Caribbean Religious History: An Introduction

Caribbean Religious History: An Introduction

Caribbean Religious History: An Introduction

Caribbean Religious History: An Introduction


The colonial history of the Caribbean created a context in which many religions, from indigenous to African-based to Christian, intermingled with one another, creating a rich diversity of religious life. Caribbean Religious History offers the first comprehensive religious history of the region.

Ennis B. Edmonds and Michelle A. Gonzalez begin their exploration with the religious traditions of the Amerindians who flourished prior to contact with European colonizers, then detail the transplantation of Catholic and Protestant Christianity and their centuries of struggles to become integral to the Caribbean's religious ethos, and trace the twentieth century penetration of American Evangelical Christianity, particularly in its Pentecostal and Holiness iterations. Caribbean Religious History also illuminates the influence of Africans and their descendants on the shaping of such religious traditions as Vodou, Santeria, Revival Zion, Spiritual Baptists, and Rastafari, and the success of Indian indentured laborers and their descendants in reconstituting Hindu and Islamic practices in their new environment.

Paying careful attention to the region's social and political history, Edmonds and Gonzalez present a one-volume panoramic introduction to this religiously vibrant part of the world.


The successful transatlantic crossing of Columbus and his crew in 1492 brought the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas into the mainstream of world history, initiating a process through which the area became an important arena in which European powers competed for political and economic dominance. This colonial experiment spawned the diversity of peoples, languages, and cultures that is the present reality of the Caribbean. An important part of this cultural mix is its variety of religious traditions. As these traditions encountered one another and their new environment, a process of accommodation, adaptation, and transformation began that has resulted in the character and diversity of religious beliefs and practices in the Caribbean today. This book traces the historical trajectory of the major (and some minor) religious traditions of the Caribbean against the broader background of Caribbean social history, paying particular attention to the historical events and processes that have shaped the religious experiences of the Caribbean people. To study the history of the Caribbean without serious consideration of the function and role of religion, we argue, is to miss a fundamental dimension of Caribbean cultures. The Caribbean is a microcosm of the world, where populations from around the globe have come together, with their cultures, traditions, and religions.

A Brief Profile of the Caribbean

In profiling the Caribbean, it seems apt to begin with geography, but we are immediately faced with the problem of delineating the area to be included under the designation “Caribbean.” One way of posing the problem is to ask whether our definition of the Caribbean is going to be restrictive or expansive. The restrictive definition reserves the term for the islands in the . . .

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