Catholicism in Mexico has some unique elements. Most notable are the veneration of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the special importance of saints, and some elements from pre-Columbian indigenous tradition.

The Catholic faith that the conquistadors brought to Mexican shores in 1519 was imbued with nationalistic fervor of medieval Spain. The Spanish saw as their mission the salvation of Indian souls and sought the conversion of hundreds of thousands of Indians.

Thus, the initial phase of Spanish conquest of Mexico was characterized by destruction of indigenous temples, forced conversions, and mass baptisms.

Conversion to this strange new faith was not easy. Most indigenous groups in Mexico at that time worshipped a pantheon of gods primarily associated with various aspects of nature, such as rain, fair, winds, and corn. For the Aztecs, the most powerful gods included Quetzalcoatl (the patron of learning and the arts), Tialoc (the god of rain) and Huitzilipochtli (the god of war).

The Mayans in the Yucatan peninsula used an asymmetrical cross with vertical and horizontal pieces of equal length. The Mayan cross can still be found in villages in Yucatan. The church has permitted the use of this cross through the years, even though it is now known that the four points represent Mayan wind gods of the north, south, east, and west.




Virgen de Guadalupe

Guadalupe, Arizona

TABLE OF CONTENTS LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE: A NATIONAL SYMBOL FOLK SONGS