Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Nahua and Maya Catholicisms, Texts and Religion in Colonial Central Mexico and Yucatan

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Nahua and Maya Catholicisms, Texts and Religion in Colonial Central Mexico and Yucatan

Article excerpt

Nahua and Maya Catholicisms, Texts and Religion in Colonial Central Mexico and Yucatan. By Mark Z. Christensen. (Stanford: Stanford University Press; Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History Press. 2013. Pp. xiv.318. $65.00. ISBN 978-0-8047-8528-0.)

Mark Christensen elaborates here on a fine array of Catholic liturgical texts, confessional guides, and baptismal guides composed, preached, and disseminated by the mendicant orders throughout the colonial period in the major Mesoamerican indigenous languages of the Náhuatl and Maya. The texts were taught and assimilated in two distinct geographical areas and from two highly differentiated cultures: the Nahuas of Central Mexico and the Maya of Yucatan. Furthermore, this cultural-geographical divide also serves the author to both distinguish and highlight the degree of impact of, absorption of, and interpretations of Catholicism^) by the indigenous populace (p. 48). A complex variation existed in the immersion of Catholicism among the indigenous groups, primarily between centers and peripheries (p. 17).

The book is divided into three parts: "Creating Catholicisms," "Prescribing Catholicisms," and "Reflecting Catholicisms." However, the major contribution of this book is in the distinction among three types of texts: Category 1 texts, which are "printed religious texts written by ecclesiastic authors and/or their religious aids and aimed for a broad readership of both ecclesiastic and native populations" (p. 53); Category 2 texts, which are "unpublished texts written by ecclesiastics and /or their native stewards for more local audiences including religious authorities" (p. 80), and Category 3 texts, which are "unpublished, unofficial texts written by natives for natives" (p. 84). The genre of the testaments, as primary sources for the study of the degree of spiritual accommodation of Catholicism in the indigenous mind and soul to their day of death (chapter 7), were, however, overwhelmingly both monolithic and formulaic in their nature, and their contents were largely dictated by the local priest, via the notary, to the testators. …

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