Biography of a Mexican Crucifix: Lived Religion and Local Faith from the Conquest to the Present

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Overview

In 1543, in a small village in Mexico, a group of missionary friars received from a mysterious Indian messenger an unusual carved image of Christ crucified. The friars declared it the most poignantly beautiful depiction of Christ's suffering they had ever seen. Known as the Cristo Aparecido (the "Christ Appeared"), it quickly became one of the most celebrated religious images in colonial Mexico. Today, the Cristo Aparecido is among the oldest New World crucifixes and is the beloved patron saint of the Indians of Totolapan.

In Biography of a Mexican Crucifix, Jennifer Scheper Hughes traces popular devotion to the Cristo Aparecido over five centuries of Mexican history. Each chapter investigates a single incident in the encounter between believers and the image. Through these historical vignettes, Hughes explores and reinterprets the conquest of and mission to the Indians; the birth of an indigenous, syncretic Christianity; the violent processes of independence and nationalization; and the utopian vision of liberation theology. Hughes reads all of these through the popular devotion to a crucifix that over the centuries becomes a key protagonist in shaping local history and social identity. This book will be welcomed by scholars and students of religion, Latin American history, anthropology, and theology.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This history of the five-hundred-year odyssey of a Mexican crucifix and its devotees is both scholarly and deeply respectful of local belief. Overcoming the apparent dichotomy between indigenous and Christian practices, Hughes's work shows how this and other Mexican crucifixes are profoundly part of both at the same time. This is an engaged study that allows us analytical distance and yet draws us in to grapple with the meaning it holds for religious life."

— Rosemary Radford Ruether, Professor of Theology, Claremont Graduate University

"Jennifer Scheper Hughes shows extraordinary interpretive skill in turning this 'biography of an object,' the Cristo Aparecido of Totolapan, into a scholarly revelation of complex religious devotion in Mexico. Combining the sharpness of a detective story with a new kind of historical writing, humanity and agency are given to all the participants - Spanish priests, indigenous parishioners and historians too! Readers are led to 'draw nearer' to a richer and deeper understanding of how the 'Christ Appeared' stays alive over centuries, through rivalry and violence, tenderness and affection, in the souls of indigenous Mexico. This book is first rate and compelling, humane and scholarly, respectful and insistent, innovative and grounded in the best historical writing of the last decades."

— Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America, Harvard University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195367072
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/27/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennifer Scheper Hughes is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at University of California, Riverside.

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Table of Contents

Contents
Chapter One: Introduction: The Iconography of Suffering
Chapter Two: "Christ Appeared": Material Religion and the Conquest of Mexico
Chapter Three: Performance and Penance: The Cristo and Christian Evangelization
Chapter Four: The Cristo Comes to Life: Lived Religion in Colonial Mexico City
Chapter Five: Repatriation: Christ Comes Again to Totolapan
Chapter Six: The Red Bishop, the Cristo, and the Aesthetics of Liberation
Chapter Seven: The Gentle Devotions of a Rebellious People: The Phenomenology of a Santo
Chapter Eight: Beauty and Devotion: Fiesta at the Dawn of a New Millennium
Chapter Nine: Conclusions: The Two Souls of Christ Notes
Bibliography
Index

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