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Catechizing Culture

Catechizing Culture: Missionaries, Aymara, and the "New Evangelization"

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Catechizing Culture
    Book Description:

    Nearly five centuries after the first wave of Catholic missionaries arrived in the New World to spread their Christian message, contemporary religious workers in the Bolivian highlands have begun to encourage Aymara Indians to return to traditional ritual practices. All but eradicated after hundreds of years of missionization, the "old ways" are now viewed as local cultural expressions of Christian values. In order to become more Christian, the Aymara must now become more Indian.

    This groundbreaking study of the contemporary encounter between Catholic missionaries and Aymara Indians is the first ethnography to focus both on the evangelizers and the evangelized. Andrew Orta explores the pastoral shift away from liberation theology that dominated Latin American missionization up until the mid-1980s to the recent "theology of inculturation," which upholds the beliefs and practices of a supposedly pristine Aymara culture as indigenous expressions of a more universal Christianity. Addressing essential questions in cultural anthropology, religious studies, postcolonial studies, and globalization studies, Catechizing Culture is a sophisticated documentation of the widespread shift from the politics of class to the politics of ethnicity and multiculturalism.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50392-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION Converting Difference
    (pp. 1-24)

    On an overcast December day in 1991, the Catholic feast day of Santa Barbara, I attended a ritual in one of the Aymara communities (ayllus) of the region of Jesús de Machaqa, Ingavi Province, Bolivia. It was an ayuno (fast)—a community-level event marking the completion of the year of service provided by community authorities, an honor and an obligation long taken as a foundation of indigenous community in the Andes. Through a collective fast and an intercommunity rite of “pardon” (during which ayllu members, on their knees and weeping, embraced one another expressing reciprocal forgiveness for their trespasses of...

  6. PART 1 Entangled Communities

    • CHAPTER 1 Andean Locality Revisited
      (pp. 27-72)

      In November of 1990 Ingrid and I traveled with Father Jan and Sister Marta. Snug in a late-model Toyota Landrover, we whizzed down the highway on our way to the parish of Peñas, a colonial town tucked in the foothills that rise into the Cordillera Real east of the altiplano. Behind us was the parish of Batallas, where the priest and nun resided with their respective communities. Before departing for Peñas, Jan had celebrated mass in Batallas for a small congregation composed chiefly of members of a Catholic youth group organized by a sister in Marta’s charge.

      Jan was relatively...

    • CHAPTER 2 Missionary Modernity in the Postwar Andes
      (pp. 73-100)

      In 1955 a young priest named Jacques Monast arrived in Bolivia to begin service in the southern altiplano province of Carangas. Monast was one of a group of Canadian Oblates who arrived as part of a wave of postwar Catholic missionary activity in Latin America. This was the start of what many in the Church today refer to as the “second” or “new evangelization.” In a series of published works Monast (e.g., 1972) presents both an insightful ethnographic account of Aymara society at this time and an eloquent testimony of his own transformations as a result of his pastoral experiences....

    • CHAPTER 3 Local Missions, Global Alters
      (pp. 101-144)

      The speaker is Miguel, a Polish priest of the Society of the Divine Word, active since the early 1980s in missionary work among Aymara-speaking communities of the Bolivian highlands. I interviewed Miguel some six years after the personal crisis he is recounting, a moment he had come to see as something of a conversion experience. He continued:

      I underwent a personal transformation, a conversion, not in the moral sense or at the level of faith. . . . I’ve always tried to be a believing priest [laughs] not simply an administrative cleric. . . . I believe I underwent a...

  7. PART 2 Syncretic Subjects

    • CHAPTER 4 Syncretic Subjects: The Politics of Personhood
      (pp. 147-181)

      Catholic missionaries on the Bolivian altiplano often describe the Aymara catechists with whom they work as “divided in two”—part “Christian” and part “Aymara” (e.g., Quispe et al. 1987). By extension, this “crisis of identity” and its underlying dualism are thought to afflict all Aymara. Missionaries have taken up the Aymara concept of chuyma (roughly, “heart”) as a locus of Aymaraness and focus of evangelization, cast in opposition to a foreign and so far uninternalized Christianity seen as being only “skin deep.” In this chapter I take these missionary characterizations of “Aymara-Christians” (Berg 1989) as a point of departure for...

    • CHAPTER 5 Alejandro’s House: The Porous Production of Locality
      (pp. 182-228)

      Everyone was mad at Alejandro.

      His wife bitterly resented the time his duties as catechist took away from his work around the house and in the fields. And she complained often about the incidental expenses of his travels to catechist courses. The recent opening of the center for catechist training in Laja, with its frequent course offerings, only intensified this domestic friction.

      Alejandro was also serving as president of his pastoral zone. There were three of these in Jesús de Machaqa: groups of ayllus organized roughly along the lines of sindicatos, with annually rotating positions of leadership. However, the other...

  8. PART 3 Locality Dismembered and Remembered

    • CHAPTER 6 Seductive Strangers and Saturated Symbols
      (pp. 231-266)

      When Roberto’s wife died suddenly, her family accused him of killing her. Specifically they accused him of being a kharisiri. Kharisiris or kharikharis are dangerous beings who extract the fat from unsuspecting Indians. Their victims fall ill, weaken, and, according to most reports, die. Roberto was distraught as he reported his situation at a meeting of his fellow catechists. He wept as he told them of his wife’s two-week illness and run-ins with his in-laws in the wake of her death. The catechists listened uncomfortably and decided that a delegation of them would travel to Roberto’s community the next day...

    • CHAPTER 7 Burying the Past
      (pp. 267-298)

      On March 12, 1921, Aymara from the ayllus surrounding the town of Jesús de Machaqa attacked the town’s residents and government officials. The attacking Indians burned and looted houses and killed some sixteen vecinos.¹ A number of the victims were burned to death, “roasted” alive in their blazing houses. In urban circles the event was imagined as a cannibal feast; remembrances recorded from indigenous Machaqueños in the 1990s depict the uprising in similar ways.²

      The Aymara were responding to increasing pressures on their lands as a result of the expansion of haciendas throughout the region during the late nineteenth and...

  9. CONCLUSION Locating the Future
    (pp. 299-306)

    During my most recent trips to the altiplano (in 1999 and 2000), pastoral agents remarked ruefully to me that rural Aymara communities are becoming “communities of the elderly.” They referred to intensifying out migration and reported their impression that young Aymara are increasingly electing to make their lives in urban areas such as El Alto—the sprawling city perched on the edge of the high plain above La Paz—or perhaps to seek their fortunes in lower lying valleys to the east, long a focus of national development schemes encouraging settler agriculture and, in recent decades, a land of additional...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 307-326)
    (pp. 327-328)
    (pp. 329-346)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 347-358)