After the discovery of the New World by Columbus, Spanish forces came to the New World to conquer and convert the indigenous populations. While political dominance came easily to the Spanish, spiritual authority came more slowly. Catholicism ultimately became the primary religion of Latin America, but it took on many of the characteristics of the local culture. This lesson has students closely examine the syncretic characteristics of the Catholicism in the New World as it blended with indigenous cultures.
- Acting as a modern-day investigative reporter and an article for the local newspaper explaining how Catholicism evolved in Latin America and is a blend of indigenous and European beliefs.
- Show students the Virgin of Guadalupe and Virgin of Potosi images. Ask students to describe what they see for each image and why it has a mix of Catholic and indigenous imagery.
- After the discussion, show the students the Lady of Guadalupe and the Pachamama or the Virgin Mary video clips. Based upon these clips, have students explain how New World Catholicism became a Mestizo religion.
- Set the context of the project for the students: Pretend you are a investigative report who has heard Catholicism in Latin America has some distinctive characteristics not found in Europe. You have been asked by your editor to identify the differences between New and Old World Catholicism. Make sure to include the following topics:
- Elements of indigenous American cultures that have blended with Catholicism.
- Importance of the incorporation of indigenous ideas into the Catholic Church in the Americas.
- Reaction of the Spanish to the reluctance of different Indian cultures to embrace Catholicism.
- Using the provided resources, students should research and write a short report to be presented to the Pope regarding the reasons that New World Catholicism differs from the European form.
- Discuss the differences as a class.
- Show the Ongoing Negotiations video clip. Have students analyze the role of religion in this continuing dialogue between cultures within Latin America. Have students share their opinions on those negotiations and whether or not the differences in Catholicism around the world are meaningful.