Chapter 8. Ritual Drama, Religion, and Spiritual Spaces in Between

This chapter begins with fieldnotes from 1973 and 2000 with a focus on the celebration of saints in Amanalco. A visual centerpiece is a video documentary of the Patron Saint Fiesta held in 2000. The chapter discusses the multilayered nature of the public and more individual aspects of religious life and spiritual beliefs held by Amanalco’s residents.

Video: “Mexican Fiesta”

Although in 2010 a new Jehovah’s Witnesses temple opened along Amanalco’s main road, over 80 percent of Amanalco’s residents still follow their folk version of Roman Catholicism introduced by cadres of priests in the aftermath of the Spanish conquest in 1521. As happened elsewhere in the course of colonial conquest, there emerged an almost seamless blending, what anthropologists call a syncretism, of varied traditions into a new set of sacred beliefs and practices.

Video: Building a New Religion after the conquest

Within a decade after the final conquest of the Aztec Empire, the Spanish Crown sought to quickly convert conquered people to Christianity. Often the very early churches were built on bases of pre-conquest temples – here Professor Tomas Martinez gives a short tour of one these very early houses of worship, built in 1528 near Texcoco in the town of Huexotla.


Added Value: Catholic Religious Processions of Saints in the United States.

The procession viewed in Amanalco’s fiesta video would feel familiar to people who have witnessed the ethnic Italian Feast of San Gennaro, held each year in older American cities like Boston and New York as a tribute to the patron saint of Naples, Italy. In this feast, like in Mexico, a local group of citizens responsible for the celebration joyously carries a large image of the saint around the boundaries of the community, led by local musicians. This is combined with a formal Mass in the parish church and public celebrations involving food and entertainment.

PowerPoint: Parish Organization