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1. Adrian Bantjes:‘Culture and Context: The Regional Dynamics of Revolutionary Defanaticization in Mexico’

During the Mexican Revolution, many states launched so-called defanaticization campaigns aimed at undermining both Church and faith, provoking profound local and even national conflicts. This paper combines the analysis of cultural and contextual factors in an effort to understand the diverse local dynamics of religious conflict between 1915 and 1938. Factors to be examined include local historical (revolutionary) background, the interface between local/regional and national politics, diocesan and parish-level church organization, local forms of religiosity, socio-economic characteristics, ethnicity, etc. My goal is to reach a nuanced understanding of revolutionary defanticization as the product of the interaction of local societies and a globalizing modernity.

2. Jean-Pierre Bastian: ‘Protestants, Masons, and Spiritualists: Religious Modern Associations and the Revolutionary Movement in Mexico, 1910-1920’

Until now, few scholars have dealt with the network of modern religious associations (Protestants, Masons, Spiritualists) dissenting from the Catholic tradition and its impact on social and political change in Mexico before and during the Revolution. Developed throughout the Porfirian regime, this network served as a space for the shaping of a liberal citizenship among social minorities. It was a channel for both religious political dissent against the conciliatory Porfirian politics towards traditional actors and interests. It contributed strongly to the Revolutionary rupture of 1910 and later on remained significant at some regional levels or as a network serving the Carrancista regime through education looking for a democratic citizenship against the ‘México Bronco’ and Catholic influence.

Agrarista and the Sacred Heart as seen by Diego Rivera (c. 1921)
Agrarista and the Sacred Heart as seen by Diego Rivera (c. 1921)

3. Kristina Boylan:‘“She Forced Me”: Revolutionary and Not-So-Revolutionary Negotiations in Catholic Bigamy and Divorce Trials, 1930-1940’

Ecclesiastical leaders in Mexico had protested the divorce laws of the revolutionary regime since the introduction of their prototype by Venustiano Carranza in 1915, and did not withhold their disapproval of the revised Civil Code of 1928.  While the surge of divorces and people living in ‘sin’ that Roman Catholic Church leaders anticipated did not seem to occur, a good number of cases where Catholics cited the new divorce laws and other rights that had entered public discussion during or as a result of the Revolution as a basis for the justification of their permanent separation from their spouse did increase. This paper is based on the transcripts and documentation of investigations into bigamy cases in the diocese of Mexico in the decade following the Cristero rebellion, and uses other ecclesiastical reports and evidence (archival, published, and oral) to analyze how ordinary people reacted to postrevolutionary changes in law and to sermons delivered by the Catholic Church, the Mexican State, and other social reformers.  A variety of factors help explain the slight increase in incidences of bigamy along with the surge in Church leaders’ fears:  equations of civil divorce and severance of religious marriages, social upheaval due to the violence of the Revolution and the Cristero Rebellion, increasing numbers of migrants (within Mexico and to the USA) establishing multiple households, and other historical paradigms of gender roles and rights.

4. Keith Brewster: ‘Ethereal Allies: Spiritism and the Revolutionary Struggle’

This paper analyses the role that Spiritism may have played during the Mexican Revolution. While the importance of the ‘spirits’ to Francisco Madero is generally recognised, little is known about how the ethereal world was carried onto the battlefield. Studies of similar developments elsewhere in Latin America suggest that middle-ranking officers in particular, were drawn by the messages that Spiritism had to offer. Using documentary evidence relating to campaigns in the state of Hidalgo, I analyse how such beliefs may have been used by military leaders to mobilise, motivate, and modify the actions of their soldiers.

Open-air mass for children, Estado de México, 1930s
Open-air mass for children, Estado de México, 1930s

5. Matthew Butler: 'Revolution and the Ritual Year: Religious Persecution and Innovation in Cristero Mexico, 1926-9’

While existing studies usually consider the 1926 suspension of public worship by the Catholic hierarchy as a political protest against revolutionary anticlericalism, this paper analyses the religious aspects of Church policy during the cristero rebellion (1926-29). The paper first discusses the emergency liturgical and sacramental reforms which were introduced by Mexico’s fugitive prelacy in order that outlawed religious practices could subsist amid persecution. The paper then reviews a selection of case studies in order to examine the practical effects of religious resistance to persecution. In particular, the paper focuses on changes and continuities in the relationship between the Catholic laity and clergy which form a central, if neglected, aspect of the Revolution’s religious history.

6. Fernando Cervantes: ‘Revolutionary Nation, Traditional Piety: The Persistence of Colonial Religion in Modern Mexico’

This paper will track the continuities between colonial and national-period religious devotions in Mexico (detailed abstract to be confirmed).

7. Robert Curley: ‘Christian Democracy in Cristero Jalisco: The Archdiocese of Guadalajara in the 1920s’

This paper will argue that a strong Christian Democracy movement flourished in the Archdiocese of Guadalajara prior to the cristero rebellion, only to be sacrificed during the Cristiada when its energies were channelled in the direction of armed revolt. The second half of the paper will use the case of 1920s Jalisco to offer a critique of existing theories of political incorporation as applied in Mexico.

Revolutionary 'Defanaticisation', 1930s
Revolutionary 'Defanaticisation', 1930s

8. Massimo de Giuseppe:‘“El Indio Gabriel” in Postrevolutionary Tabasco: Passive Resistance and a New Religious Perspective from the Indigenous World in the Age of Garrido Canabal’

This paper explores the dynamics of popular religiosity and silent strategies of cultural defence in postrevolutionary Tabasco. Here the confrontation between Church and State was experienced in extreme form during the governorship of Tomás Garrido Canabal, who transformed Tabasco into a ‘radical laboratory’ of the Revolution. Garrido’s ‘defanaticising action’ was opposed, however, by indigenous Chontal and Chol communities near the Chiapas border and in the Chontalpa swamps. This defence of a syncretic indigenous religiosity, originating in Mayan custom and primordial Franciscan evangelization and expressed through mayordomías and closed devotional systems, provides an interesting and original example of cultural resistance to the Revolution’s modernising project. In particular, the 1920s saw the emergence of ‘El Indio Gabriel’, a Chontal who created a new religious movement based on evangelization and passive resistance in his village near Macuspana. When Garrido expelled Tabasco’s Catholic priests, this Indian catechist created a substitute for the official clergy by offering an original pastoral, educational and sacramental service. The paper shows how this local experience combined elements of an indigenous religious world view with those of a modern lay movement, such as the Apostolado de la Oración, giving life to a new form of contemporary syncretism.

9. Alan Knight:‘The Mentality and Modus Operandi of Revolutionary Anticlericalism’

While research on the Mexican Catholic Church has, in recent years, expanded our understanding of how it operated and reacted to the 1910 Revolution, its chief ideological rival – revolutionary anticlericalism – has been less thoroughly studied, bar some valuable regional studies (eg. of Tabasco and Garridismo). This paper tries to analyse revolutionary anticlericalism in terms of its historical background, discursive repertoire, social make-up, and political modus operandi. It suggests that anticlericalism was a genuine belief system (not a mere smokescreen, nor a contrived political ploy); it had its own intellectual lineage; and, although its success was quite limited, it enjoyed support among dictinct sectors of the population (which can be distinguished by class, education, region, and gender).

Execution of the 'martyred priest', Francisco Vera, Jalisco 1927
Execution of the 'martyr priest' Francisco Vera , 1927

10. Jean Meyer: 'Catholics in Revolution (Católicos Revolucionados)’

Between 1914-1938 a serious dispute erupted in Mexico between the triumphant revolutionary faction and the Catholic Church, which was accused by revolutionaries of being the ‘dark shadow of Spain’, ‘the permanent betrayal’, and ‘the anti-patria’. The Church, meanwhile, considered the Revolution to be the instrument of the United States to ‘decatholicize’ Mexico. This paper argues that during the long fight, both the Church and the laity changed significantly, in that they changed – and were transformed by – the Revolution.

11. Benjamin Smith: ‘Religion and Anticlericalism in the Diocese of Huajuapam, 1930-1940’

During the 1930s, the state government of Oaxaca attempted to extirpate the influence of Church Catholicism from popular culture. Although it employed a mixture of ‘constructive’ and ‘destructive’ methods, in the diocese of Huajuapam the state was far from successful. Here prelates, priests, parishioners, and private schools linked to resist all forms of state cultural intrusion. While the bishops monitored proceedings from Mexico City priests organised strikes and created private schools. Meanwhile the inhabitants obeyed Church dictates, refusing all offers of negotiation with the state’s educational and administrative emissaries.

12. Edward Wright-Rios: ‘A Revolution in Local Catholicism:  Faith or Fraud in Oaxaca, 1928-1934’

The summer of 1928 posed a challenge for residents of the Oaxacan parish of Juquila. Reports of national church-state conflict, fears of local unrest, rumors of schism in a neighboring parish, tensions between the curate and civil officials, and a devastating earthquake had unsettled the faithful. In addition, news that a young Indian girl was speaking to the Virgin in a nearby cave reached the parish seat. Pilgrims converged upon the apparition site, newspapers decried rural superstition, and local Catholics clashed over the meaning of the visions. Had the Virgin come to initiate the church’s ultimate triumph in rural Oaxaca? Had Satan initiated a parody of the faith? Or was a cabal of conspirators plotting to bilk an uneasy population? This paper analyzes the impact of this moment of rural religious ferment and argues that the region experienced a complex crisis within the church that exposed fault lines of gender and ethnicity among the faithful. For many locals this struggle overshadowed the more famous church-state political conflict of the period.


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