Douglass Sullivan-González's The Black Christ of Esquipulas: Religion and Identity in Guatemala seeks to demonstrate how the turbulent political history of Guatemala found itself reflected in perceptions of this constantly darkening Catholic shrine. Over time, “devotional faith and candle smoke transformed the figure from a light-toned Jesus to a blackened Christ,” a material metamorphosis that “highlighted how ethnic tensions fueled political conflict and controversy” (pp. 2, 9). However, rather than a study of popular devotion, the book focuses on how political power brokers attempted to formulate popular understandings of the figure throughout Guatemala's history and how they treated its coloration based on the political and ideological concerns of the moment.

The Christ arrived in Esquipulas at the end of the sixteenth century, but Sullivan-González's analysis begins in earnest two centuries later. He briefly discusses the appearance of the shrine's first origin story...

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