The conventional historiographical narrative of revolutionary Mexico (1910-1940) stresses the institutional, intellectual, and affective animosity separating Catholicism and the country’s liberal and revolutionary traditions. The Revolution was godless and secularizing, as seen in the defanaticization campaigns of the 1930s or the cristero civil war of the 1920s. If the Revolution had a religious face, it is often argued, then this was Protestant.
This paper will argue that an historic tradition of reformist Catholicism represented a little acknowledged but significant component of revolutionary ideology and practice, as can be seen in the written testimonies of many revolutionary ideologues––the Constitutionalist Luis Cabrera; the Zapatista Antonio Díaz Soto y Gama; the anarchist Miguel Mendoza López Schwerdtfeger; and the Marxist Vicente Lombardo Toledano, among others. The paper then discusses the Revolution’s main religious project in a positive sense: the attempted foundation in the 1920s and 1930s of a national Catholic Church resting on primitive discipline and genuinely “Mexican” devotional bases. This emphasis on restorationist religion and early Church history, the paper argues, reminds us that Mexico’s Revolution should be seen as a period of religious experimentation as well as social and economic ferment. It also shows us that the Revolution sought to retie a thread to an early vein of nineteenth-century, Catholic-inspired, liberalism, as embodied by the likes of Fray Servando and Father Mora: and that some revolutionaries, at least, conceived the 1910 Revolution as a struggle over religious purity with the Church.
Venue : Room 104 (Senate House, 1st Floor) Senate House, South Block, 1st Floor Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
18 April 2012, 17:00 – 18:30
Event Type: Seminar
Speakers: Dr Matthew Butler (University of Texas, Austin)