the case of the Mocobi, receiving the benefits of mission life required them to accept the new social and political structures imposed by the missionaries, along with the public aspects of Christianity such as the Mass, the Christian calendar of feast days, and the sacraments. After they became mission Indians, they readily adopted Christian models ofascetic piety (in missionary eyes they went to extremes), but while they understood Christian moral expectations, they ignored the more abstract ideas of sin and virtue because they clashed too heavily with their traditional cultural conceptions. Their understanding of the sacraments, likewise, was not as the European priests intended it. A decade after the coming of the friars, baptism and burial rites were accepted and understood, marriage less so, and confession and the Eucharist, least of all.

This is not to say, however, that their conversion was superficial. Over time, mission Indians throughout the Americas internalized the mission structures as their own and made Christian rituals and behaviour the centrepiece oftheir public communal existence. Even harsh recent critics of the mission system acknowledge that indigenous communities ultimately accepted the resulting cultural amalgam. After a few generations, the Indians considered themselves Christians.

Missionaries understood this evolutionary process and accepted it. Perhaps, over time, the understanding of European religious culture by the peoples converted in the late colonial period would have come to resemble that of groups evangelized in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But the question is unanswerable, because the process was cut short. The wars of independence would fatally damage the mission system in all parts of the empire.

The wars of independence in Spanish America

In their efforts to build a state, the Bourbons severed the bonds that had justified and held together the Habsburg Empire in the New World. Baroque religious ceremonies and festivals linked elites and commoners and expressed a system of shared beliefs and symbols that ultimately provided ideological support for the king himself. The attacks on popular religious practices, then, created a gulf between the leaders of society and the mass of the colonial population.

But the issue that most concerned bishops at the end of the colonial period was the growing disaffection of the diocesan clergy. Throughout the Habsburg era, the diocesan priesthood had been both a profession and a vocation. The Bourbons set out to diminish the professional aspects of the sacerdotal state in hopes of rekindling the vocation. In the eyes of the crown there were

0 0

Post a comment