The history of Mexican Catholicism between 1910 and 2010 was one of successive conflict and compromise with the state, latterly coupled with increased concern about religious pluralism, secularization, and divisions of both style and theological and ecclesiological substance within Catholicism. The Mexican Revolution (1910–1920) represented a particular threat to the church, which was identified by many revolutionaries as an institution allied to the old regime, and hence persecuted. In the same period, and until 1929, the church was openly committed to implementing its own social and political project in competition with the state. Religious conflict reached a tragic peak in the 1920s and 1930s, as revolutionary anticlericals waged political and cultural campaigns against the church, provoking both passive and armed resistance by Catholics. With some exceptions, the period from the late 1930s to the late 1960s was one of comparative church–state conciliation, and a period of institutional collaboration that began when both institutions stood down their militant cadres in the 1930s. In subsequent decades, an over-clericalized and socially conservative church and a theoretically revolutionary but undemocratic state made common cause around the poles of civic and Catholic nationalism, economic stability, and anti-communism. From the later 1960s, however, the church grew increasingly vocal as a critical interlocutor of the state, in terms of both the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s failing socioeconomic model and, especially in the 1980s, its authoritarian political practices. In places, radical strains of Liberation Theology helped to guide indigenous and urban protests against the regime, while also posing an internal, ecclesial problem for the church itself. The rise of economic neoliberalism and qualified democracy from the 1980s onward, as well as the political reorientation of Catholicism under the papacy of John Paul II, saw the church assume a frankly intransigent position, but one that was significantly appeased by the 1992 constitutional reforms that restored the church’s legal personality. After 1992, the church gained in political prominence but lost social relevance. Should the church cleave to an unofficial corporatist relationship with a generally supportive state in the face of rising religious competition? Should Catholics assert their newfound freedoms more independently in a maturing lay regime? A cursory view of Catholicism’s religious landscape today reveals that the tension between more horizontal and vertical expressions of Catholicism remains unresolved. Catholics are to be found in the van of rural self-defense movements, leading transnational civic protests against judicial impunity, and decrying the abuses suffered by Central American migrants at the hands of border vigilantes. At the same time, the mainstream church seeks official preferment of Catholicism by the state and lends moral support to the PRI and PAN parties alike.
Charlene Villaseñor Black
According to believers, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared in 1531 to recent indigenous convert Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac, north of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, an area in the environs of Mexico City. The series of apparitions culminated with the miraculous appearance of her image imprinted on his native cloak, or tilma. This painting, housed in the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the Villa de Guadalupe in northern Mexico City, has been venerated from the 16th century. The Virgin of Guadalupe is considered the patroness of Mexico, and special protector of its native and mestizo populations. She is perhaps the best-known symbol of Mexico, and her image is very common in the fine and popular arts. She has played a number of roles over the centuries—as object of religious devotion, emblem of national pride, symbol of peace and justice, and feminist icon. Similarly, her image has transformed over time, from the original sacred icon of 1531 to controversial contemporary images from the 1970s. Her image is also frequent in the United States, where 20th- and 21st century Chicana/o (Mexican American) artists represent her in community murals, prints, photographs, sculptures, and paintings. Chicana (Mexican American) women artists have transformed her into a feminist icon, generating controversy and provoking censorship in both the United States and Mexico. Held sacred by many Mexican, Chicana/o, and Latina/o Catholics, the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe has never been neutral, but instead, represents the mutability and political potential of Catholic sacred imagery.