Religious history in colonial Latin America has attracted much attention over the past decade and remains at the forefront of the current research agenda. Historians’ present interest in religious experience has somewhat overshadowed the action of ecclesiastical institutions and clergy in the more mundane aspects of the church’s mission. This is above all true of how its clergy operated at local levels well after the initial conquest decades, when the initial encounter produced a riot of syncretistic misunderstandings and outcomes. Studies such as those of Adriaan C. van Oss and William B. Taylor on Guatemala and Mexico, respectively, have demonstrated the rewards of focusing on parish clergy for a deeper understanding of how and why colonial societies functioned. Nicholas Robins’s new book provides a multifaceted treatment of the modus operandi of rural clergy in its relations with the communities, and the communities’ range...

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