Mary, Michael and Lucifer: Folk Catholicism in Central Mexico

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Author: Ingham, John M (1940- ) inscribed by the author to George M Foster

Year: 1986

Publisher: University of Texas Press

Place: Austin


x+217 pages with tables, maps, figures, bibliography and index. Royal octavo (9 1/4" x 6 1/4") issued in light brown cloth with red lettering to spine. Latin American Monographs, number 69. inscribed the author to professor George M Foster. Institute of Latin American Studies. First edition.

The physical signs of Roman Catholicism pervade the Mexican countryside. Colonial churches and neighborhood chapels, wayside shrines, and mountaintop crosses dot the landscape. Catholicism also permeates the traditional cultures of rural communities, although this ideational influence is less immediately obvious. It is often couched in enigmatic idiom and imagery, and it is further obscured by the vestiges of pagan customs and the anticlerical attitudes of many villagers. These heterodox tendencies have even led some observers to conclude that Catholicism in rural Mexico is little more than a thin veneer of indigenous practice. In Mary, Michel, and Lucifer John M Ingham attempts to develop a modern semiotic and structuralist interpretation of traditional Mexican culture, an interpretation that accounts for the culture's apparent heterodoxy. Drawing on field research in Tlayacapan, Morelos, a village in the central highlands, he shows that nearly every domain of folk culture is informed with religious meaning. More precisely, the Catholic categories of spirit, nature, and evil compose the basic framework of the villagers' social relations and subjective experiences. Ingham shows that customary departures from orthodox tradition are related to the fact that peasants find all three categories equally real. Although putting a high value on spiritual relations, they must, so to speak, give the Devil and Adam and Eve their due; that is, biological reproduction and the struggle with adversity are preconditions for moral order in the community. When viewed in these terms, it becomes apparent that male vices, weather-working ritual, folk medical beliefs and practices, and seemingly pagan dances are all integral parts of a coherent Catholic culture. The culture also seems heterodox because it incorporates elements of indigenous culture. Ingham demonstrates, however, that syncretism is more systematic and European that one might suppose: although preserving pre-Hispanic gods and cosmic order to a remarkable degree, it has assimilated them into a Catholic framework. Folk Catholicism, then, is a local expression and application of orthodox ideas rather than a symptom of incomplete conversion.

George McClelland Foster, Jr born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on October 9, 1913, died on May 18, 2006, at his home in the hills above the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, where he served as a professor from 1953 to his retirement in 1979, when he became professor emeritus. His contributions to anthropological theory and practice still challenge us; in more than 300 publications, his writings encompass a wide diversity of topics, including acculturation, long-term fieldwork, peasant economies, pottery making, public health, social structure, symbolic systems, technological change, theories of illness and wellness, humoral medicine in Latin America, and worldview. The quantity, quality, and long-term value of his scholarly work led to his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1976. Virtually all of his major publications have been reprinted and/or translated. Provenance from the executor of Foster's library laid in.


Inscription to Foster on front end paper. Some of Foster's occasional marginalia and underling in text. Light edge wear to jacket else a very good copy in a near fine jacket.


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