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All Religions Are Good in Tzintzuntzan

Evangelicals in Catholic Mexico

By Peter S. Cahn

Publication Year: 2003

Since the 1960s, evangelical Christian denominations have made converts throughout much of Roman Catholic Latin America, causing clashes of faith that sometimes escalate to violence. Yet in one Mexican town, Tzintzuntzan, the appearance of new churches has provoked only harmony. Catholics and evangelicals alike profess that “all religions are good,” a sentiment not far removed from “here we are all equal,” which was commonly spoken in the community before evangelicals arrived. In this paradigm-challenging study, Peter Cahn investigates why the coming of evangelical churches to Tzintzuntzan has produced neither the interfaith clashes nor the economic prosperity that evangelical conversion has brought to other communities in Mexico and Latin America. Drawing on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, he demonstrates that the evangelicals’ energetic brand of faith has not erupted into violence because converts continue to participate in communal life, while Catholics, in turn, participate in evangelical practices. He also underscores how Tzintzuntzan’s integration into global economic networks strongly motivates the preservation of community identity and encourages this mutual borrowing. At the same time, however, Cahn concludes that the suppression of religious difference undermines the revolutionary potential of religion.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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p. v


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p. vi

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Preface: Confronting Interreligious Violence

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pp. vii-xiii

Threats of interreligious conflict have replaced cold war tensions as the major source of global instability in the twenty-first century. From Northern Ireland to Kashmir to the West Bank, the irreconcilable coexistence of two faith traditions has the potential to spark bloody confrontations. Motivated by doctrinal exclusivity, religious partisans see the destruction of nonbelievers as the only way to ensure the purity and...

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ONE: Sharing the Burden of Fiestas across Borders

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pp. 1-26

WHEN George Foster began his ethnographic research in the central-western Mexican community of Tzintzuntzan in 1944, he heard a common refrain. Tzintzuntzeños answered any question about who were the wealthiest families or the most macho men in town with a denial of differences: ‘‘Here we are all equal’’ (Foster 1967:12–13). The physical landscape tended to reinforce that idea. Surrounded...

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TWO: Drinking and the Divine in Chiapas and Tzintzuntzan

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pp. 27-62

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...

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THREE: Accounting for Missionaries and Money

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pp. 63-91

IN Latin America, it is a standard refrain of Catholic and civil leaders alike that new churches constitute a foreign imposition, taking root only with the help of North American resources and malevolent chicanery. They blame missionaries for luring men and women away from the Catholic Church with cash, clothing, and the promise of further riches. La Farge raised this concern as early as 1932 on...

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FOUR: Responding to the Minority: Catholic Self-Improvement

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pp. 92-120

ONE Monday afternoon in Santa Fe, I joined a prayer circle with Dr. Cook and a group of two dozen Pur

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FIVE: Responding to the Majority: Doctrinal Disobedience

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pp. 121-140

EARLY on the morning of the Jehovah’s Witness District Assembly, I took a taxi with Norma, Ricardo, and their children to Quiroga, where a chartered bus waited to take members of the congregation to Morelia. Along the way, Ricardo chatted amiably with the driver, who had agreed to squeeze seven people in his compact sedan. When we arrived in Quiroga...

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SIX: Considering the Consequences of Conversion

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pp. 141-164

WITHIN Mexico, Catholic observers commonly perceive evangelical churches as mere extensions of North American denominations with their conservative ideology. They accuse evangelicals of undermining the traditional structures of spirituality and participation that unite communities. To critics like Miguel, the local official...

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Conclusion: Mobilizing Religion

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pp. 165-172

The communities around Lake Pátzcuaro, much like the rest of Latin America, are experiencing an explosion of religious diversity. Evangelical Christian churches have arisen in the past thirty years to challenge the Catholic Church’s centuries-old monopoly on Tzintzuntzeño spirituality. At the same time that international migration and economic integration with global capitalism...


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pp. 173-177


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pp. 179-191


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pp. 193-197

E-ISBN-13: 9780292798700
E-ISBN-10: 0292798709
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292705388
Print-ISBN-10: 0292705387

Page Count: 213
Illustrations: 13 photos, 1 map
Publication Year: 2003

OCLC Number: 55675759
MUSE Marc Record: Download for All Religions Are Good in Tzintzuntzan

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Tzintzuntzan (Mexico) -- Church history -- 20th century.
  • Church and social problems -- Mexico -- Tzintzuntzan.
  • Christian sociology -- Mexico -- Tzintzuntzan.
  • Catholic Church -- Mexico -- History -- 20th century.
  • Evangelicalism -- Mexico -- Tzintzuntzan.
  • Catholic Church -- Relations -- Evangelicalism.
  • Evangelicalism -- Relations -- Catholic Church.
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