It is widely held that Christianity came to Belize as an extension of the conquest of Yucatan and that adherence to Christian belief and practice was abandoned in the absence of enduring Spanish authority. An alternative view comes from the excavations of Maya churches at Tipu and Lamanai, which show that the dead were buried in Christian churchyards long after the churches themselves fell into disuse, and pre-Columbian ritual objects were cached in Christian sacred spaces both during and after Spanish occupation. Excavations also reveal that the architectural style of these early churches is Franciscan in inspiration but nonetheless the product of continuing community efforts at construction and repair. A conclusion difficult to ignore is that the Maya of Tipu and Lamanai considered themselves Christians with or without Spanish presence.
Viewing historical and archaeological data through the lens of her personal experience of Roman Catholicism, and informed by feminist approaches, Elizabeth Graham assesses the concept of religion, the significance of doctrine, the empowerment of the individual, and the process of conversion by examining the meanings attributed to ideas, objects and images by the Maya, by Iberian Christians, and by archaeologists. Graham's provocative study also makes the case that the impact of Christianity in Belize was a phenomenon that uniquely shaped the development of the modern nation.
About the Author
Elizabeth Graham is senior lecturer of Mesoamerican archaeology at University College London.
Table of Contents
List of Figures ix
List of Maps xiii
1 The View from Belize and the Vision from St. Mike's 9
2 Yucatan and Belize on the Eve of Conquest 29
3 Cheese and Terms 59
4 Being Christian and the Doctrine of the Church 86
5 The Environment of Early Contact 105
6 The Millennial Kingdom and the Belize Missions 137
7 How to Tell a Church 167
8 The Churches at Tipu and Lamanai 189
9 Reductions and Upheaval in the Seventeenth Century 239
10 What Europe Did for Us 263
11 Being Pagan 285
12 Everyone Knows What a Dragon Looks Like 307
Appendix 1 Friars in Belize 314
Appendix 2 Bishops of Yucatan to 1714 323
Glossary of Terms 375
References Cited 385