spite of the professions of faith reaffirmed by its leaders and
of the strict separation between Church and State, Mexico
is profoundly catholic. About 85 % of its population professes Catholicism
(10% of protestants). It is second in the world considering the
number of faithful but the number tends to decrease because of the
coming out of the sects.
True believers are horrified by the bloody cults practiced by the
Indians, the Spaniards tried to extirpate from the hearts the profound
beliefs but vainly. Indian assimilated the elements of the new religion
and by renaming their own gods; they composed sometimes a medley
for their personal use. Very soon, the missionaries understood and
accepted the necessity of compromising with the local religions
at the price of an “indianised “ Christianity.
influence of Indian beliefs
The whole popular Catholicism is impregnated of
Indian elements. And the medley is even more powerful in the more
humble classes. So, it is difficult to draw the border parting the
local rites with the ones belonging to the catholic faith. Under
an apparent homogeneity of the practices, remains a real heterogeneity
of the beliefs. Christianity has only artificially supplanted the
indigenous cults just by suppressing the more barbarous and showy
rites. Mexico succeeded sometimes in creating an
inextricable and unique mixture, which could resemble to a «
pagano-christian » religion. So, you might see, in some churches
of village, Indian Saints dressed as the members of the neighbor
locality while their mestizos homologues are dressed like Europeans,
the meztizos being almost ignored by the Indians. You might also
assist to these dances called santiagueros. The apostle Santiago,
protector of the conquistadors and legendary hero, seems to be housed
in the Indian pantheon where he is invested with the characters
of a God of the war and Thunder. It is the reason he is represented
as a glorified man riding a wooden horse and brandishing its redoubtable
sword against the « unfaithful », in order to personify
the one who blows the evil spirits and dryness. Behind the Saint,
you could see the pagan God breath !
and blood of bird
As everywhere, the mysticism of the Indians limit
itself to the immediate goods : health, rain for abundant harvests,
peace within its people, and since we never have enough Gods with
ourselves, the old divinity of Fire that still burns in the center
of the houses. As many evil and beneficent spirits kept haunting
the caves and forests, there is no magic unnecessary to coax them.
The Chinantecs and the Cuicatecs (Oaxaca),
which still venerate the thunder, spread aguardiente on the ground
to get good harvesting, while the Mixtecs spread bird blood before
the sowing. Divination, magic, shamanism and recourse to hallucinogens
are still alive. The Huichols
won’t deny it since they organize an astonish pilgrimage in
order to satisfy the divine forces : During almost 6 weeks, they
walk 800 to 900 km through the lunar landscape of the desert of
de San Luis Potosi looking
for the sacred plant : the peyotl.
This small cactus without thorn has hallucinogen effects that allow
you to communicate with the spirits and penetrate the splendor of
Genuine “plant of life”, it gives the abundance of the
harvests and the blessing of the great world powers. Joys and calamities
of the whole community depend on the success of the pilgrimage.
it is welcomed with joy !
It is for the Day
of the Dead that are revealed the specific attitudes in front
of the death. Indian and Spaniards shared a lot of common points
about it : pride, contempt for the danger, tragic vision of the
word... The present-day Mexican inherited it.
The familiar death, the everyday death doesn’t necessarily
generate sad ideas. And what a beautiful occasion is it to meet
all together, the living and the dead, once a year, to celebrate
! In Mexico, during the days before November 2nd,
people offer funeral sweets. They are exchanges of sugar skulls
called calaveras, symbolic objects in the higher sense of the Mexican
Day of the Dead. It is very appreciated to offer some to the loved
ones, its parents, and children. The more appreciated are the biggest
ones, with the first name of the happy recipient on the headband.
The “breads of death” are delicious round brioches flavored
with coffee and adorned with tibias and served with cakes hiding
a tibia instead of a baby like the King cakes for Epiphany !
play with the Death, making fun of it in carnivalesque masquerades....
People wearing grimacing masks and skeletons made of “papier
mâché “ are engaged with a macabre humor in happy
satires of the society. And everything is accompanied by a joyful
and lively music!
The night of November 1st, you have an appointment with the dead
in the cemetery to celebrate and have a diner on the graves. Once
again, the practiced rituals are more thrilling among the Indian
populations. In Romerillo, Chiapas,
the Chamulas are engaged in a very strange ceremonial. Early in
the morning, the living bring offerings to the dead : these are
whatever the dead liked when they were alive and also carnations
to remember them to the perfume of the soil. People talk to the
dead and play the guitar and accordion for them. Lanterns burn the
whole night to guide the come back of the souls. The big doors that
cover the graves are opened and, after a long wait, at dawn, the
souls can finally establish contact with the mortals. There are
endless speeches telling all the events of the year.
The Dia de los Muertos is organized according to the Mixquic
rituals in the South of Mexico and in the island
of Janitzio, two ceremonials among the most famous. In the island
of Janitzio, in the middle of the lake Pátzcuaro,
the Tarasques celebrate also
a memorable night of the dead. After a joyful fair, all the women
disappear with their children to mark with candles a field that
has nothing to do with a cemetery. Here also starts a long dialog
with the dead. In Oaxaca, fireworks
accompany a meditative parade followed by musicians and dancers.
Many Mexican families put together at home an altar
with the picture of the deceased close parents, flowers, gifts and
their preferred food. The four main elements of the nature are among
the offerings in the altars :
Fire is represented by candles : one candle for every soul,
Earth is represented by the fruits feeding the souls,
Water, in containers all along the trail, in order for the visiting
souls to be able to drink while coming to the altar,
Wind, symbolized by paper of china that moves with the breeze because
of its lightness.
the chapter about the day of the dead in Mixquic
Virgen of Guadalupe
La Lupita ! » Who did never hear this familiar appellation
or see its effigy thousand of times reproduced in every corner of
Mexico ? A whole country vibrates when it is mentioned,
as far as the devotion for the « Indita » is a unique
phenomenon is identical to the notion of the country Mexico.
The Guadalupe is the symbol of both the a catholic faith and pre-Hispanic
cults. It is the intimate cultural and racial mixture that gave
birth to Mexico.
The poor Juan Diego, a converted Indian, who on a morning
in 1531, got the vision of this Virgin, from the same race as him,
who called upon him on the hill of de Tepeyac, would never have
imagined that this was the start of this extraordinary cult. The
event gave, for sure, a strong impulse to the conversions of the
« pagans », and the « Indian » was soon
declared Saint of this new Spain who never stopped to adore her
Every December 12th , there is the most imposing, fetishist, as
well as catholic, fair in Mexico in the Virgen
of Guadalupe’s honor. And, all year long, hundreds of thousands
of pilgrims come to implore her in her new and beautiful basilica.
Young and old people would crawl on their grazed knees along the
vast square of the basilica, with a deep hope to see her. And, if
they come and see her from so far, if her picture watches over the
homes, their cars, their instruments of music, it is because the
failing or the success depend on her. It is because this little
Madonna with sad eyes and so yet small hands receives all the anguishes
and hopes of the Mexican people who can to ask anything.
the special chapter about Mexico City North (The Virgen of Guadalupe)
Mexico is a laic Nation. There is a strict separation
between Church and State. Catholics make up 85% of the population
with 10% protestants and less than 5% Jewish.
Pope John Paul II has cherished this country. He made five visits
to Mexico. In 1992, the religious organizations
were legally acknowledged and relations with the Vatican were established.
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