Basilica de Guadalupe

The Catholic Church has existed as one the most powerful and resilient religious and political institutions in Latin America since the era of conquest. At the same time that the first Spaniards were subjugating the indigenous population of the Tainos, the crown of Spain was being ruled behind veil by the Holy Sea. This would create a watermark of the church throughout the colonial period and even though to today. Conversion was used as an excuse to assimilate native populations, and the mission became the center of most early settlements. This trend for religious centralization would continue further into history to affect the complete social structure such as the Marianismo. Every politically driven family would ideally have at least three boys so that one could go into political affairs, one could become a high ranking officer in the military, and the third could enter into the church; this would create a major sphere of control and solidifying positions at the the top of the Socioeconomic Pyramid.[1]

The only period of history in which the Church's influence was diminished was that directly after independence. Many countries would cast out the Catholic hierarchy due to its close ties to the former government, most commonly subservient to Spain. Quickly after its dismissal, however, Nationalistic movements began to spring up in the revolutionary aftermath that reestablished the church; this would help sanction a national identity to help the cause. This period in Latin American history parallels that of the Spanish Inquisition. This was illustrated in Dawson's book with document 2.1, Esteban Echeverria's The Slaughterhouse. The first half of the document is a cynical observation of the Church's effect on the community. It was such a central part to the town that it even decided when cattle would be delivered to the slaughterhouse. Later in the document there was a young man who was gruesomely murdered in the name of the Church and the federalist movement. This horrific image was a common occurance in places where the Church had control in Latin America.[2]

Although Protestantism has become a larger player in today’s America, the Catholic Church still has a substantial amount of influence. We can see even recently with the Pope’s visit the several Latin American Countries such as Cuba and Mexico that the Bishop of Rome still has the ability to shake things up, especially in the press. It would appear that the history of the Church and that of Latin America are so entwined, even in today’s world that has fewer religious followers than ever before, many political and social issues are decided all the way across the ocean in Rome. This clearly makes the Church a continuing contributor to a form of modern and historical neo-colonialism. Today, Hispanic Catholics account for 70% of those who adhere from the influence from the Church, while Protestant accounts for 18% and 12% do not claim a religious prefrence.


  1. Becker, Marc. "Caudillos and Oligarchy." Latin America During the National Period. Truman State University, Kirksville, Mo. 24 Jan. 2012. Lecture.
  2. Esteban Echeverria. “The Slaughterhouse (El Matadero).”Latin America since Independence. Eds. Kimberly Guinta, Nicole Solano. New York: Routledge, 2011. 19-21. Print.

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