Why did Mayas of the Yucatán readily venerate Marian images soon after Spanish evangelization? Amara Solari uses the case of Our Lady of Itzmal, a miraculous Marian statue introduced into the Mayan town of Itzmal by Diego de Landa in 1558 that eventually gained significant indigenous and Spanish devotion, to broach that broader question.

Solari views two common explanations for indigenous adoption of Catholic imagery as inadequate. Scholars have emphasized either iconographical similarities between Catholic saints and precontact divinities or placement of Catholic imagery in locations associated with precontact sacrality. To explain devotion to Our Lady of Itzmal, Solari posits a third explanation: some Catholic images, and certainly Our Lady of Itzmal, aligned with preconquest Mayan conceptions of sacred materiality, or with how Mayas understood that, under certain circumstances, the divine could manifest in physical objects.

Solari argues that precontact Maya sacred...

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