November 8, 2019

As a specialist in the Mexican religious landscape I had visited the Saint Jude shrine in Mexico City several times, but this time I was fortunate to be in town for his annual feast day on October 28. I had come to Mexico City for research on Day of the Dead, but there was no way I was going to miss the annual fiesta of Mexico’s most popular Catholic saint, the patron of lost causes, so I headed to San… Read more

October 22, 2019

Co-authored by Dr. Kate Kingsbury* and Professor Andrew Chesnut A widely circulated photo of Ovidio Guzman, one of the sons of notorious narco kingpin El Chapo Guzman, wearing a pendant of the Holy Infant of Atocha reminded us that it’s not only Latin American folk saints who serve as narco-saints but also a number of Catholic ones. Last week the 28 year-old narco, who has taken on a leading role in the Sinaloa Cartel in his father’s stead, was briefly… Read more

October 11, 2019

By Professor Andrew Chesnut and Doctor Kate Kingsbury* While the Catholic Church adopts a preferential option for Amazonians, Amazonians themselves are opting for Pentecostalism. One of the most under-reported stories of the Amazon Synod currently taking place at the Vatican is the dynamic of religious competition in a region that included nine South American countries, most importantly Brazil. Since the 1970s the Church in Latin America, which is home to 40% of the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics, has been hemorrhaging… Read more

October 1, 2019

Co-authored by Dr. Kate Kingsbury* and Dr. Andrew Chesnut Santa Muerte, Saint Death and Holy Death in English, is now the fastest growing new religious movement in the West. There are no surveys of the number of devotees, but with 10 years of research experience, we estimate some 12 million followers, with 70% in Mexico, 15% in the U.S., 10% in Central America, and the remaining 5% mostly in South America. There are also small groups of devotees surfacing in… Read more

August 29, 2019

Co-authored by Dr. Ana Keila Mosca Pinezi* and Dr. Andrew Chesnut Brazilian history since the Colonial era is marked by the enslavement of Africans and by institutionalized racism which has permeated the social fabric of the nation. As such, Afro-Brazilian cultural expressions are often seen as demonic, stigmatized as evil emanating from malignant spirits. Capoeira, samba, and maracatu, even if they are very popular, are seen as manifestations related to the world of evil. But it’s in the realm of… Read more

August 16, 2019

Having researched the Mexican skeleton saint Santa Muerte for the past decade I am quite accustomed to death imagery. However, when I first came across a photo of the Holy Child of Raffles (el Santo Niño de las Suertes) I was taken aback. As a specialist in Latin American religion I am used to seeing the myriad advocations of the Christ Child. There’s el Niño Doctor wearing a doctor’s smock who as one might imagine is most often beseeched for… Read more

July 9, 2019

Co-authored by Dr. Kate Kingsbury* and Dr. Andrew Chesnut In a country with the world’s second largest Black population, it’s no surprise that many of the most popular religious figures in Brazil are conceived of as African or derived from Africa. For example, the Orixás or gods the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé are of Yoruban lineage presided over by Yemanja, the goddess of the sea. Likewise, one of the three major types of spirit guides in the less Afrocentric religion… Read more

July 9, 2019

Co-authored by Dr. Kate Kingsbury* and Dr. Andrew Chesnut In a country with the world’s second largest Black population, it’s no surprise that many of the most popular religious figures in Brazil are conceived of as African or derived from Africa. For example, the Orixás or gods the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé are of Yoruban lineage presided over by Yemanja, the goddess of the sea. Likewise, one of the three major types of spirit guides in the less Afrocentric religion… Read more

June 17, 2019

By Guest Contributor Dr. Alyssa Maldonado-Estrada* Nola, a small town outside of Naples in the Campania region of Southern Italy, and Williamsburg, the premiere trendiest neighborhood in New York, are approximately 4,394 miles apart. Nola with its stone streets and ancient grit, is in the shadow of Vesuvius, while Williamsburg is ultra-gentrified and punctuated by high-rise glass condominiums and the shells of old Brooklyn factories. Still, both are central to Italian-American Catholic practice in Brooklyn. What these places share is… Read more

May 30, 2019

By guest contributor *Dr. Ana Keila Mosca Pinezi The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus or IURD) is a complex that involves a media empire not only aimed at propagating its religious and moral precepts and proselytizing, but also expressing the extraordinary growth of the Evangelicals in Brazil, especially that of neo-Pentecostalism, which has Prosperity and Health Theology at its heart. The neo-Pentecostal Evangelicals are a clear threat both to traditional and to… Read more

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