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 If It Is Not Catholic, Is It Popular Catholicism? Evil Eye, Espiritismo, and Santerı́a: Latina/o Religion within Latina/o Theology M I C H E L L E A . G O N Z Á L E Z In this essay I argue that Latina/o theology can provide only a limited understanding of Latina/o Catholicism, given its Christian focus. Latina/o popular Catholicism is much more than Christianity and is in fact influenced by non-Christian religious traditions. The three religious traditions I explore that heavily mark Latina/o popular Catholicism are the folk religion surrounding evil eye, the religio-philosophical worldview of Espiritismo, and the religion of Santerı́a (the popular term for Regla de Ocha). Through highlighting their influence on Latina/o Catholicism I challenge Latina/o theology to open itself to the possibility of decentering Christianity epistemologically. After briefly explaining evil eye, Espiritismo , and Santerı́a, I conclude with their epistemological impact on Latina/o Roman Catholic theology. The three traditions I cover bridge Latin American and U.S. Latina/o religion. It is my belief that to understand Latina/o religiosity one must understand and include the Latin American context. Latina/o theologians, I fear, often cut themselves off too sharply from Latin America in their scholarship. In order to understand contemporary Latina/o Catholicism, we must take into consideration its historical Spanish roots. Medieval Spanish Catholicism had a distinctive flavor, marked by heavy aesthetic expression that remained relatively unscathed by the 1545–63 Council of Trent that sought to de-emphasize these devotions. This aesthetic emphasis is found in the strong presence of processions, devotionals, and performative rituals . The historian Laura de Mello e Souza argues that the absence of PAGE 151 ................. 18125$ $CH7 09-19-11 07:52:23 PS 152 兩 m i che l le a . go n z ál e z Trent reforms contributed to the popular religious landscape and syncretism so predominant in Latin America. As she notes, Trent took time to root itself even in Europe. ‘‘During the seventeenth century, two different religions cohabitated in Europe—that of theologians and that of believers —despite the elites’ intensified efforts to crush archaic cultural features that had for centuries survived in the hearts of these Christianized masses.’’1 Regarding the religion of everyday believers, de Mello e Souza notes, ‘‘This religiosity was imbued with magic belief, more inclined to images than to what they represented, to external aspects more than to the spiritual.’’2 Trent would truly be felt only in the eighteenth century. She argues, however, that this inclination for images and processions was not necessarily Iberian (Spanish and Portuguese), but in fact European. The regulation of individual rituals and devotions that Trent instituted was not in place when Catholicism sailed across the Atlantic. However, this regulation was not an outright rejection of popular devotions . As highlighted by Anthony Stevens-Arroyo, ‘‘The council did not wish to accept the Protestant rejection of devotion to Mary and the saints, but it instituted a set of reforms that were designed to control excesses. . . . Local devotions had to be approved before they could share the benefits of indulgences, and theologically correct prayers had to be composed with ecclesiastical approbation.’’3 Local public devotions were transformed into private devotionalisms. There was a movement to control the religion at the popular level that was not characteristic of Spanish and Portuguese colonial Catholicism in the Americas. Regional devotions were not exclusively the devotions of the poor. The medieval Spanish historian William Christian argues that class was not a factor in terms of local religion; both rich and poor shared these devotions, though they differed in style. ‘‘In the villages, towns, and cities of Central Spain (and, I suspect, in most other nuclear settlements of Catholic Europe) there were two levels of Catholicism—that of the Church Universal, based on the sacraments, the Roman liturgy, and the Roman calendar; and a local one based on particular sacred places, images, and relics, locally chosen patron saints, idiosyncratic ceremonies, and a unique calendar built up from the settlement’s own sacred history.’’4 It is important to note that this local religion did not represent a pure Catholicism but instead a Catholicism that had been mixed with folk religion. Too often the study of Latina/o Catholicism presents Catholicism as if it had been untouched PAGE 152 ................. 18125$ $CH7 09-19-11 07:52:24 PS i f it i s no t c at h...


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