Christianity in Latin America: A History

Article excerpt

Christianity in Latin America: A History. By Ondina E. González and Justo L. González. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. 331 pages. $23.99 (paper); $80.00 (cloth).

Tackling the difficult task of encapsulating over five hundred years of religious history in a geographic area of over seven million square miles is quite daunting, especially given the space limitation of three hundred pages of text. However, in their new book Ondina and Justo González provide a good general overview of the history of Christianity in Latin America. The authors use a thematic approach to trace the colonial and postcolonial periods in Latin America. They provide readers with a sense of the transformation that took place as different groups assumed (and often fought for) control across this immense and rich region. They write in an accessible style, allowing for a fairly wide-ranging appeal. This book will be most useful for undergraduate courses or general readers with interest in Christianity in Latin America.

Over the course of the eleven chapters, González and González write about the different phenomena of outsiders bringing various ideas to Latin America. In response, Latin Americans adopt, adapt, and take ownership of new concepts arriving on their shores. After a brief contextual setup outlining the indigenous religious layout before the arrival of colonizing countries, Christianity in Latin America addresses the impact of Roman Catholic Europeans. Here, the authors make the interesting observation that the "New World" had a significant impact on Catholicism. The relationship between the Old World and the New World was reciprocal. As the various Latin American countries began to gain independence, the landscape appeared homogenously Catholic, but autochthonous (indigenous) movements never disappeared. Latin America also experienced a steady influx of Protestant groups beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing to the present.

Despite Protestant immigration and evangelization, the Catholic Church remained the dominant religious group throughout the region. …