- The Power of God Against the Guns of Government: Religious Upheaval in Mexico at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century
The Power of God Against the Guns of Government forcefully illustrates the dynamic relationship between historic events and contemporary lives by relating the story of alienated villagers in northern Mexico. Vanderwood weaves a well-researched story of Temochic village from its indigenous and colonial past to the siege of 1892 and beyond. He provides the uninitiated reader with abundant support in area maps, geographical descriptions, and the necessary contextual information to draw larger lessons from the lives of distant historical figures in a remote setting.
The story of Temochic reveals a village struggling to confront a modernizing world that exacerbates old rivalries and positions the village in opposition to Porfirio Diaz’s government directives. Villagers took solace from the changing world around them in a renewed religious fervor led by a Teresa Urrea, young woman better known as Santa Teresa de Cabora. Vanderwood analyzes the religious history of the region and concludes that the leadership of Temochic “grew up in an atmosphere in which priests not only refused to obey the . . . civil regulations, but also developed strategies to get around them” (61). This history provided the background for Santa Teresa initially to minister to the daily lives of the villagers and later to provide inspiration for resistance to government oppression.
The Temochic rebellion and the role of Santa Teresa influenced the literature, filmmaking, and various social movements of Mexico and the United States during the years following the siege of Temochic. [End Page 363] Vanderwood skillfully analyzes these remembrances and places each within the context of their retelling by decade and social group. By so doing, Vanderwood looks far beyond Temochic.
The Power of God Against the Guns of Government is divided into four parts that are designed to provide both basic information and interesting insights into the lives in Temochic. “The People of the Papigochic” provides the setting. “La Santa de Cabora” introduces the individuals. “Armageddon” presents the conflict, and “Echos” delves into the remembrances. These four parts offer a logical, fascinating narrative that the experienced scholar, as well as the new reader to the field, will find rewarding.