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.
Cortes wouldn't have conquered Mexico if he wasn't so pious
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.
Benito Juarez (Anti-Roman Catholic) is the saviour of Mexico
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.
It was the government's effort to "chastize" the Catholic Church which led to a mexican potical and cultural chaos
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.
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.