by Jennifer Scheper Hughes and Maria das Dores Campos Machado
Religion has been married to the colonial and imperial project in Latin America since the Spanish conquistadors planted the first cross on American soil. Even as the new European religion took root across the continent it became incarnate precisely in the large, impoverished, racially complex, subject, and politically marginalized population that the Catholic Church itself helped to create through the long colonial period. Religious institutions were intimately involved in producing and then maintaining structures of social inequality from the very “invention” of Latin America: thus was the vein opened. At the same time, just as religion was essential to colonial processes, it has been, inevitably, part of anticolonial and decolonializing movements and struggles. This issue returns again to the theme of religion and social inequality and the social movements (religiously motivated and otherwise) that seek to address religions’ ambivalent legacy across the continent. The election of the Argentine Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the first Latin American pope brings global attention to the complexity of the Latin American religious landscape as the religious context that shapes his agenda. Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) has made the problem of inequality central to his papacy, decrying the “unfettered market” and the resulting global “economy of exclusion.” Not only did he speak on the evils of capitalism before a joint session of the U.S. Congress but he garnered international media and public attention in April 2014 when he famously tweeted “Inequality is the root of social evil.” It would appear that Rome itself now calls for attention to the problem of inequality.
This issue brings together theoretical and empirical research examining the intersections of religion with the political agendas of progressive social movements and with the institutional politics and economic processes of Latin American states. The redemocratization process in countries that were under …
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Latin American Perspectives
May 2016 vol. 43 no. 3 Abstract 4-14