Guatemala's Catholic Revolution
A History of Religious and Social Reform, 1920-1968
254 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Hardcover | 9780268104412 | November 2018
eBook (PDF) | 9780268104436 | November 2018
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268104443 | November 2018
Guatemala’s Catholic Revolution is an account of the resurgence of Guatemalan Catholicism during the twentieth century. By the late 1960s, an increasing number of Mayan peasants had emerged as religious and social leaders in rural Guatemala. They assumed central roles within the Catholic Church: teaching the catechism, preaching the Gospel, and promoting Church-directed social projects. Influenced by their daily religious and social realities, the development initiatives of the Cold War, and the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), they became part of Latin America’s burgeoning progressive Catholic spirit.
Hernández Sandoval examines the origins of this progressive trajectory in his fascinating new book. After researching previously untapped church archives in Guatemala and Vatican City, as well as mission records found in the United States, Hernández Sandoval analyzes popular visions of the Church, the interaction between indigenous Mayan communities and clerics, and the connection between religious and socioeconomic change.
Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, the Guatemalan Catholic Church began to resurface as an institutional force after being greatly diminished by the anticlerical reforms of the nineteenth century. This revival, fueled by papal power, an increase in church-sponsored lay organizations, and the immigration of missionaries from the United States, prompted seismic changes within the rural church by the 1950s. The projects begun and developed by the missionaries with the support of Mayan parishioners, originally meant to expand sacramentalism, eventually became part of a national and international program of development that uplifted underdeveloped rural communities. Thus, by the end of the 1960s, these rural Catholic communities had become part of a “Catholic revolution,” a reformist, or progressive, trajectory whose proponents promoted rural development and the formation of a new generation of Mayan community leaders.
This book will be of special interest to scholars of transnational Catholicism, popular religion, and religion and society during the Cold War in Latin America.
Bonar L. Hernández Sandoval is assistant professor of history at Iowa State University.
“I found Hernández’s book to be an insightful study of changes in the Catholic Church in Guatemala during the middle decades of the twentieth century. His work provides a base for reflecting on the importance of institutional decision-making for future generations of religious adherents who find themselves trying to make sense of what it means to act in social and political affairs.” ~Mathews Samson, Davidson College
“As an anthropologist of Christianity in Guatemala with some fifteen years of research experience, I learned a tremendous amount from this book and am excited to teach the book in graduate courses on Latin American Christianity. The book blazes new trails with a careful, creative, and original analysis of Guatemala’s Roman Catholic Church in the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. It is an obvious and necessary contribution to the field and will certainly find a readership among Latin Americanists concerned about Christianity.” ~Kevin Lewis O’Neill, University of Toronto
“Hernández Sandoval convincingly shows that the move towards a progressive Catholicism was not straightforward, but rather the result of how distinct strategies of missionization aggregated over time to produce a vision of Catholic religious life that emphasized the agency of the laity.” ~Reading Religion
“Bonar Hernández Sandoval’s historical analysis of Guatemala’s Catholic Revolution demonstrates the capacity of religion and religiosity to generate social change over time. Using Catholic correspondence from both archives within Guatemala’s Catholic Church and Vatican City archives, Hernández demonstrates how priest and parishioner jockeyed to transform the Catholic faith from a 'Romanized church' to a reformist, even revolutionary church over a crucial fifty-year span in Guatemala’s turbulent, twentieth-century history. This artful analysis sheds light on many of the internal dynamics within the faith between parishioner and priest, missionary and lay leader, that would provoke state censorship and repression, and encourage insurgent mobilizations.” ~Douglass Sullivan-González, University of Mississippi