and a third friar used a skull as a prop and prophesied that God would send a great plague by the following Easter if the people did not repent their sins.
Although this type of spiritual activity has been barely studied, we know that Franciscan convents throughout the northern hemisphere used parish missions to support themselves in the later colonial period. The popularity of these revivals in rural areas led one pastor in western Mexico to obtain permission from the bishop in 1797 to build a hospice as a base for travelling Franciscan preachers. To emphasize the impact of these events, another enthusiastic pastor reported that the powerful preaching and austere example of the missionaries brought down from the hills Indians living completely outside of parish control and disdainful of the sacraments and returned them to the practice of their faith.
The third ethnic and cultural group in the Americas, after the Europeans and the indigenous Indians, were the descendants ofthe slaves imported from Africa. In Spanish America, the small numbers of Africans and a general process of assimilation made black religiosity culturally indistinguishable from the practices of the surrounding indigenous and hispanicized populations. But in Brazil, a distinct black religiosity developed which has persisted to the present day. This syncretic tradition combined Christian revelation and the use of Christian institutions and symbols with African beliefs in continuous revelation via the use of mediums and contacts with ancestors. It seems to have been imported into Brazil by slaves from Central Africa who had had long exposure to Christian missionaries. Portuguese law required that owners baptize all slaves immediately after they entered Brazil. But in the absence of a significant church presence in rural areas, and abetted by Portuguese slave owners who had little interest in evangelization or continuing education beyond the minimum requirements ofthe law, this syncretic tradition -though illegal - flourished. Indeed, it seems that masters turned to black freedmen to initiate the newly arrived bozales - unacculturated slaves brought directly from Africa - into the existing community and that these freedmen also incorporated the newly arrived blacks into the existing religious organizations. Baptism was an important element in this syncretic tradition because God-parentage created bonds of fictive kinship that substituted for the biological family that could not be re-created.
The tradition generally followed Central African cosmological structures but lacked any dogmatic principles that would have brought it to the attention
Was this article helpful?