Stemming from a 1987 conference in Szeged, Hungary, this volume includes 20 papers relating to the theme of religion and society in Latin America. The third of four volumes, the collection provides valuable material on the role played by religious ideologies and organizations in the turbulent political atmosphere of the nineteenth century. Given the prominence of church-state issues in the political transformation of Eastern Europe in recent years, it is perhaps not surprising that several of the contributors have focused on the role of religion in nationalist revolts, as well as in the formation of national identity and the consolidation of state power.
Bernd Schroter opens the volume with an essay on the role of religious forms and symbols in popular mobilizations leading to Mexican independence, while Michael Zeuske offers an insightful analysis of Simón Bolívar’s conception of the role of religion in revolutionary movements. Similarly, Josef Opatrny outlines the ambiguous stance of the Catholic church in Cuba vis-à-vis nationalist and annexationist movements, while Daniele Pompejano examines the role of the church in the consolidation of conservative power in nationalist Guatemala.
Several of the papers have appeared elsewhere in different forms, such as Jean-Pierre Bastien’s work on Protestants in the Mexican Revolution. The volume nonetheless contains many original contributions that merit attention. Papers by Altiva Pilatti Balhana and Hermann Kellenbenz analyze the role played by various religious organizations in the incorporation of European immigrants into local societies. In a similar vein, Walther Bemecker provides an insightful analysis of political disputes surrounding questions of immigration and religious freedom in nineteenth-century Mexico. Ferenc Fischer and David Guieros Vieira break new ground in their analyses of Masonic orders in Chile and Brazil, the latter arguing that Masons found common cause, with Protestants and liberal Catholic nationalists, in advancing conceptions of “progress.” While Vieira’s conclusions are simplistic, his documentation of the trajectory of Masonic orders is valuable.
The volume provides a useful, if not fully focused, set of papers on religion in nineteenth-century Latin America that will be a welcome addition to the specialist’s bookshelf.