean and vowed to oppose the expansion of European influence. This stance was to affect the political, economic, and religious landscapes of the region.

    The 1900s were also marked by two interconnected radical transformations of the Christian landscape that...

  12. 8 Migration and Revitalization: Hinduism, Islam, and Rastafarianism
    (pp. 177-202)

    The importation of indentured workers from Asia at the end of the nineteenth century deepened the religious diversity of the Caribbean with the introduction of Islamic and Hindu religious traditions. With the end of the transatlantic slave trade, the arrival of these new populations added a new layer to the religious worldviews of the Caribbean. While Islam had first arrived in the Caribbean via the transatlantic slave trade, the arrival of Muslim Asians gave it a visibility unseen in prior centuries. This had a significant impact on not only the religious life but also the culture and economic structure of...

  13. 9 Legitimation, Indigenization, and Contextualization
    (pp. 203-220)

    Caribbean religions entered the twenty-first century as established religious traditions at the defining moment for legitimation, growth, and globalization. No longer relegated to their island nations, religions that are either indigenous to the Caribbean or have been imported and now flourish in the Caribbean are world religions. Whether it is the Jamaican grassroots religion of Rastafarianism or the global movement of Pentecostalism, the Caribbean has become a microcosm of global religion. However, with growth and globalization come questions of identity, authenticity, and tradition.

    The late twentieth century revealed a Caribbean religious landscape where the question of religious legitimation came to...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 221-222)

    Throughout this text, we have offered some broad brushstrokes of the history of religions in the Caribbean. At the center of this history is the unequal and often violent encounter between cultures and traditions: European, African, indigenous, and Asian. The children of the Caribbean, much like their religions, are the products of these encounters. What emerges from the Caribbean is a rich tapestry of diverse religious traditions that reflects the richness of the peoples that inhabit its islands. The study of religion is one entry point, an essential one, that reveals the complexity and diversity of the historical and contemporary...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 223-244)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-256)
  17. Index
    (pp. 257-268)
  18. About the Authors
    (pp. 269-269)