About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Don't Touch the "Tradiciones y Costumbres"

Catholics living on the edge of Toluca in San Cristóbal Huichochitlán are upset. It seems that somebody has been missing their history lessons on the Catholic Church in Mexico, and the priest in the area tried to mess with the customs and traditions of the congregation: He wanted to appoint his own fiscales and sacristanes. To put it in twenty-first century terms: Doh!

El Sol de Toluca has been covering the story since December, and it looked like the conflict might be coming to an end at the start of January. However, the priest with the backing of the bishop of Toluca has closed the church and moved to another chapel entirely.

So who cares? Well, aside from the folks in San Cristóbal Huichochitlán, this a great reminder of why the population of Mexico has a tradition of being Catholic and anti-clerical. In his EXCELLENT Magistrates of the Sacred: Priests and Parishioners in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. (Stanford University Press, 1996), William B. Taylor looks at the delicate relationship between parishioners and priests as they jockey for power and control of resources and influence at the community level. There are a couple of things that will get a priest "rode out of town," and messing with the selection of lay positions is one of them. Acting as a fiscal or sacristan is not only a route to prestige in the community, access to funds and resources, and a way of participating in the sacred, but it also gives communities a sense of control of their worship that is so dominated by a heirarchical religion. In other words, you're screwing with their cosmos, man. By taking the final step of shutting down the very place of worship the Madre Iglesia is delivering a brutal slap to the community. I'll be curious to see how this plays out.

A final note, El Sol de Toluca refers to the Catholics involved as "congregants" while La Jornada says it got a letter from Otomies in San Cristobal. It looks like the congregations is trying to go after the church for violating the traditions and customs (quoting La Jornada) "sustentadas en la Constitución, en tratados internacionales y documentos episcopales."

No comments: