All Religions Are Good in Tzintzuntzan: Evangelicals in Catholic Mexico

By Peter S. Cahn | Go to book overview

TWO
DRINKING AND
THE DIVINE IN
CHIAPAS AND
TZINTZUNTZAN

BEFORE getting settled in Tzintzuntzan, I made a pilgrimage to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, whose overwhelming two floors of exhibit halls illustrate the pre-Hispanic and contemporary lifeways of dozens of indigenous groups. I focused on the displays related to religion. In the hall devoted to present-day Maya peoples, I admired the life-sized dioramas depicting Catholic fiestas and the colorful attire of cargo holders. Given that the southern states boast the highest concentration of evangelical churches in Mexico, I found it curious that the wall labels made no mention of the Maya who have opted out of the Catholic fiesta system.

Then, in a corner partially obscured by a potted plant, I saw two drymounted color photographs. Each one showed a simple, fenced-in church with its name stenciled above the entrance. Both were Presbyterian churches in the state of Chiapas. Next to the photos, an explanatory label read in Spanish and English, “Since the 1960s outside religious beliefs and different churches, opposed to the old cargo system, have made inroads in the native communities in an ongoing search for supporters.” The English translation stopped there, but the Spanish continued: “The presence of these churches has unleashed divisions in the communities, although in reality they only conceal the political and economic motives that are at the root of the conflicts” (my translation).1 En route to study religious change in Michoacán, I was grateful that the curators had included this reference to new churches. How-

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