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date: 10 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

From works of monumental architecture to vernacular expressions of “folk” religion, objects of material religion secure and orient lived faith in Latin America. Sacred power in Latin America emanates from a particular web of connection between image, altar, and chapel. These material manifestations of the sacred reflect the pain and paradox of their colonial origins and thus must be contextualized and historicized in relation to the structures of colonial power and domination that define the context of their creation. This chapter traces the historical emergence of Latin American Christian material religious cultures in the circumstance of indigenous and African struggle and survival. A tremendous ritual, spiritual, and cultural labor was required to imbue adopted artistic forms, and the imposed Christian religion itself, with sacred meaning and power. This act of redemption was, by necessity, a labor of contraconquista, the sacred art of counter-conquest. Lay Catholic devotional labor functions to create continuity between monumental and vernacular works of Christian art and architecture, lending coherence to seemingly disparate forms.

Keywords: altar, saint, iconography, idolatry, baroque, conquest, Mexico, Latin America, Catholic Church, indigenous

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