Malcontents, Rebels, and Pronunciados: The Politics of Insurrection in Nineteenth-Century Mexico

By Will Fowler | Go to book overview

Eight. The End of the “Catholic Nation”:
Reform and Reaction in Puebla, 1854–1856

GUY THOMSON

It is eight o’clock in the evening, the hour in which the nuns are being
forced to retire to private houses rather than to the convents where
they lived before. The city is extremely quiet and there is no move-
ment but that of the beds, trunks, and mattresses that the nuns are
carrying themselves to the houses where each is retiring.

—GENERAL JESÚS GONZÁLEZ ORTEGA,
Puebla, to Minister of War, 26 December 1862

Independence from Spain and the patriotic expression of early Mexican nationhood owed as much to the church and the clergy as it did to secular leaders and military caudillos. Although church-state relations were often strained during the first thirty years of independence, they never broke down. Churchmen remained active in politics and public life, religious imagery infused public discourse, and church and municipal corporations, as they had done since the sixteenth century, continued to share elaborate baroque ceremonies to celebrate feast days of patron saints, Corpus Christi, and Holy Week.1

How, then, from a position in the spring of 1855 when church and state still shared fairly amicably the same public space and patriotic objectives, had Mexico by 1861 become a secularized “Jacobin” Liberal republic in which the Catholic Church had been

-148-

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