Popular Piety and Political Identity in Mexico's Cristero Rebellion
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Publisher: Oxford University Press
Number of Pages: 274
Width: 16.4 cm
Height: 24.5 cm
Dr Butler provides a new interpretation of the cristero war (1926-29) which divided Mexico's peasantry into rival camps loyal to the Catholic Church (cristero) or the Revolution (agrarista). This book puts religion at the heart of our understanding of the revolt by showing how peasant allegiances often resulted from genuinely popular cultural and religious antagonisms. It challenges the assumption that Mexican peasants in the 1920s shared religious outlooks and that their behaviour was mainly driven by political and material factors. Focusing on the state of Michoacan in western-central Mexico, the volume seeks to integrate both cultural and structural lines of inquiry. First charting the uneven character of Michoacan's historical formation in the late colonial period and the nineteenth century, Dr Butler shows how the emergence of distinct agrarian regimes and political cultures was later associated with varying popular responses to post-revolutionary state formation in the areas of educational and agrarian reform. At the same time, it is argued that these structural trends were accompanied by increasingly clear divergences in popular religious cultures, including lay attitudes to the clergy, patterns of religious devotion and deviancy, levels of sacramental participation, and commitment to militant 'social' Catholicism. As peasants in different communities developed distinct parish identities, so the institutional conflict between Church and state acquired diverse meanings and provoked violently contradictory popular responses. Thus the fires of revolt burned all the more fiercely because they inflamed a countryside which - then as now - was deeply divided in matters of faith as well as politics. Based on oral testimonies and careful searches of dozens of ecclesiastical and state archives, this study makes an important contribution to the religious history of the Mexican Revolution.
Butler's study is researched thoroughly and written engagingly, successfully proving that in many communities popular 'religion was a - sometimes the determinant' (p.214) in the process of defining community and national identity Journal of Ecclesiastical History The author spins a nimble narrative unencumbered by jargon and enlivened by a few marvelous photographs ... it is the best (if regionally specific) social history we have of the Mexican Catholic Church to date. Ben Fallaw, The Historian Butler's well-crafted, elegantly written, and accessible study combines skilful analysis of a wide-range of archival sources ... Popular Piety and Political Identity will undoubtedly serve as a model for historians of the revolution seeking to incorporate religion into their analysis of Mexico's maddeningly complex regional history. Adrian A. Bantjes, English Historical Review