DixPix Photographs



  Social Aspects:  RELIGION  


The Catholic Church has been a bulwark of Latin American societies since the time of the conquistadors.  Often blending in older religious concepts, even as it smothered their cultures, it has proved surprisingly adept.  Sometimes working quietly with arch-conservative catholic groups such as Opus Dei, and at other times thundering from the pulpit at congregations of limited education, it has served to retard social change on several fronts.  Now it is facing problems and challenges, but it is still the unquestioning faith of the great majority of inhabitants of the Southern Cordillera.


Behold the trinity.  But the vultures are early, the Catholic Church is still alive and well in Latin America. Click to see big picture (499x480 pixels; 34 KB)
An angel trumpets the message.  Most humans seem to have an inborn need for a religion, and there is something comforting about the symbolism and ceremony that adorns the central mythologies of all religions. Click to see big picture (262x480 pixels; 40 KB)
The dry lands have preserved many of the crosses of the faithful in bygone centuries.  This includes the crowded cemeteries from the salitre era, when the church smiled benevolently on the salitre barons as they worked their laborers virtually to death. Click to see big picture (640x400 pixels; 131 KB)
And it has preserved the lonely graves of those who died in the infinite barrens of the Atacama. Click to see big picture (640x391 pixels; 84 KB)
From the earliest arrival of the Europeans, the cross has been both a curse and a comfort to them and the indigenous peoples, as they blended and built nations. Click to see big picture (640x371 pixels; 45 KB)
Among the first were the Jesuits, who built many lovely missions (often near where gold could be mined) such as this one still in use in eastern Bolivia.  By papal order they were banished, however, first from Brazil and in 1776 from Spanish colonies.  In part this was because they tried to protect natives from slave traders, but there was also much intrigue in Europe. Click to see big picture (640x426 pixels; 90 KB)
This is the entrance to the cathedral in a small town called Maca on the Rio Colca in Peru.  Gold overlay carvings and a sumptuous interior, and there were many mini-towns with such churches. Click to see big picture (640x370 pixels; 98 KB)
But by 1966 there were no priests, those of Peru preferring to be in the cities administering to people with means.  So one Father Kellogg of Chicago tried to visit each church at least twice a year to marry people (as shown here) or bury them etc.  I have been told that since this time Maca was destroyed by an earthquake. Click to see big picture (314x480 pixels; 65 KB)
In most of the older towns, the church is the outstanding building, often sited on the central plaza.  This one at Dalcahue on the island of Chiloe is a typical example. Click to see big picture (342x480 pixels; 52 KB)
In the new settlements of the frontiers, more expedient structures are now the norm. Click to see big picture (314x480 pixels; 75 KB)
A church dome in the style of the Greek Orthodox is a reminder that even the traditional religion has its factions. Click to see big picture (324x480 pixels; 42 KB)
A micro-church at the isolated settlement of Tipan in the Argentine altiplano, with perhaps a dozen souls.  And yet they raised a church, but don't be fooled by the scale, this one is difficult to squeeze into. Click to see big picture (640x458 pixels; 85 KB)
But all the great constructions and pomp of the Catholic Church has come at a price, often born by struggling populations.  This hand of the giant statue of Jesus standing above Santiago seems symbolic.  Is it extended to offer help or to accept offerings?  Historically, some of both. Click to see big picture (640x439 pixels; 30 KB)
Much of the modern criticism of the Catholic Church centers on its opposition to birth control, which has led to large families and the degradation of individual human value that come with population pressures.  A typical rural family in Bolivia. Click to see big picture (305x480 pixels; 68 KB)
For this and other reasons, protestant religions have been making an inroad, some substituting fervor for pomp and a fancy place of worship.  The sign here says that this is a chapter of the "Universal Church of God". Click to see big picture (640x417 pixels; 119 KB)
A Jewish menorah.  A reminder that the other world religions are also alive and well in the cities of the Southern Cordillera. Click to see big picture (522x480 pixels; 58 KB)
Most of the Catholic hierarchy backed the coup in Chile, but a "Committee of Co-operation for Peace" was formed  between the Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Jewish communities.  During the darkest days of torture and disappearances, this one door in Santiago was open, and sometimes they could help. Click to see big picture (374x480 pixels; 64 KB)