The basic outlines of the church-state relationship in Costa Rica are well known, but scholarly studies of religious phenomena and practices in Costa Rica, or for that matter in Latin America, are rare. This particular study by Gil Zúñiga stands out for its careful research on the creation and development of the cult of the Virgin of Los Angeles in Costa Rica. The author makes extensive use of both secular and religious sources and attempts to document how Costa Ricans came to accept, respect, and worship the Virgin. To the author’s credit, the language is restrained and evenhanded, never strident.

Gil Zúñiga sets the stage well by outlining the peculiarities of the nineteenth-century religious setting in Costa Rica. He offers succinct explanations of Catholic beliefs about God, purgatory, heaven, and hell, followed by accounts of burial customs, prayer, mass, baptism, communion, confession, and...

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