Info

of the authorities. Black religiosity revolved around the use of charms and amulets thought to bring good fortune and ward off evil and thus to give the slaves some control over the exigencies of their everyday life. The cross, for example, was a popular religious symbol among slaves because it reflected both a Christian iconography and was a representation of a central African view of the cosmos that gave believers access to spiritual power. The slaves also associated charms and spiritual power with the images of the saints. Travellers' accounts, which provide our main source of information regarding these practices, continually noted the importance of the devotion to saints. But in this case, unlike the saints' cults practised by indigenous populations in Spanish America, the saints were incorporated into the African traditions. Since lay-run Christian brotherhoods (hermandades) were already a very important aspect of religiosity in Brazil because of the lack of priests, slaves found it possible to publicly manifest their religiosity through their own brotherhoods while avoiding the suspicions of authority.

Another important element of black religiosity was the emphasis on burial rituals. African tradition placed great stress on the use of such rituals to keep separated souls from wandering among the living and plaguing them. Here again, Catholic institutions provided the slaves with a cover, as well as with a set of rituals, to meet their traditional concerns. Black hermandades functioned primarily as burial societies and guaranteed that slaves would be interred in consecrated ground and with rituals that would facilitate the soul's movement into the spiritual world.

The eighteenth-century missions

While efforts in the settled areas focused on re-evangelization, missionaries were also proselytizing among new groups during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Even after 1767, despite the stress of having to assume territories that had been under Jesuit supervision, Franciscan, Dominican and Mercedarian friars opened new missions in upper California, Texas, southern Chile, the Amazonian regions of Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, northern Colombia, the Chaco regions of Bolivia and northern Argentina, and Patagonia.

The work itself also grew exponentially more difficult. The groups encountered generally were not sedentary farmers with sophisticated social or political structures. Thus, the cultural distance between the indigenous populations and the missionaries was much greater than in the period of early evangelization, and overt hostility was more common. Some groups, such as the Guajiros

0 0

Post a comment