Nuestra Fe: A Latin American Church History Sourcebook

Nuestra Fe: A Latin American Church History Sourcebook

by Ondina E. Gonzaalez


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Spanning more than 500 years, this illustrated book covers the rich history of Christianity in Latin America. The authors use an analytical framework as they describe the institutional religious history for the period covered in that chapter, providing the context to look at other concurrent though non-institutional developments within Christianity. Each section includes sources that look at the way Christianity manifested and continues to manifest itself in the life of Latin American society, including its women, its enslaved and indigenous populations, and the modern-day marginalized sectors.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781426774263
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 07/15/2014
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Justo L. González has taught at the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico and Candler School of Theology, Emory University. He is the author of many books, including Church History: An Essential Guide and To All Nations From All Nations, both published by Abingdon Press.

Justo L. González es un ampliamente leído y respetado historiador y teólogo. Es el autor de numerosas obras que incluyen tres volúmenes de su Historia del Pensamiento Cristiano, la colección de Tres Meses en la Escuela de... (Mateo... Juan... Patmos... Prisión... Espíritu), Breve Historia de las Doctrinas Cristianas y El ministerio de la palabra escrita, todas publicadas por Abingdon Press.

Ondina E. González is an independent scholar who has been a visiting professor at Agnes Scott College and Emory University.

Read an Excerpt

Nuestra Fe

A Latin American Church History Sourcebook

By Ondina E. Gonzáles, Justo L. González

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2014 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-7426-3




As every child knows, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." The morning that the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María were filled with hardtack and the sailors weighed anchors, the world was forever changed. But the transformation brought by Columbus's voyage to what would become known as the Americas did not take place in a vacuum. The impact of the voyage and the response to what Columbus found were shaped by the civilizations that encountered one another. Thus, in order to understand what happened after 1492, one needs to understand what was happening before, both in Spain and in the Americas. One might argue that such is the case particularly when studying the evolution that occurs when different religions meet, clash, and ultimately reconcile, even if one "conquers" the other. One way to grasp the complexity of those civilizations and religions is to listen to the words, look at the art, and read the myths of the people. In the selections that follow, we will do just that.

We will begin with the Spaniards, whose world in 1492 was undergoing rapid changes: The Jews were expelled from the country; the Moors were finally defeated at Granada; and Isabella granted Christopher Columbus the right to sail under her flag.

Columbus and the people who for years followed after him brought with them not only their food and diseases but also their attitudes toward warfare and religion. Source One, "A God-Given Destiny," presents the reader with an avenue to understand the religious fervor and all-encompassing ethos of the Reconquista. This centuries-long process, whereby Christians militarily reclaimed the land that had been conquered by the Moors in 711, culminated in 1492, just before Columbus sailed. By that time, the myth had developed that the process of reconquest was conscious and continuous. This recasting of the past served to create an ethos in which Spain identified its own nationalistic endeavors with God's purposes.

Religion also shaped the way that the original Americans responded to the Spanish spiritual and military invasion and conquest. This is evident in our second selection, "Ancient Beliefs," in which we look at the birth myth of the Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli. This narrative brings to life Mexican cosmology and the belief that the world was born out of chaos and conflict.

The conquest of Mexico is described in some detail in "A Surprising Market," an excerpt from a chronicle by Bernal Díaz del Castillo. This source allows modern-day readers to enter the world of the conquerors as they moved across Mexico. Of particular interest to us is the inner conflict that Spaniards experienced as they tried to reconcile what they saw with what they believed about the Aztecs. The description of Tatelulco (now known as Tlatelolco), a thriving marketplace in the Aztec capital, presents us with a small slice of that inner conflict.

Efforts to understand the "other" were not limited to the Spaniards, as is made clear by our fourth source, "Conversion of an Inca." In Prince Titu Cusi Yupanqui's account of the mistreatment of his father, Manco Inca, at the hands of the Spaniards, we see an Andean ruler trying to understand just who these invaders were. We also read about Titu Cusi's own conversion to Christianity and glimpse how faith was a tool used by both sides. Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala also recounted the abuses of the Spaniards in the Andean world. However, in our fifth source, "A Tragedy in Pictures," the selections presented are not written. They are illustrations that graphically represent the conquerors' actions as interpreted by the conquered.

As you read these sources and contemplate the drawings, ask yourself what, if any, were the points of commonality between the pre-European Americas and the pre-American Europe. How would divergent worldviews have affected the Encounter? In what ways did prominent elements evident in these sources contribute to the interpretation of the conquest?

In each of these sources, the writer or artist expresses his—they were all men—perception of the world around him. In seeing the world through the eyes of the actors in the Encounter, the modern reader can begin to understand why the post-1492 European and American worlds, including their Christianities, evolved as they did.

Source One

A God-Given Destiny


By 1530, a few years after Columbus set sail on his final voyage to the Americas, both Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon were long dead: Ferdinand for almost fifteen years and Isabella for more than twenty-five. Yet it was in that year that Lucio Marineo Sículo published De rebus Hispaniae memorabilibus Libri XXV (XXV books on memorable Spanish things). The Sicilian-born chaplain to Ferdinand penned a most impressive history of Spain, in which he included accounts of "the illustrious life and heroic deeds of the Catholic Monarchs," as Ferdinand and Isabella were known. As Marineo gloried in the richness of his adopted country and the reign of these monarchs whose rule marked the beginning of early-modern Spain, he wrote of the area's geography, the culture of its residents, and its military and religious history. A key part of military/religious "history" guiding Isabella's Spain was the myth of the reconquest (la Reconquista ). This myth held that from the time of the Moorish invasion of Spain (711), Spanish Christians had valiantly struggled to reclaim their country for the glory of God. The notion that God was on the side of the Spaniards and the Spaniards on God's side was deeply entrenched in most aspects of late-fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century Spain. The excerpts we have chosen focus on Ferdinand and Isabella's efforts at the end of the fifteenth century to unite Spain under one faith, practiced one way. You will read of the Inquisition and heretics—mostly Jews who had converted to Catholicism only to revert to their old religion—of reform efforts against nuns and monks whose lifestyles fell far short of that required by the rule under which they supposedly lived; and of the war against the Moors in Granada. As you read these selections, be sure to reflect upon what religious unity meant for the rulers of Spain and why Marineo would include it in an account of the monarchs' heroic deeds. You might also ponder how the understanding of military success as being a reflection of both God's benevolence and a people's faithfulness to God would ultimately affect the conquest of the Americas. At what points can you discern the myth of the Reconquista?

The Text

Since we have already discussed the customs of the Jews, we shall now tell briefly how they became Christians in Spain. In past years, and almost in our own time, there was a man from the city of Valencia whose name was Fray Vicente Ferrer, of the Order of Preachers, who was a famous theologian and marvelous preacher.... Through his preaching and very strong arguments and obvious reasons, he proved to the Jews all the errors and obvious deceptions by which they were blinded. He thus converted many of them to the Catholic faith. These, when they came to know the Christian religion and our faith as most holy and true, by their own will were baptized and received all the sacraments of the church, thus beginning to live as Christians. But later, as time went by, through a diabolic persuasion, or through the contact they had with those Jews who had remained in their love ... they easily returned to their own sinister and traditional customs. Thus, these new Christians, imagining that Christ was not the one whom God was to send, and whom they awaited, and repenting from their conversion, looked with contempt upon the Christian religion and continued celebrating the Sabbaths and Jewish ceremonies in secret places in their homes, going barefooted at night to their synagogues and keeping their paschal feasts and the memory of their ancestors, as they had done before.

... Thus, time itself, or rather the justice of God, made it be known to the Catholic Princes [Isabella and Ferdinand] that there were young men who were sinning in the dark, at night and in unlit places, and no longer allowed such practices to remain unpunished. With the advice of the Cardinal [Ximénez] ... the Catholic Monarchs brought a remedy to these evils, at first by ordering all priests and religious men that in all the cities and towns they should admonish and instruct all new Christians by means of public preaching as well as privately and individually, that they do this diligently, and [that they] keep and confirm them [new Christians] in all the sacraments of the church and in the holy Catholic faith. And later when they learned that this was achieving little or nothing, they sent ambassadors to Rome before the Holy Father. The latter having listened to the embassy, marveling at the new heresy and mournful of the dishonor and insult which the heretics brought on Christians and on the honor of God, sent his bulls to the Catholic Monarchs, signed with the apostolic seal. Through these bulls he ordered that a diligent inquisition be made and punishment be brought to those who did not have the right attitude towards the Catholic faith, and opposed it, or had deviated in any manner whatsoever. Thus the king and the queen ... ordered that the inquisitors, who had been chosen from among all the priests in their kingdom, people very correct in their customs and doctrines, that in all the cities of Spain as well as in its towns they should publish their public edicts, by apostolic authority, and declare publicly that those who had committed the crime of heresy, who within a certain time would come forth and confess their errors to the inquisitorial fathers, humbly asking for forgiveness and thus being reconciled to the church, would make a public penance for their errors. Through this judgment, before the term expired, almost 17,000 people appeared before the fathers, counting men and women. To these people, the church, which is a fountain of mercy and a mother of piety, content with their penance, which each did depending on the nature of their error, gave life to many who perhaps did not merit it. Those on whom reliable witnesses informed that they did not wish to obey these commandments and persevered in their heresies were imprisoned and put to the question by torture. Once they had confessed their errors, they were burnt. Among these some lamented their sins and confessed Christ, and others persevered in their errors, calling upon the name of Moses. Thus in a few years almost 2,000 heretics were burned. Some who repented and mourned their errors, even though they had sinned grievously, were put in perpetual prison, where they did penance. Others who were spared both life imprisonment and death were punished by having their names condemned and being declared unworthy of occupying any public offices. They were not allowed to wear any gold or silk, but rather were to wear sambenitos [cloaks of shame] with two red crosses, one in front and one behind, over all their apparel, so that everyone could see them and recognize them. They also took measures against those among the dead who were known to have sinned while living. Confiscating their goods and depriving their children of them and of all ranks and offices, they also disinterred their bones from their tombs, which were many, and burnt them. And many other Jews, fearing this justice and knowing their own evils, abandoned their homes with many goods, and also left Spain, fleeing some to Portugal, others to Navarre, many to Italy, and some to France and other regions, where they thought they would be safe. The Catholic Monarchs used the [confiscated] goods, both in real estate and in moveable form, in their wars against Moors, and this was a large amount of money. Thus, in Andalucía alone more than 5,000 houses were left by Jews who had fled with their wives and children. And since, as we have already stated, the contact with Jews on the part of those recently converted to our faith was harmful to them, giving them occasion to sin, the Catholic Monarchs forever expelled all Jews from their kingdoms and dominions. Since the edicts and admonishments of the government ordered that they would not be allowed to sell their houses or to take money with them, some were arrested for carrying such in the saddlebags and in the ears of their donkeys....

We have easily seen how much care and diligence our Catholic Monarchs devoted to the conservation of virtue and honesty, not only in temporal and human things, but even more so in those divine and spiritual things having to do with the honor of God and human salvation. They were always as mindful and zealous about this as they were about the governing of their kingdoms. They, therefore, appeared as priests and holy pontiffs no less than as rulers, constantly ordering very holy laws both for the honor of divine worship and for human matters and the ordering of their kingdoms. Since they saw many among the religious, particularly Friars Minor, Observants, and Preachers, who kept their rules, and at the same time that other cloistered people of various orders lived unworthily, not keeping that to which they were supposedly committed, the monarchs ordered that all monastics should observe their rules and live worthily. They also prohibited the visits of men in nuns' monasteries, where the latter lived dissolutely and in much liberty. These were forced into their religious observances by being cloistered in their monasteries, and forbidding them any freedom, suspicious conversations, or going out of their monasteries.

... But now I return to the Moors of Granada. These were in possession of the city ... as well as of many other places and were constantly trying to push forward. They were involved in many battles and skirmishes, and continually attacking those Christians who lived near them. This resulted in many captives, prisoners, and deaths on both sides. But there was no lack of very Christian rulers of Spain, valiant men of great courage and zealous for our Christian religion, who in open battle, having conquered and demolished the Moors, pursued them to the very gates of the city of Granada, and attacked its walls.... One night, very quietly, [the Moors] came to the place called Zahara, which belonged to Christians. They climbed over the walls with ladders and then, with great and frenzied impulse, they broke open the gates. Forgiving neither women nor children, they cruelly killed the Christians who were within the walls, who were sleeping naked, trusting the truces that had been made, and without guards or watches. The cruelty of the Moors against the Christians is incredible. And after these atrocities, they left a garrison in the place they had taken and happily went to repeat their deeds in other Christian places. I believe all of this was allowed by God in order to lead to the war of the kingdom with Granada and for the final destruction and perdition of the Moors. The news of the horrendous death of the Christians and the frightening cruelty of the Moors awakened and provoked the Catholic Monarchs, as well as all the grandees and people of Spain, in a marvelous manner, seeking the destruction of the Moors with ferocious zeal. On this, once these Catholic Monarchs Don Ferdinand and Doña Isabella ... were convinced of the evil and deeds of the Moors, they diligently sent letters and messengers to all important people and to all the cities and places in the provinces of Andalucía and Cartagena. They informed them of the Moors' cruelty and admonished them to guard and strengthen their towns and to gather as much cavalry and infantry as they could. The monarchs would take care of all things necessary for the waging of war. They would diligently and with great vigilance see to all the things that would prevent the entry of the Moors. The Monarchs promised that they would soon come to them with an army or would send their captains and many people to their aid and succor. The knights and towns of both provinces, whose responsibility it was to defend themselves and their property from their enemies, although they had willingly and diligently seen to all that was necessary to guard and defend themselves, now, with the news and admonishment of their rulers, and having hope of aid and succor, became more forceful.... And since the Moors, through their spies, learned of this, they not only desisted from what they had begun but also began to withdraw fearfully. The Christians, having prepared the necessary arms and other matters, were alert and ready, awaiting the coming of the Catholic Monarchs or their command as to what they should do.

Source Two

Ancient Beliefs


Huitzilopochtli, the Mexican god of war, was born out of dishonor, so Aztec informants told Fr. Bernardino de Sahagún. Beginning in the 1540s, less than thirty years after Hernán Cortés's conquest of Mexico, Sahagún, a Franciscan missionary, collected the history of the Aztec world, its culture, and its society by interviewing Nahuatl-speaking elders. The resulting Florentine Codex (so called because it is now in Florence), or Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España (General history of the things of New Spain) as it is also known, is the compendium of that history recounted to the priest. Sahagún had been commissioned by his order to compile this history as a tool for the conversion and Christian instruction of indigenous Americans. An accomplished linguist, Sahagún also produced a Spanish/Nahuatl dictionary and a grammar. These sources, particularly the ethnographic Florentine Codex, are our best window into the Aztec worldview before the arrival of the Spaniards.

Think about what the story of Huitzilopochtli tells us about how the Aztecs understood the world. Also consider how that view might have affected the Aztecs' reception of the Spaniards. How might the Spaniards have used it to their advantage? (In considering this last question, you may wish to look at our next source, "A Surprising Market.") As you read the excerpt about Huitzilopochtli, consider how a missionary might have used the information in efforts at conversion. At what points might a Christian have "connected" with the story of the war god in order to make Christianity more acceptable and understandable to Indians? How might Sahagún's race and religion have colored what his informants told him? Why would the elders among the natives have participated in Sahagún's project?


Excerpted from Nuestra Fe by Ondina E. Gonzáles, Justo L. González. Copyright © 2014 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

List of Primary Sources Employed xi

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

1 Foundations 3

Source One: A God-Given Destiny 5

Source Two: Ancient Beliefs 9

Source Three: A Surprising Market 12

Source Four: Conversion of an Inca 15

Source Five: A Tragedy in Pictures 19

2 Arrival 25

Source One: A Gift from the Pope 27

Source Two: Justifying the Unjustifiable 31

Source Three: A God Compromises 35

Source Four: The Virgin Speaks to Juan Diego 37

Source Five: A Scholar's View 42

Source Six: An Entire People in Hell? 45

3 Shaping 51

Source One: A Priest Reports 53

Source Two: On Becoming a Saint 56

Source Three: Theology in the Kitchen 60

Source Four: The Inquisition at Work 63

Source Five: Magic and Love 66

4 Reforms 71

Source One: The Royal Throne and the Holy See 73

Source Two: Cloak and Dagger 76

Source Three: Who Can Say, "I Do"? 78

Source Four: Correction or Abuse? 82

Source Five: Travels in Brazil 86

5 Turmoil 91

Source One: Submit and Be Good 93

Source Two: El Supremo's Temper Tanttum 95

Source Three: A Slave Code 98

Source Four: Faith in a Healer 100

Source Five: An Alternate Creed 107

Source Six: A Last-Ditch Effort 109

6 Protestant Presence 113

Source One: The President's Visit 115

Source Two: Unwelcomed Peddlers 119

Source Three: Race and Mission 123

Source Four: A Woman's View 127

Source Five: A Radical Perspective 130

Source Six: A Poet's Fear and Faith 134

7 Protestants and Catholics 139

Source One: The Archbishop Complains 143

Source Two: A Catholic Woman's Plan for Action 147

Source Three: A Call to Change from a Nobel Laureate 150

Source Four: Justifying a Presence 154

Source Five: We Are Not All Catholic 158

Source Six: La Violencia 162

8 The Catholic Church Faces New Situations 169

Source One: The Bishops Look Forward 172

Source Two: Liberation and Change 175

Source Three: An Official Reprimand 177

Source Four: The Magi 182

Source Five: A Retablo 185

Source Six: Another Retablo 187

9 A Complex Reality 189

Source One: The Holy Spirit in Chile 192

Source Two: Quichua Penreeostals 196

Source Three: A Charismatic Priest 203

Source Four: Shangó 206

Source Five: Reyita's Faith 211

Source Six: An Immigrant's Tale 214

Source Seven: The Catholic Response 217

Source Eight: A Protestant Response 223

Source Nine: Graffiti Theology 229

Epilogue 231

Notes 233

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