Mexican culture was incurably damaged by the introduction of Christianity
In the spring of 1519, a small armed force of Spaniards led by the pious Hernan Cortes landed on the Vera Cruz coastline of Mexico. By mid August 1521, Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Mexican empire had fallen. This dramatic milestone marked the beginning of one the world's greatest holocausts. However this wholesale butchery of an entire civilisation was by no means through armed conquest alone. In 1524 at the request of Hernan Cortes, 12 Franciscan monks led by Fray Toribio (Motolinea) arrived in Vera Cruz and walked bare footed to Mexico City. At this time, the Spaniards hold on power in Mexico was becoming increasingly tenuous with Cortes chasing a rogue army commander in the north of the country, and a mere 200 Spaniards grouped together in Mexico city increasingly turning upon each other with the Mexican masses eagerly waiting for an opportunity to overthrow these new overlords. In the face of these overwhelming odds, on the first day of 1525 in Texcuco these 12 monks began a campaign of destruction to raze every aspect of pre-Hispanic religion from existence. All temples were destroyed and on top of them were built Christian places of worship. However, by destroying the heart of the religious culture of the Mexican civilization, the church declared ownership of all Mexican souls and as such became the protector of the Mexican people against the atrocities committed by the Spanish in the name of financial gain.
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Cortes wouldn't have conquered Mexico if he wasn't so pious
Hernan Cortes set out from Cuba with instructions from the viceroy to trade and not to cause conflict with any people he may meet. Having seen the corruption of the Christian message in Europe, Cortes conquered Mexico to provide the church with a clean sheet of paper on which to create the perfect Christian utopia. Without religious verve, Cortes would not have had the zeal to conquer Mexico, and the true Mexican culture would still be alive today
It wasn't Christianity that damaged mexican culture, it was colonialism. The same thing happened in Africa, we had our tribes and our festivals, but then the Europeans came along. They enslaved 12,000,000 of us and left poverty to develop. Now Africa has one of the biggest Christian populations in the world. Also, what about Europe. It had it's old pre-medieval traditions. Somebody introduced Christianity, but the Europeans don't whinge about their culture. People forget that Christianity began in the Middle East, not Europe.
If Cortes ruined Mexican tradition it was his colonisation of Mexico, not Christianity itself. Many African countries celebrate their old traditionss through song and dance and are still fervent in their Christian faith.
Mexicans aren't Mexican any more.
Mexico culture rotated around the central belief that God made man from Maize, and that man and Maize formed a complex circle of life. Without the religion, the circle of life would break and humanity would end. If the religion was changed, does that mean that the original Mexican culture ended an therefore all that is left today is a homogenous religious culture instead of a truly Mexican culture?
Benito Juarez (Anti-Roman Catholic) is the saviour of Mexico
We must take a look at Mexico as it was before and during the life of this reformer, Don Benito Juarez. The conquistadors and the first Spanish settlers to come to New Spain, not only seized land and authority for themselves, but set up a power structure that excluded even those of pure Spanish blood if they were born in Mexico. Called creoles, they were granted only secondary positions in local governments. High positions in the national government, the military and the Roman Catholic Church were reserved for those born in Spain. To perpetuate this system, pregnant women were sent back to Spain to give birth. Called gachupines (spur-wearers), they were hated by those Spaniards who had been born in the New World. They were equally unpopular among the mestizos, those of mixed Spanish and Indian blood. Hatred for this elite group made itself manifest on the night of September 15, 1810, when those hearing Father Miguel Hidalgo proclaim the Grito, a call for Mexican Independence from Spain, responded by shouting Mueran los gachupines! (Death to the Spaniards). Of the three groups who had formed this alliance, the Church was the most vulnerable and it was at them that Juarez directed his first efforts to overthrow the power structure. He also attacked the army, seeking to abolish it, but with little success.
Juarez remains an untarnished hero. In the campaign against the Catholic Church, he and the Liberal Party were actually waging war against the Conservative Party, which was an unholy alliance of the Church, the military and the landowners. There can be no doubt that the Church used threats of excommunication and the granting of indulgences to further the well being and control of the country by the gachupines. The destruction of this power structure, that excluded most Mexicans, is the basis for his popularity and rightfully so.
The Catholic Church saved the Mexican people by treating them as human beings and giving them the chance to live as free people.
Time after time, the Catholic Church has narrowly escaped destruction and survived only because of popular support that defied the law of the land. It was Hernan Cortes who brought the Catholic Church to Mexico. Pope Alexander VI had ordered that natives of the new lands discovered by Columbus, be instructed in Catholicism for the "salvation of their souls." Cortes accepted this wholeheartedly and acted accordingly. He was also punctilious about christening women given to the Spaniards as slaves. It was forbidden for his men to have intercourse with any woman until she had been baptized. The woman who history calls La Malinche, baptized as Donna Marina, not only served Cortes as an interpreter and later, as his mistress. She became a fervent Christian, and according to Bernal Diaz, worked hard to convert her fellow Indians. Schools for Indians were founded, and now the true meaning of Christianity was made clear to those who had converted. There can be little doubt that the firm grip of Catholicism on Mexico can be traced back to the efforts of Archbishop Juan de Zumarraga. The Church, with government approval, would monitor the treatment of Indians. When the Spanish landowners foiled efforts to force them to grant Indians freedom, De Quiroga, started to set up monasteries and community centers in which Indian children could be educated. Manned by friars, they gave instruction in Christianity plus arts and crafts. The Catholic Church saved the Mexican people by treating them as human beings and giving them the chance to live as free people.
It was the government's effort to "chastize" the Catholic Church which led to a mexican potical and cultural chaos
The Plan of Iguala had guaranteed the supremacy of the Catholic Church in 1821 and although the new Mexican constitution paid lip service to religious tolerance, only Catholics could be Mexican citizens. But in 1851, all of that started to change as a "liberal" political party was born. One of its leaders, a Zapotecan Indian named Benito Juarez would finally emerge as President of the country. But long before that, he had proclaimed himself as an anti-cleric, determined to destroy the power of the church. With a protégé, Ignacio Comonfort installed in the Presidency, the "Lerdo Law" was proclaimed. It expropriated all property owned by the church or that it held in trust. Ironically, this act by a party, led by an Indian, stripped his fellow Indians of most of the land they held. Called Ejidos, they were lands granted to Indian tribes, clans, communities or even families. They were owned in common and were farmed communally. But because the majority of the Indians were illiterate, the Church held the lands in trust. Now they were seized along with convents, monasteries, hospitals and schools. In 1857 a new Constitution was drawn up. Liberty of conscience, religious tolerance and freedom of worship were all professed by the Liberals, but in reality they had deprived the almost 100 percent Catholic population of much of their religious freedom. Churches remained open, but they suppressed all religious orders, declared religious vows illegal, prohibited nuns and priests from appearing in public in religious garb. . In a further blow aimed at Catholicism, Protestants were permitted to establish themselves in the country. Despite the unpopularity of these laws, they remained in effect. But they did not break the allegiance of the Mexican people to Catholicism. Also, it led the clerics and their conservative supporters to appeal to the French, who sent troops and installed Maximillian as Emperor of Mexico.
The Catholic church saved the mexican indians, and it was only because of the anti-clerical govenrment started by Juarez which has led to Mexico's cultural downfall.
During the reign of the Emperor Maxmillian, 1864-1867, the Church was able to recover somewhat with the Archbishops of Mexico City and Michoacan and the Bishop of Oaxaca permitted to return to the country. But the hope of a complete restoration of church property and influence never materialized. Some compensation was paid to the Church, but on the instructions of Napoleon III, himself an anti-cleric, the Church remained in disfavor.
When Maximilian was deposed, Juarez was restored to the presidency and the war against the Church continued. In 1873, a rebellion against the anti-church laws, now being enforced by President Lerdo de Tejada, broke out and continued until 1876 when Porfirio Diaz became President. Though not repealed, the laws were not enforced. But later, Presidents Carranza, elected in 1917 and Obregon who came into power in 1920, enforce them selectively. A new Constitution, adopted in 1917, now made it clear that the state was to control the church. President Elias Calles, elected in 1924, was a Socialist, and continued to look on the Church as an enemy. During his presidency, all but Mexican born priests were deported, religious schools were closed. Limits were put on the number of priests in the country and their registration with the Government, required.
In the years that followed, these anti-clerical laws were never repealed but were either enforced or ignored at the pleasure of the ruling PRI and the President. This on again-off again pattern of anti-clericalism finally led to the "Cristeros War." It had been brewing since 1925 and in early 1929 the violence escalated as the government moved to crush the rebels. Centered mostly in the northern part of Jalisco called Los Altos, by June of that year, the fighting had ended with a Government victory.
With the election of Lazaro Cardenas to the presidency in 1934, a détente between Church and State became a reality. In 1940, Cardenas was succeeded by Avila Camacho. A devout Catholic he changed the Constitution to re-affirm religious freedom, but did not succeed in repealing all the anti clerical provisions it contained. Thus Catholic schools were able open again but were forced to disguise themselves as private institutions.
Now, the Mexican Communist Party entered the scene. Surprisingly, they were pro-church, since the right wing government was anti-cleric. The late 70's and early 80's again saw anti-clerical laws, still legally in effect, ignored by the government. It was not until 1992 that President Carlos Salinas actually entered into negotiations with the Vatican and a formal rapprochement took place.
Today, Priests and Nuns are free to appear in public in religious garb. There is true freedom of religion. But it is clear that the Catholic Church in Mexico must render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, unto God the things that are God's.
In May of 2000 the Catholic Church, in both Mexico City and Guadalajara voiced some comments critical of the ruling political party. It immediately received a warning from Ministry of the Interior, reminding them that meddling in politics is strictly prohibited by the Mexican Constitution. This confirms that there are still anti-clerical laws in effect and that the government will not hesitate to invoke them should the Church continue to speak out on political matters.
Thus, at least for the moment, the Church cannot attempt to influence politics. This is not to say that individual politicians are not devout Catholics and look out for the interests of their Church. The recent elections may change things, since the new ruling party, the PAN is friendlier to the Church. There are those who warn that any attempt by the Church to regain political influence may lead to social unrest.
Despite some 141 years of harsh treatment by government, Catholicism still holds the hearts of the majority of Mexicans.
Perhaps the greatest problems today lie in the area of family planning. Upper and middle class women seem to be challenging church doctrine in this area, but in all other matters, their faith remains firm. Large families are still very much in evidence outside the largest cities. The growth of Evangelic Protestantism is still not a major problem. As of this moment the Church remains a unifying force in the private lives of Mexicans. It is the one constant in the changing and sometimes chaotic Mexican scene. There can be no question that without the moderating influence of the Church, the indigenous people might have been completely wiped out.
As Mexico moves toward Democracy, old political alliances may crumble, but the strength and sincerity of their religious beliefs will always sustain the people.
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