Christianity: Christianity in Latin America

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The discovery of Santo Domingo in 1492 marks the beginning of Latin American church history. There were no priests among the one hundred men aboard the Pinta, the Niña, and the Santa Maria; nevertheless, the seamen were Spanish Christians. To be Spanish or Portuguese around the beginning of the sixteenth century meant being impregnated with that particular concept of church and state that had spawned the Crusades, with tragic consequences for the indigenous American peoples. Only ten months before Columbus's landing, Spain had expelled the Moors from Granada and thus concluded its eight-centuries-old war of liberation. Fired by the conviction that the Spanish crown was the divinely chosen instrument for the salvation of the New World, Isabel and Ferdinand, and, later, Philip, promoted the Conquest wholeheartedly. They sent fifteen hundred men in a convoy of seventeen ships on the second expedition in 1493, including civil representatives, an ecclesiastical delegation (headed by the famous Benedictine Bernard Boyl), and a contingent of nobles to garner lands and servants for Christ. The decadent feudal society thus imposed artificially extended Spanish structures and indelibly stamped the organization and future of Latin American society, to the great detriment of both.

The "enemy" to be conquered in the New World bore no resemblance to the evicted Moors. Anthropologists and historians differ widely among themselves as to the nature of the cultural disparity between the Spanish and the higher Indian civilizations. Some estimate that the Indians had reached approximately the level of the first Egyptian dynasty; others reject such cultural comparisons as unilateral. The Aztec, the Maya, and the Inca lived in basically sedentary, agricultural communities, some of which were subject to the higher cultural influence; others were nomadic and tended to be more primitive in culture and religion. The syncretic Indian religions incarnated traditional dualisms: day and night, sun and moon, good and evil, subject to an overarching, implacable fate. The amazing rapidity with which these cultures were destroyed resulted, at least in part, from the superiority of Spanish weaponry, the use of horses (which had disappeared in indigenous prehistory), and the brutal annihilation of ancient beliefs and customs in order to impose a religion and form of life incomprehensible to the Indian peoples.

Agreements between the popes and Iberian Catholic kings go back to the thirteenth century, when Portugal was given ecclesiastical, political, and economic rights over countries discovered and to be discovered. Near the end of the successful reconquest of Granada, two papal bulls were issued, giving the Spanish kings extensive powers over ecclesiastical matters there. In 1493 the Roman pope conceded rights of jurisdiction to the Spanish and Portuguese crowns over discoveries on either side of an imaginary line drawn from north to south 100 leagues (556 km) west of the Azores, moved 370 leagues (2,054 km) farther west in 1494. Although there have been different interpretations as to whether the rights dispensed by the pope were territorial or solely ecclesiastical, the Catholic kings understood both to be included and acted accordingly. The right to the lands was coupled with the duty to evangelize the native peoples. The extension of the kingdom of God was the goal.

The royal rights conferred by the papal concordat included the establishment of bishoprics in the conquered territories, the nomination of bishops, the reception of tithes for the furtherance of evangelical work, the building of convents and churches, the appointment of all clergy, and the sending of missionaries. Thus both civil and ecclesiastical concerns were united under one head, the king, and the pope was effectively excluded from all decision making in the conversion of the Americas. The creation of the Supreme Council of the Indies (1524) facilitated the execution of the king's rights and will through civil authorities: viceroys and their various subordinates were appointed for New Spain (Mexico) in 1535, for Peru (the Andean region) in 1544, for Granada (greater Colombia) in 1717, and for the Plata (River Plate area) in 1776.

Colonial Church (14921808)

The conquistadors were fired by a medieval devotion to the extension of Christendom. The Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabel of Castile, supported by the staunch integralist Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros and succeeded by Charles I (as Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V) and Philip II, molded Spain into a unified nation that would be capable of what each believed to be a divine missionthe Christianization of the Americas. Together they directed the political-ecclesiastical enterprise for 124 years.

Foundations of the colonial church

The first twenty-five years following the discovery of Santo Domingo saw the implantation of Spanish colonies in the Caribbean basin. Few priests accompanied the first voyages. In the ten years following, 125 priests (including 89 Franciscans and 32 Dominicans) went to the West Indies to evangelize an estimated 250,000 natives. Their equipment included materials for the building of churches and monasteries, books, trinkets for opening communication with the Indians, and subsistence items. Of particular significance during this initial period were the prophetic denunciations of the abuse of the Indians made by two Dominicans, Antonio de Montesinos (in 1511) and Bartolomé de Las Casas (from 1514 until 1566). The greatest obstacles to the mission were the use of armed force in the subjection of the natives and the encomienda system by which the Indians were assigned to the care of those who received lands for the purposes of work and instruction in the Christian faith.

The conquest and Christianization of the mainland began with Hernando Cortés in Mexico (1519) and was extended to Peru by Francisco Pizarro (1531). These men were accompanied by priests, both regular and secular clergy. For the most part the regulars (monastic orders) concentrated on the mission, while the secular clergy served as parish priests of the Spanish, Creole, and, later, much of the mestizo, population.

Church organizations proliferated during the sixteenth century. By the close of the century, some fifteen bishoprics had been established in each of the two then-existing viceroyalties, Mexico and Peru. Soon after the conquest, diocesan and provincial meetings were held to determine polity and practice for institutional and mission work. Of the fifteen provincial councils held during the colonial period, the four of greatest importance were Lima I (1551) and III (15821583) and Mexico I (1555) and III (1585).

In Lima I the first forty resolutions established the organization of the Inca Indian Church on the basis of the original tribal and regional divisions of the empire. Also, catechetical instruction in the language of the people was required prior to baptism. The eighty resolutions that followed set forth the colonial ecclesiastical structure, marking clearly the division between Spanish and Indian sectors of society.

The first Mexican council treated with deep concern such matters as the indoctrination of the indigenous peoples, the use of their native languages in evangelization, their need for sacraments, the regulation of their traditional feasts and dances, the establishment of separate villages for them, and their freedom in choosing spouses. The councils of Lima III and Mexico III were influenced by the Council of Trent (15451563) and indicated a continuing concern about ecclesiastical and clerical reforms and the welfare of the Indians, whose numbers had dropped substantially during this period.

Civil authorities and churchmen agreed that the separation of the Indians into their own villages was the best policy. For the colonists it assured better control of the native tribes and family groups, and for the missionary priests it made their indoctrination and christianization more effective. As early as 1539 the Franciscan Fray Juan de Almeda established such a village in Huejotzingo, near Puebla in Mexico, for over forty thousand Indians. The Franciscans were soon followed by the Dominicans, Augustinians, and Mercedarians, but many areas in the wide expanses of territory were without spiritual care. Near the end of the sixteenth century, the priest Juan de Mendieta wrote that some priests traveled more than 100 miles to minister to groups of over one hundred thousand Indians.

Quarrels were frequent between the religious orders over jurisdiction in the villages, but were even more frequent between the orders and the secular priests of the church. Schools, trades, civil government, and hospitals were established in the villages. Early attempts were made to prepare indigenous clergy, but after disheartening experiences, most of the church authorities agreed that the natives were not sufficiently dependable. Several early councils and for a time several monastic orders specifically forbade the ordination of non-Spanish priests.

The church in Brazil developed more slowly than in the Spanish colonies. Although six Jesuits arrived as early as 1549, only seven bishoprics existed at the time of independence. As in Spanish America, the religious orders bravely supported royal edicts commanding decent treatment for the Indians, but the practice of royal governors and landholders, who wanted Indians as slaves, won out over theory. The Jesuits, often criticized for amassing economic power, were expelled from Brazil in 1759.

An explosive situation and a significant number of uprisings both in the black and Indian populations resulted from the large numbers of Africans brought as slaves to Brazil. By 1818 more than half the population (excluding the Indians in the interior) was black; 23 percent were white; 17 percent, mestizo; and 7 percent, Indian.


Real efforts were made by the kings to christianize the indigenous population, as stipulated in the concordat. After the initial discovery of the Americas, the conquistadors were always well accompanied by priests, chiefly Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians. Within fifty years members of these orders numbered over eight hundred in Mexico alone. Thereafter, the Jesuits and other orders added strength to the missionary effort.

The method of the missionaries, in general, was to uproot old rites and most external manifestations of Indian religion (on the principle of tabula rasa ) in order to teach the true, Catholic religion. After an initial and not too successful attempt to use translators, many of the priests determined to learn the native languages. Evangelization was carried out in two different ways in the sixteenth century: (1) in the encomienda a priest was assigned large numbers of natives for pastoral care, indoctrination, and administration of the sacraments; (2) itinerant priests went from village to village, often suffering great hardships, preaching, baptizing, and defending the Indians against abuse. Although force was still used when necessary, many Indians were converted by peaceful means through the direct approach of the priests. Unfortunately, the good done was often subverted by the subsequent incorporation of the new Christians into the forced labor system.

Historians differ as to the culpability of the Spaniards in their Christianization of New Spain (Mexico, which included what is now Texas and the southwest United States) and of Peru (which included parts of Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile). That there was unspeakable cruelty and that large sections of the Indian population were decimated are clear historical facts. It is equally clear that many priests, like Las Casas (e.g., Montolinia, Valdieso, Anchieta, Zumárraga, and Juan del Valle) fought for Indian rights against civil leaders, plantation and mine owners, and even other clerics. A body of ordinances called New Laws for the Indies was adopted in 1542, papal encyclicals were issued (e.g., that of Paul III in 1537), and royal edicts were emitted by both Spanish and Portuguese kings, all of which required just treatment of the Indians.

A key point at issue is the number of Indians present in the Americas at the time of the Conquest. Estimates vary from six million to nearly a hundred million. The Brazilian J. V. Cesár, a member of the National Indigenist Council, estimates thirty-five million both at the time of the Conquest and in the late twentieth century (Atualização 12, Belo Horizonte, 1981, p. 27). Sherburne F. Cook and Woodrow Borah carefully estimated that the nearly seventeen million Indians in central Mexico in 1532 were reduced to just over one million by 1608 (The Indian Population of Central Mexico, 15311610, Berkeley, 1960, p. 48). The exaggerated claims for baptisms must be viewed critically: Pedro de Gante claimed fourteen thousand in one day; Bishop Zumárraga of Mexico reported that Franciscans alone had baptized more than one million by 1531. Another chronicler claimed that more than ten million had been baptized solely by Franciscans and Dominicans by the mid-seventeenth century.

The Jesuits, admitted to Brazil in 1549, Peru in 1568, and Mexico in 1572, largely displaced the Mercedarians as a missionary agency. They joined the Franciscans, Augustinians, and Dominicans as the chief executives of mission in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. While all the orders served sacrificially and in diverse ways of evangelization, the secular priests tended to the Spanish and mestizo population, and the Jesuits dedicated much of their effort to education and to the establishment of reductions, Indian villages established by the Spanish. They, as well as the other orders, studied the native languages, wrote grammars and dictionaries, and published texts for study. They founded universities to prepare professionals in law and medicine, implant Tridentine theology, and teach arts and languages. The colleges and seminaries founded by the monastic orders paralleled the colonial universities established by royal license, such as the universities of Mexico, Santo Domingo, and Lima. The latter prepared candidates for the secular clergy, while the religious orders each prepared their own candidates. The Jesuits were never really integrated into the episcopal system.

The schools were often developed on land received by royal concession, donated by rich ranchers, given as payment for crimes or as testaments, or contributed by the clergy or members of the order. The efficient operation of these estates covered the cost of the schools and generated capital for further investments and for the respective orders. For example, the landed property of forty-five of the largest Jesuit estates, distributed in diverse regions of Mexico, included a total of 1,100,874 hectares (1 hectare = 2.471 acres) in 1767, less than two centuries after the arrival of the Society of Jesus in Mexico. The greatest concentrations of Indians and mestizo workers were in the smaller plots (500 to 1,000 hectares), while the larger ones (100,000 to 200,000 hectares) were in largely unpopulated areas.

Throughout Latin America the Indian villages organized in the sixteenth century frequently took on the more ordered form called reductions in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In particular, the Franciscans, Dominicans, and the Jesuits established reductions in the areas of California and Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru, and Brazil and Paraguay. Most noted for their organization and extension were those among the Guaraní people of Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina.

The social organization of the reductions reflected the theocratic character of the Jesuit order: a religious communism strictly ordered and based upon absolute obedience to the Jesuit fathers. The more than thirty reductions of Paraguay, with 3,500 or more Indians in each, occupied a total area of 53,904 square kilometers, with an additional zone of influence comprising over 315,000 square kilometers. The total population reached 150,000 in 1743.

The Indians who entered the reductions were like indentured servants: some entered by personal choice or as a penalty for crimes; as prisoners of war; as purchased property; and some were born in the village. They were bound for life to the mission; their life and work were strictly controlled, and their passive obedience tended to result in an attitude of stoical fatalism. Such was their dependence that after the expulsion of the Jesuit order in 1767 by the Portuguese and Spanish kings, the missions fell into decadence. Natives had not been schooled to provide leadership, to ward off the attacks of the encroaching Spanish or Portuguese seeking lands and slave labor, or to adapt to the new social and political context. Within thirty years half the Indians in Paraguay and Brazil had scattered, many to the nearly inaccessible interior. By the early nineteenth century, no missions remained. By the exclusion of the more than 2,200 Jesuits, the empire lost one of its most cohesive forces.

The success of the missions in colonial times remains a highly controversial issue. The positions taken by various scholars disagree with respect to the relative degree of adaptation or change accomplished by the evangelization. Some basic views are the following:

  1. Only an external imposition of liturgy and ecclesiastical forms upon the pagan religion was accomplished. (George Kubler, Julio Jiménez Rueda, J. C. Mariátegui)
  2. A kind of syncretism was attained, either by a mixture or a juxtaposition of the Christian and pagan religions. (Pedro Borges Morán)
  3. An incomplete evangelization was effected, producing a genuine change through progressive catechesis. (Enrique Dussel)
  4. The Indians essentially became Christians; the purity of their faith depended much on the methods of evangelism used. (Constantino Bayle, Fernando de Armas Medina)

The missionary strategy of Catholics and Protestants in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was profoundly affected by their views on this question.

Later conflicts and crises

The church in the New World faced seemingly insuperable difficulties. The royal claims to the lands in the Americas and to its peoples were contested by many. The Indians and blacks often revolted; the Inquisition was needed to maintain internal order and loyalty; the Protestant nations, through pirates and colonists, contested Iberian exclusiveness; and, finally, local crises shattered the empire.

In the eighteenth century, a major Indian rebellion erupted under the leadership of Tupac Amarú (17421781), a lineal descendant of the great Inca chieftain of the same name. Educated by the Jesuits and accorded royal honors and wealth, he was recognized by his people as the heir of the Inca, but he defended them in vain before the Spanish authorities.

Finally, he organized an army of seventy to eighty thousand poorly equipped men. Bolivia, southern Peru, and the north of Argentina soon were under the control of his forces. He hoped that the Spanish could be conciliated and the two peoples could live side by side in peace, but the Spanish authorities called for reinforcements from Buenos Aires and Lima, and within six months Túpac Amaru was captured, horribly tortured, and torn apart by horses tied to his limbs, which were later displayed on poles in rebellious Indian villages. Thousands had joined the revolt, plundering and destroying everything Spanish they could find. Estimates of the total number of victims on both sides reached eighty thousand. The superior arms and power of the Spanish and the Portuguese proved, as always, to be decisive.

The title of apostolic inquisitor was officially given to Zumárraga, bishop of Mexico, in 1535, although Cisneros had conceded the power of inquisitor to all the bishops of the "Indies" in 1517. Other inquisitors were named and exercised their function later in the sixteenth century. The Holy Office of the Inquisition was established by royal decree in 1569 for Mexico and Lima and in 1610 for Cartagena. Its principle objectives were to combat (1) depraved customs (cursing, immorality, witchcraft, lack of respect for civil or ecclesiastical authorities, etc.); (2) heresy (religious or political); and (3) Jewish beliefs and customs. In the sixteenth century 902 cases were processed, 600 were found guilty, and 17 were executed. Estimates place the total number killed at about a hundred. The Inquisition served as a police court for the church in the reforming of wayward clergy, the censure of objectionable literature and plays, the securing of orthodox doctrine, and the punishment of captured sea pirates from Protestant nations. In all this it was largely successful. Some Indians were executed for idolatry before 1575, but thereafter they were judged to be too new in the faith, too weak, and too much like children to be subject to the judgment of the Inquisition.

Between 1529 and 1550 the Protestant Welser Colony settled in northern Venezuela, having received extensive political territory from Charles V. The plan included colonization and trade, especially of black slaves. Three hundred colonists arrived in 1530 and five hundred in 1535, but a lack of workers, anarchy, misery, and bankruptcy practically ended the project, with revocation of the royal concession occurring in 1550.

A French colony of three hundred, mostly Huguenots, with some Catholics, arrived in Brazil in 1555 and 1558, accompanied by pastors from Geneva. The French vice-admiral in charge of the colony broke the agreement of nonintervention in religious matters, and tried and executed three Calvinists. The remaining colonists were totally defeated by the Portuguese in 1567, and the colony came to an end.

Dutch colonists established plantations and factories in northeastern Brazil around 1630. Two "classes" (presbyteries) were founded, and two missionaries, with the help of seven fellow pastors, established mission posts, translated the Bible into Tupí, and took steps for the evangelization of the blacks. The Protestant governor was too tolerant of diverse religious views for some and was recalled. The project came to an official end in 1654. Two chiefs of Indian tribes converted by Dutch missionaries were severely persecuted by the Portuguese authorities.

The church in Latin America faced a growing crisis toward the end of the colonial period. The decadence of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty and its loss of control of the seas contributed to the weakening of the royalist position in the colonies, and Enlightenment thought challenged the existing social structures. Widespread libertinism and immorality, as well as jealous criticism of the church for its extensive possessions (nearly half of the land in Mexico by 1800), aggravated anticlericalism. Finally, the shift from an economy built on trading precious metals to an agriculturally oriented system created serious difficulties for many businessmen and laborers. The church was to struggle for its place in a new world of independent nations.

Church and National States (18081960)

The liberation of Spanish and Portuguese America from European political control began a radically new period of Latin American church history. No longer did the kings function as the official heads of the church and its mission. The wealthier, educated Creoles (Spanish people born in the Americas) took over the reins of government (both in the church and state) from the Spanish-born elite. The Creoles formed about 20 percent of the population in 1800 and exercised control over the mestizos (mixed Indian and white, 26 percent), Indians (46 percent), and blacks (8 percent).

By the end of the nineteenth century the majority of the population in Guatemala and Bolivia was indigenous; the majority in Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, and Paraguay was mestizo; that in Costa Rica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil was white; and that in Panama and the Dominican Republic was mulatto.

A different situation existed in the Protestant lands of British Guiana and Dutch Guiana (Surinam). Both had been governed by the Dutch until Britain took the part that was to bear its name during the Napoleonic wars. Blacks and mulattos formed over half of the population in British Guiana, and over 20 percent in Surinam. However, with the abolition of slavery, Hindus, Javanese, Portuguese, and Chinese were brought in as laborers. Indigenes were few. Most of the population became Christian, except for the Hindus. The majority were Protestants; some were Roman Catholics. In Surinam, the Moravians, who had begun work in 1738, were the largest group. In British Honduras and French Guiana the greater part of the population was Roman Catholic, with Protestant minorities.

Identity crisis

It is clear that the emancipation from Spanish rule in Spanish and Portuguese America was a rebellion of the elite. Scarcely 4 percent of the masculine population could vote. The great mass of the population reacted to the change of "lords" with indifference. At times some fought or served as cannon fodder in the cause of emancipation, but socioeconomic structures remained basically unaltered for the great majority. A liberal facade concealed the awful reality of the misery and slavery of the masses.

The rising spirit of nationalism, stimulated and exploited by foreign interference, destroyed hopes for a confederation of Latin American nations, and, consequently, for a united church. Simon Bolívar's plan to unite Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador failed, as did the attempted union of Bolivia and Peru in 1838 and the confederation of Central America in 1839.

The majority of the episcopacy, which had been named by the king, initially opposed the independence movement, while many (in some countries, most) of the regular and secular clergy actively participated in it. The patriots wanted to foster a national church but had no patience with those who had militated against the revolution. Many of the new states, such as Argentina (1824), Bolivia (1826), Nicaragua (1830), Colombia (1861), and Mexico (1917), confiscated ecclesiastical properties, especially in rural areas.

The leaders of the new nations believed they inherited the rights of the crown, including its authority over the churches. Religious hospitals passed to state control; the state was the administrator of the tithes (in some cases, they were discontinued); the religious and secular priests were declared responsible to their new "lords" and not to any foreigner; and the Inquisition was suspended. Many national constitutions affirmed that "the Catholic Roman Apostolic religion is the religion of the nation," as it was expressed in Argentina (1813). Nine years later Argentine president Bernardino Rivadavia canceled the right of priests to be tried in eccelesiastical courts, abolished tithes, and closed the smaller monasteries. Such actions eventually took place in most of the republics, but they were considered reforms and not a rejection of the church.

Many bishops, priests, and monks voluntarily left the revolutionary situation for reasons of conscience and loyalty to the previously constituted authorities; others were expelled. In many places this occasioned a severe shortage of priests and a lack of bishops. Pope Pius VII first ordered obedience to the restored Spanish king Ferdinand in 1816. This proved to be an impossibility, creating a crisis for the national churches. The process of official recognition of the new republics began with the naming of bishops by Gregory XVI in 1831.

Thus, during the first part of the nineteenth century, the political tendency of the republics was conservative; the church was recognized, but was subject to state control. The second half of the century and the first decades of the twentieth, however, marked a progressive rupture between church and state. The influx of European liberalism and positivism, the Masonic movement, and the increasing spirit of secularization were decisive factors in promoting the crisis. Such reforms as the official adoption of civil jurisdiction over education, the public use of cemeteries, and freedom of worship became realities in different countries at different times (in Colombia as late as 1930). The struggle of the church in this period was to conserve and restore the church of Christendom, what is often called the corpus Christianum, or the integralist vision, akin to the medieval model of the union of the (Catholic) church and state. This, however, proved to be a losing battle.

In the revolutionary period, the crisis between church and state demanded primary attention, and mission played a secondary role. The expulsion of priests and religious orders, repeated across the Americas, caused disruption. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, many religious orders returned to engage in traditional missionary activity. As in previous centuries, however, sickness, wars, and poverty caused the Indian population to decline, from 35 percent of the total inhabitants in 1800 to 8.8 percent in 1950.

The arrival of large contingents of immigrants, mostly Catholics, particularly from Italy, Spain, and Portugal, rapidly increased the relative size of the minority groupthe whites. From 19 million in 1800 (fewer than 20 percent of the total population), the white population rose to 63 million in 1900 (over 35 percent) and 163 million in 1950 (44.5 percent). This surge of immigration also promoted the colonization of large untapped areas of Latin America.

The history of the Protestant churches in Latin America took a new turn as a result of the wars of independence. The opposition to the hegemony of Spain and Portugal (and control of the seas by the British and Dutch), which opened doors to commerce with and immigration from northern Europe; the surge of anticlericalism because of the negative attitudes of much of the episcopacy toward the revolution; and the new currents of thought favoring secularization, liberty, and tolerance all prepared the way. Progress, however, was slow; estimates place the number of Protestant missionaries in all Latin America by the end of the nineteenth century at less than nine hundred.

Most of the growth of the Protestant church in the twentieth century occurred because of immigration. Though by far the greatest number of immigrants were Latin and Catholic, the majority of the English and German immigrants were Protestant. The English tended to settle in the cities, while the Germans settled in rural areas. The River Plate region in Argentina and Uruguay early received large numbers of Protestants, and worship services were established, in their respective languages, for Anglicans in 1820, for Scottish Presbyterians in 1825, for German Lutherans in 1843, and for Italian Waldensians in 1859. They were followed by Russian-German contingents, Swiss and Dutch Reformed, Scandinavian Lutherans, Armenian Congregationalists, and Slavic Baptists. In general, these immigrant groups ministered pastorally to their own people without any real interest in the evangelization of others.

The first Protestant missionary to arrive in Spanish America was James Thomson of the British and Foreign Bible Society. He came to Argentina in 1818 and, using the English community as a base, promoted the Lancaster system of education, with the Bible as a study text for reading. The new governments were open to this method, as were some Catholic clergy. Thomson and his associates sold thousands of Bibles in Spanish, made visits to at least nine of the Latin American republics, and established centers for Bible distribution in key cities. Throughout the century representatives and missionaries of the Bible societies frequented many cities across the continent. By 1900 they had distributed two million Bibles, testaments, and scripture portions.

In addition to the work of the Bible societies and the impulse given by immigration groups, missionaries from the various denominations overseas constituted a third factor in evangelization. Reports of the work of the Bible societies had aroused much interest in Protestant lands. The earliest mission boards to begin work were English, followed by missionaries from the United States, Canada, and Sweden.

The methods used included public preaching and personal witnessing directed toward a radical conversion from Catholicism. Methodists and Presbyterians in particular established both primary and secondary schools. With the rise in the level of education, religious publications became more important. Only nine medical institutions were established during the nineteenth century in Latin America, as compared to 94 in Africa and 415 in Asia. Little work was done among the indigenous peoples in this period, except by English Anglicans and, in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Chile, by the South American Missionary Society. Especially noteworthy was the conversion of the Miskito Indians of Nicaragua through the work of the Moravians and the formation of a Moravian community of fifteen thousand in that country.

A characteristic inclination of the missions, in addition to their strong anti-Catholicism, was to become replicas of the sending agencies with the missionary as the director and teacher; there was only a partial adaptation to the receiving culture. This marked the Protestant church as foreign and exogenous to Latin society.

Conflict and growth

Several new factors profoundly affected the history of the church near the turn of the twentieth century. First, the center of gravity for commercial and political power shifted from Europe and England to the United States. In 1880 Great Britain had four times more investments in Latin America than the United States; in 1920 they were equal; but by 1950 the United States had four times more investments than Britain. The governments of the Latin American nations were controlled by oligarchies and dictators who frequently maintained close relations with their big northern neighbor.

Second, the twentieth century brought a serious confrontation between the Catholic and the Protestant churches. The Catholics accused the Protestants of introducing liberal individualism that disintegrated the family and community, and of serving as an instrument of North American imperialism. The Protestants denounced Catholicism as pagan and unfit to evangelize the Latin American peoples, as well as being responsible in large part for their poverty.

Third, the rapid population growth of Latin America increased the Catholic church membership to nearly half the worldwide total, while the Protestant churches likewise experienced rapid expansion through immigration and the missions.

Fourth, the character of society was changing rapidly from rural to urban. With the industrialization of the large cities, increasing numbers of people migrated toward metropolitan centers in hopes of improving their marginal social situation. This migration created shanty towns called villas de miseria or favellas. Church ties and loyalties were much weaker in the city than they were in rural areas (Azevedo, 1980, pp. 121, 122).


The nineteenth century had been marked by hostility to the church in most of the republics; frequently modified concordats were signed beginning in 1852. In the twentieth century new constitutions and/or concordats brought increasing liberty for most religious groups, but Catholicism continued to receive official recognition in countries such as Peru, Argentina, and Paraguay. Many of the national Catholic churches received state subsidies and were subject to varying degrees of state control. Other countries (Chile, Uruguay, Brazil) progressively introduced a separation of church and state that permitted freedom of worship as long as this did not oppose Christian morality and public order. Until Vatican II, however, such permission often remained an empty promise because of strong anti-Protestant popular sentiment and controls exercised by the Roman church. State funds supported missions to the Indians in order better to exercise national control and to use the mission as an instrument of civilization and culture, as in the Concordat of Colombia in 1902. Mexico is an exception to this general trend. The revolution of 1917 resulted in the confiscation of all church properties and the termination of the church's role in education and government. Many priests were deported and church buildings damaged. The relation between the churches and the state remains strained.

The conservatism of Latin American Catholicism at the turn of the century is clearly reflected in the first plenary Latin American Council held in Rome in 1899. The 998 articles produced examine the evils of contemporary societyliberalism, superstition, Masonry, paganism, Protestantism, socialismand the methods of combating them. No new approaches to these problems were defined by the thirteen archbishops and forty-one bishops from Latin America. The agenda did indicate, however, the revival of Rome's interest in the long-neglected continent.

From this point on, the church began to deepen its intellectual and cultural foundations in the republics. Through new agreements made during the first decades of the century, educational rights were restored to the Catholic church. Many church schools were founded on primary and secondary levels, crowned by the establishment of many church universities, as in Bogotá (1937), Lima (1942), Medellín (1945), Río de Janeiro and São Paulo (1947), Quito (1956), Buenos Aires and Córdoba (1960), and Valparaíso and Guatemala (1961).

One result of this intellectual revival was the study of the neo-Thomism propounded by Jacques Maritain (18821973), which provided the foundation for a new social consciousness. A broad movement called Catholic Action, born in Europe and promoted by Pius XI (19221939), took root in the Latin American republics after 1929, with strong youth participation. Catholic Action was basically a lay movement under clerical control, directed at the raising of the Christian conscience, particularly that of the upper class with respect to the needs of the common people. It was also aimed at gaining political and civic control for the Catholic church, thus restoring by democratic means the power lost during the tumultuous nineteenth century. The way was prepared for this movement by the organization of Catholic labor unions, agricultural cooperatives, and other groups, stimulated by the papal encyclical Rerum novarum (1890). The Christian Democratic political parties that emerged in Latin America after 1930 owe their inspiration to this attempt to reinstate Catholic Christendom by the ballot box. The movement has been basically reformist in character and includes many of the conservative sections of the church. Between 1930 and 1950 the church and state sometimes cooperated for the victory of populist movements (for instance, those of Eduardo Frei in Chile and Juan Domingo Perón in Argentina).

Since 1960 new winds have blown across the continent. The century began with compromises and agreements between church and state; next, Catholicism tried to restore its corpus Christianum in conformity to the new situation: and then came the meeting of Vatican II, followed by the meeting of the Latin American Council of Bishops at Medellín (1968), where clear steps were taken toward an identification with the poor.

This last change did not occur all at once. Innovating currents had been present since the fifties, particularly in France and northern Europe, with repercussions in Latin America. The Catholic Action groups shifted from the Italian model to that of the French, from a concentration on doctrinal correctness to existential priorities. Additional contributing factors were the formation of community reflection groups, a new openness to biblical studies, liturgical renewal, and catechetical instruction directed toward responsible living. This marked a significant break from the traditional alignment with the elite and powerful.

Those who favored the new options were of two groups: the progressives, who leaned toward a development model of social reform, and the revolutionaries, who believed that radical structural change, with or without violence, was essential. A third group supported by such organizations as Opus Dei and the Cursillos de Cristiandad, was reactionary, striving to restore Tridentine theology and medieval structures. The majority of Catholics, however, may be considered conservative, being disinclined to identify with any of the other three groups. These four groupsthe progressives, the revolutionaries, the traditionalists, and the conservativescharacterize the attitudes of the Catholic Church toward society up to the present.

Two types of organization characterize the Catholic churches: the regular dioceses, archdioceses, and congregations, on the one hand, and the mission territories on the other. The number of dioceses and mission territories increased in all of Latin America from about 100 in 1900 (organized during four centuries) to 547 by 1965. In Brazil in particular, the number of ecclesiastical districts increased from 12 in 1889 to 217 in 1975. According to CELAM (Council of Latin American Bishops), the total number of priests in 1967 was 42,589, of whom 15,381, or 36 percent, were foreign, mainly from Spain (54 percent) and the United States (20 percent). The heavy dependence on foreign assistance indicates the more basic problems of the lack of new priests and the abandonment of the office. In 1900 the ratio of priest to population was 1 to 3,829; in 1963 it had dropped to 1 to 4,891. One must remember that only 66.6 percent of the diocesan priests and 31.7 percent of the orders are in congregational service. Thus the number of members under the care of each priest should be doubled to give a true picture.

Since the priests tend to concentrate in the cities, the rural areas feel the shortage more. Prien (1978, p. 1067) gives statistics for Guatemala, from the largest city to the smaller ones: in Guatemala City there is one priest for 5,970 members; in Quetzaltenango, the ratio is 1 to 9,374; in Zacapá, 1 to 16,216; in Jalapa, 1 to 20,556; and in Maturín, 1 to 24,200. The percentages of the monks and nuns working in the capitals of their respective countries in the sixties were as follows: Santiago, 46 percent; Montevideo, 78 percent; San José (Costa Rica), 75 percent; Caracas, 53 percent; and Quito, 45 percent. Estimates vary in placing the number of active Catholics from 10 to 25 percent of the total membership. Papal statistics indicate that in 1970 about 90 percent of the Latin American population was Catholic. David B. Barrett (1982) estimated in mid-1980 over 329 million affiliated Catholics in all Latin America, or 88.6 percent of the population (p. 783).

Some countries, such as Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, have missionary territories. These function directly under the jurisdiction of the papal Sacred Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Most of the missionaries have come from the monastic orders; some of them were prepared in the Pontifical Seminary for Foreign Missions established in 1920. The number of Christians in areas considered mission districts (largely Indians) has multiplied rapidly: in 1911, there were 472,000; in 1925, 1,675,000; and in 1938, nearly two million.

As of 1980 the vast majority of the total Latin American Indian population was found in five lands: Bolivia (70 percent of its population), Guatemala (60 percent), Peru (55 percent), Mexico (20 percent), and Ecuador. The largest homogeneous language group is the Aymares in Bolivia (one million) and Peru (a half million). Catholic missionary orders have made significant advances among these populations. During World War II the American Catholic Missionary Society shifted much of its efforts to Latin America, bringing in missionaries with previous experience in Asia and Africa. Many entered unchristianized areas in the Amazon and the Andes, regions of difficult access for white civilization. Others worked in Central America, Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, and Bolivia. On occasion they met with opposition from nationalistic governments, though this was more frequent in the case of Protestant missionaries.

Anthropologists and sociologists have criticized the mission effort severely, claiming the unnecessary destruction of Indian cultural and tribal values and accusing the church of collaborating, albeit inadvertently, with the state. Church authorities are sharply divided over the issue, some placing a higher priority on preserving Indian values and others on a vigorous program of evangelization and catechization.


Protestantism in Latin America may be divided into three groups: the historic churches, which arrived through immigration; the mission churches, which were begun by missionaries and foreign resources; and the popular churches or movements that grew spontaneously, without significant outside assistance. Most of the immigrant groups arrived in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; in 1914 they constituted about one half of the Protestant community. These groups are strongest in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Bolivia, where lands and opportunities for a new life had opened in a temperate zone.

The mission groups represented most of the other half of the total Protestant community in 1914, when their membership was estimated at approximately 470,000. They, more than the historic churches, dedicated their efforts to the Latin population, particularly to the Roman Catholics, but also to the Indians. The increase of Protestant missionaries sent to the southern countries was dramatic: there were 1,438 missionaries in 1903; 2,951 in 1938; 4,488 in 1949; and 11,363 in 1969. This meant an increase of 690 percent, compared with 283 percent for Africa and 39 percent for all of Asia in the same period. What was true for personnel was equally true for the efforts expended in money, religious education, Bible institutes, schools, and seminaries.

The third group of Protestants consists almost exclusively of the Pentecostal churches. Their rise coincides with the growth of popular religiosity in the Catholic Church. Those attracted to the Pentecostals tend to be from the lower economic classthe socially segregated, laborers, and the unemployed. There is an emphasis on spontaneous participation in worship, prayers with audible sharing by all, healing, speaking in tongues, opening ministry to everyone qualified by the Holy Spirit, and meetings in homes. The recognition of every member as a bearer of God's Spirit gives a sense of belonging and personal recognition. The growth has been phenomenal. Having begun in 1910, Pentecostalism in 1980 constituted about 70 percent of the estimated eighteen million in the Latin American Protestant community.

The relatively small contingent of evangelicals (the term equivalent to Protestants in Latin America) at the beginning of this century stimulated movements of cooperation among the denominations. The Panama Conference of 1916, with few Latin Americans participating, affirmed what the planners of the 1910 Edinburgh mission conference did not accept, namely, that Latin America was a mission field. The Panama delegates resolved that responsibility for mission in the Latin American countries should be divided among the various mission societies to avoid competition and duplication of efforts. Cooperation was sought in publication of literature, education, regional conferences, missionary meetings, university work, social reform, and preparation of new missionaries. Great efforts were made to approach and convert the elite through education. Three-fourths of the Latin American population could not read in 1900. An effort was made to teach the illiterates in order to give them personal access to the Bible. Other continental meetings were held in Montevideo (1925) and Havana (1929). Later, the Conferencia Evangélica Latinoamericana (CELA) met in Buenos Aires (1949), Lima (1961), and Buenos Aires (1969), with chiefly Latin American participation.

Beginning in 1920, Henry Strachan (later followed by his son, Kenneth) and Juan Varetto launched the mass campaigns that for several decades marked the new approach of the missions. Many of the evangelical churches presented their preaching and teaching in the public arena, some for the first time. This helped to overcome the sense of inferiority and lethargy that had characterized many of the historic churches as well as some of the mission groups.

Reasons given for the increased Protestant activity at this time include the following:

  1. the rapid growth of the economic and cultural penetration of the United States into Latin America, which awakened the interest of the churches in mission possibilities there and opened the doors to the coming of the missionaries;
  2. the changing social and intellectual situation in Latin America, which made the peoples more accessible to a different presentation of the Christian faith;
  3. the active participation of Latin Americans in the promotion and direction of the work, which made Protestantism better adapted to the Latin American situation;
  4. the Asian wars, causing large numbers of Asian missionaries from faith missions to come to Latin America and contribute new methods and policies for the work;
  5. the growing economic power of the churches in the United States, which made possible the large investments in personnel and funds over a sustained period (Azevedo, 1980, p. 133).

These last factors apply more to the first two Protestant groups than to the Pentecostals, for whom the second and third are most relevant.

Like the Catholics, the Protestant churches in general have been divided on social problems. In most countries during the last few decades positions have had to be taken with reference to military dictatorships and the doctrine of the national security state. Often Protestants and Catholics have suffered persecution, torture, and death for their convictions. Protestant attitudes may be divided into three groups: traditional (obedience to the state in all except false worship); progressive (the right to disobey the state on questions of social justice and the duty to struggle for the establishment of a just society); and radical (a recognition of the need to overthrow unjust social structures by violence, if necessary).

It is impossible to state with accuracy the number of Protestants in Latin America. Barrett (1982, p. 783) affirms that in 1980 they constituted 4.9 percent of the population, or approximately eighteen million in the total community. Dussel (1974, p. 192) gives the following percentages of total population for 1961:

>10%Chile, British Guiana, Surinam, French Guiana
25%Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama
12%Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Honduras
1%Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica

Read, Monterroso, and Johnson estimate the number of Protestant adult communicant members at 4,915,477 in 1967.

Orthodox churches

A variety of Orthodox churches are represented in Latin America. Around 140,000 Arabic-speaking Syrians had come to Argentina and Brazil by 1915. Most were under the spiritual guidance of the patriarch of Antioch, though some priests came from Russia to provide pastoral care. Somewhat less than half a million Orthodox came as refugees in the years following the Russian Revolution and World War II. Many were lost to Orthodoxy, some identifying with spiritism, others with Protestantism. Greek, Russian, and Syrian congregations and dioceses have been organized in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile, while the Russian Orthodox also have churches in Venezuela and Paraguay. There is a Russian bishop in São Paulo and an archbishop for Latin America in Buenos Aires. A relatively few number of Uniates, Maronites, and Ruthenians (groups that maintain their national liturgy but acknowledge the supremacy of the pope in Rome) are also present, particularly in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile.

The Church and Signs of New Life

Since the mid-twentieth century, signs of new life have begun to appear both in Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. Efforts to identify with the realities of the Latin American situation do not exclude strong currents of traditional conservatism which, on the Catholic side, continue to support elitist power groups and, on the Protestant side, reject responsibility for societal improvement. But the new movements clearly point to significant changes in church attitudes and programs.


The organization of the Latin American Council of Bishops (CELAM) in 1955 gave to the Roman Catholic churches of the region a formal unity and coherence not found on other continents. This time the unity was not buttressed by civil force or restricted by the patronato that had given the national states certain rights over the churches. The chief characteristic of CELAM was its concern for the whole of human life and society.

Evidence of the new weight accorded to the Latin American churches was the large representation at Vatican II (19621965). The 601 Latin American bishops (22.33 percent of the total) were second in number only to the Europeans, with 31.6 percent. No Latin American priests had been present at Trent (15451563), and only 61 bishops had been at Vatican I (1870).

Catholic scholars judge the second general conference of CELAM at Medellín in 1968 to be a watershed in its history. Before Medellín the pastoral task had been conceived as the dispensation of sacramental grace within the contours of a Christian society. Medellín recognized that society was pluralistic, and that in this society a transformation of traditional values was possible and necessary. The popular manifestations of the faith needed to be impregnated by the word of the gospel. Devotional acts to the saints had to be changed from intercessory devices to models for life in imitation of Christ. The fatalism nurtured by the traditional sacramental view was rejected, and in its place an emphasis was placed on the pastoral task of educating people to become active collaborators with God in the fulfillment of their destiny. A call was made for organizing grass-roots community groups for Bible study and joint action in meeting social needs, especially in marginal economic areas.

In the eleven years between Medellín and CELAM III in Puebla (1979), more than two hundred thousand small ecclesiastical communities began to function effectively, particularly in Brazil, but also in other countries across the continent. Lay groups, sometimes with pastoral presence, were questioning the unchangeableness of their social plight in the light of biblical teaching and were becoming active participants for change. The Puebla Conference took up these concerns by first analyzing the Latin American situation, then making its recommendations. Recognition of the dignity of the human person, and particularly of the rights of the poor and oppressed, was declared to be at the heart of the gospel message.

The Puebla bishops were united in their harsh judgment of capitalism, Marxism, and the national security state: capitalism, for increasing the distance between rich and poor people and nations; Marxism, for sacrificing many Christian values and creating false utopias sustained by force; and the national security state, for supporting dictatorships that abuse police power to deprive human beings of their rights. Differences arise among Christians, however, when basic causes of poverty and oppression are defined and concrete programs for change proposed.

The theology of liberation was formulated after 1960 by theologians and social scientists through reflection on Latin American social and political reality and attempts to transform its oppressive structures. The best-known Catholic exponents include Gustavo Gutierrez (Peru), Juan Luis Segundo (Uruguay), Segundo Galilea (Chile), José Miranda (Mexico), Hugo Assman and Leonardo Boff (Brazil), Jon Sobrino (El Salvador), and Enrique Dussel (Argentina). They affirm the necessity of moving toward a social system characterized by priority for the poor, use of the social sciences in the analysis of reality, recognition of the ideological base from which every person develops religious understanding; and importance given to praxisactive and obedient discipleship, supported by theory, with the eventual goal of the transformation of society. This theology has been variously interpreted in Latin American church hierarchy. The fervor with which it is debated, the mutual concern about the large majority of marginalized peoples, and the evangelical zeal for ministry mark a significant renovation in Catholicism.


Protestantism has likewise developed differently from its mother institutions. The dramatic growth of the Pentecostal church bears a resemblance to other moments in church history when the chief advances were made among the poor. In their search for identity, fulfillment, and meaning there is a strong similarity between the small, spontaneous Pentecostal groups and the Catholic grass-roots communities. The Pentecostals lack the structural cohesiveness and the social commitment of the Catholics, but the inner spiritual vitality, the concern for healing in the church's ministry, and the forthright heralding of the word of the gospel that characterize the Pentecostals have awakened responses from sectors of society largely unresponsive to the historic and mission churches.

In addition to the three Protestant consultations for Latin America (CELA) mentioned earlier, other Protestant ecumenical groups that have arisen since 1960 in response to social and spiritual crises and a felt need for cooperation include a Latin American youth organization (ULAJE, founded in 1941), various university student organizations, an educational commission (CELADEC, 1961), and an association of Protestant churches (UNELAM, 1965). This later group was subsumed into the Latin American Church Council (CLAI), officially organized in 1982, with a broad representation from the three sectors of the Protestant churches. A group of churches with less emphasis on social responsibility formed a parallel organization called the Evangelical Confraternity of Latin America (CONELA) the same year.

Theological education slowly became a priority for Protestantism. The movement called Seminary by Extension was born in Guatemala in an effort to further train a large percentage of pastors and laity who already lead churches. This new educational model has spread rapidly throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Economic problems have made more traditional Western methods of theological education difficult. Hundreds of Bible institutes and theological seminaries were established to prepare pastoral leadership. A Latin American Committee for Theological Education (CLAET), composed of three regional groupings of institutions, was established in 1979.

Protestant theology has developed slowly. Most of the publications in Latin America have been translations from European and especially United States sources with more local writing in recent decades. The movement Church and Society in Latin America (ISAL) attempted to provide a theological basis for a Christian attitude toward oppressive social structures. Some of its early efforts formed part of the Protestant contribution to the theology of liberation; among its leading exponents are José Miguez-Bonino (Argentina), Rubem Alves (Brazil), and Sergio Arce (Cuba). Publications featuring reflections on this theme have come chiefly from centers of theological education in Buenos Aires, San José, Mexico City, and Puerto Rico. The Latin American Theological Fraternity (FTL) has stimulated writing by theologians across a wide spectrum of positions. These manifestations of the life of the church confirm the increasing integration of Protestantism into Latin America, the identification of its concerns on many pastoral levels with those of the Catholic Church (as on human rights issues), and the continuing missionary zeal characteristic of its heritage.

See Also

Afro-Brazilian Religions; Afro-Surinamese Religions; Kardecism; Las Casas, Bartolomé de; Mesoamerican Religions, article on Contemporary Cultures; Political Theology.



The best single volume on Roman Catholic church history is Enrique D. Dussel's Historia de la iglesia en América Latina, 3d ed. (Barcelona, 1974), translated into English as History of the Church in Latin America (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1982). The book has an excellent bibliography according to geographical area but hardly refers to churches other than the Roman Catholic. On both Catholic and Protestant history, the Brazilian Israel Belo de Azevedo gives an excellent recent summary in Portuguese, As Cruzadas inacabadas (Rio de Janeiro, 1980). In the preparation of this article I found these two books particularly helpful.

Covering the whole of Latin America will be the series of ten regional volumes published by CEHILA, Comisión de Estudios de Historia de la Iglesia en América Latina, under the general editorship of Enrique D. Dussel, who will write an introductory volume. The goal is to interpret church history from the perspective of the poor and oppressed. Volume 7, Colombia y Venezuela (Salamanca, 1981), has appeared in Spanish; volumes 2.1 and 2.2, Brazil (Petropolis, Brazil, 19771980), have appeared in Portuguese. Latin American Church Growth by William R. Read, Victor M. Monterroso, and Harmon A. Johnson (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1969) presents a detailed compilation of statistics from the evangelical Protestant perspective with heavy emphasis on numerical growth. This book also appears in Spanish, Avance evangélico en la América Latina (El Paso, Tex., 1970), and in Portuguese, O crescimiento da igreja no América Latina (São Paulo, 1969). Prudencio Damboriena does much the same from the Catholic viewpoint in his El protestantismo en América Latina, vol. 1, Etapas y métodos del protestantismo Latino-americano, and vol. 2, La situación del protestantismo en los países Latino-americanos (Bogotá, 19621963). These form numbers 12 and 13 of the valuable series FERES (Federación Internacional de los Institutas Católicos de Investigaciónes Sociales y Socio-religiosas), which provides documentation and socioreligious studies about Latin America published in forty-two volumes during the decade of the sixties. See also number 21 of the same series, La iglesia en América Latina by Isidoro Alonso (Bogotá, 1964), for a description of recent ecclesiastical structures of the Catholic Church. Some of the best general descriptions remain those of the veteran historian K. S. Latourette in his Christianity in a Revolutionary Age: A History of Christianity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, 5 vols. (19581962; reprint, Westport, Conn., 1973); see volume 3, pages 284352, and volume 5, pages 158240. See also volumes 5 and 7 of his A History of the Expansion of Christianity, 7 vols. (19371945; reprint, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1970), pages 68129 and 164185, respectively. Two extensive works from the perspective of the United States are Donald M. Dozer's Latin America: An Interpretative History (New York, 1962), which has been translated into Portuguese as América Latina: Una perspectiva histórica (Porto Alegre, 1966); and Hubert Herring's A History of Latin America from the Beginnings to the Present (New York, 1961), which has been translated into Spanish as Evolución histórica de América Latina (Buenos Aires, 1972). Herring offers a comprehensive bibliography (pp. 831845) with emphasis on English titles up to 1960. His history is ably complemented by Germán Arciniegas's Latin America: A Cultural History (New York, 1967). After working several years in El Salvador and Brazil, Hans-Jürgen Prien wrote his monumental 1,302-page Die Geschichte des Christentums in Lateinamerika (Göttingen, 1978), which has been translated into Spanish as La historia del cristianísmo en América Latina (Salamanca, 1981). The series "Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos" (Library of Christian Authors) elucidates the Catholic interpretation of the church's history from the Conquest to independence in the two-volume Historia de la iglesia en la América Española desde el Descubrimiento hasta comienzos del siglo XIX: no. 248, México, América Central by Léon Lopetegui and Félix Zubillaga (Madrid, 1965), and no. 256, Hemisferio Sur by Antonio de Egana (Madrid, 1966).

Special Themes

Two brief but excellent analyses of the receiving cultures at the time of the Conquest are Laurette Séjourné's América Latina: Antiguas culturas precolombinas (Mexico City, 1971), which has been translated into German as Altamerikanische Kulturen (Frankfurt, 1971), and Henri Lehmann's Les civilisations précolombiennes, 7th ed. (Paris, 1977), which has been translated into Spanish as Las culturas precolombinas (Buenos Aires, 1960). One of the best histories of the relation between the church and state remains J. Lloyd Mecham's Church and State in Latin America: A History of Politico-Ecclesiastical Relations, 2d rev. ed. (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1966). The rising phenomenon of Pentecostalism receives careful attention in the studies of Christian Lalive d'Epinay, El refugio de las masas: Estudio sociológico del protestantismo chileno (Santiago, 1968), and Emilio Willems, Followers of the New Faith: Culture Change and the Rise of Protestantism in Brazil and Chile (Nashville, 1967). For a description of the encomendero system and other relevant themes, see Lewis Hanke's The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America (Pittsburgh, 1949). Gustavo Gutierrez describes the history of Latin American theology and formulates a new theological perspective in Teología de la liberación: Historia, política y salvación (Lima, 1971), which has been translated as A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation (Maryknoll, N.Y., 1973). For statistics, see the World Christian Encyclopedia, edited by David B. Barrett (Oxford, 1982). A complete indexed bibliography of all theological works in Spanish and Portuguese is published annually in the Bibliografía teológica comentada (Buenos Aires, 1973) by the Instituto Superior Evangélico de Estudios Teológicos (ISEDET). Introductions to sections are in Spanish with English summaries. See also Latin America: A Guide to the Historical Literature, edited by Charles C. Griffin (Austin, 1971).

New Sources

Boff, Leonardo. Eccleiosogenesis: The Base Communities Reinvented the Church. Translated by Robert R. Barr. Maryknoll, N.Y., 1986.

Ingraham, John M. Mary, Michael, and Lucifer: Folk Catholicism in Central America. Austin, Tex., 1986.

Ireland, Rowen. Kingdom Come: Religion and Politics in Brazil. Pittsburgh, 1992.

Levine, Daniel. Popular Voices in Latin American Catholicism. Princeton, N.J., 1992.

Martin, David. Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protestantism in Latin America. Oxford and Cambridge, Mass., 1990.

Míguez Bonino, José. Faces of Latin American Protestantism. 1993 Carnahan Lectures. Grand Rapids, Mich., 1997.

Stephen, Lynn, and James Dow, eds. Class, Politics, and Popular Religion in Mexico and Central America. Washington, D.C., 1990.

Stoll, David, and Virginia Garrard-Burnett, eds. Rethinking Protestantism in Latin America. Philadelphia, 1993.

Sidney H. Rooy (1987)

Revised Bibliography

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