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Cofradía, a religious sodality, also known as a confraternity. The cofradía was an ecclesiastical institution of the laity based on the veneration of a specific image or religious attribution, such as the Blessed Sacrament (Santísimo Sacramento), Saint Peter, or the Virgin Mary. The cofradía was popular among all racial and caste groups, although the individual sodalities were not ethnically integrated. The institution provided spiritual security and collective identity through common acts of piety, such as sponsoring processions, celebrations, and masses. At the very minimum it was a burial society in which members paid dues to offset the costs of burial. The very largest and wealthiest cofradías owned large tracts of land and controlled vast amounts of capital. Among native communities the cofradía came to form part of a civil-religious hierarchy in which males in the community would advance by assuming a series of increasingly important offices in the cofradía and municipal government during the course of their life. In Spanish and mixed communities the cofradía often came to serve as an extension of the guild, or Gremio, fostering social cohesion and reinforcing common values.

See alsoBrotherhoods; Catholic Church: The Colonial Period.


Asunción Lavrín, "La Congregación de San Pedro: Una cofradía urbana del México colonial, 1640–1730," in Historia Mexicana 29 (1980): 562-601.

Richard Greenleaf, "The Inquisition Brotherhood: Cofradía de San Pedro Mártir of Colonial Mexico," in The Americas 40 (1983): 171-208.

Additional Bibliography

Guerra, Manuel Patricio. La Cofradía de la Virgen del Pilar de Zaragoza de Quito. Quito: Ediciones Abya-Yala, 2000.

Hernández Soto, Carlos. Kalunga eh!: Los Congos de Villa Mella. Santo Domingo: Editorial Letra Gráfica, 2004.

Luque Alcaide, Elisa. La Cofradía de Aránzazu de México, 1681–1799. Pamplona: Ediciones Eunate, 1995.

Martínez de Sánchez, Ana María. La Cofradía del Carmen en la Iglesia de Santa Teresa de Córdoba. Córdoba: Prosopis Editora, 2000.

Meyers, Albert and Diane Elizabeth Hopkins, eds. Manipulating the Saints: Religious Brotherhoods and Social Integration in Postconquest Latin America. Hamburg: Wayasbah, 1988.

Molina, Alonso de., Barry D. Sell, Larissa Taylor, and Asunción Lavrin. Nahua Confraternities in Early Colonial Mexico: The 1552 Nahuatl Ordinances of Fray Alonso de Molina, OFM. Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2002.

Rodríguez Gonzalez, Ana Luz. Cofradías, capellanías, epidemias y funerales: Una mirada al tejido social de la Independencia. Bogotá: Banco de la República: El Ancora Editores, 1999.

                                      John F. Schwaller