Student Summer Scholars Manuscripts

First Advisor

Grace Coolidge


Syncretism, survival, power, resistance, religion, Latin America, religious selection




Stiner Scholar

Included in

Religion Commons




This paper explores the theory of religious syncretism and its application within early modern Latin America. It proposes a new model for understanding religious syncretism in order to eliminate the previous bias in the scholarship and misconceptions inherent in the term and seeks to discover why cultures chose specific religious elements over their counterparts in syncretic scenarios. Reviewing primary and secondary sources analyzing the religious characteristics and atmosphere of this period revealed that there was a pattern to syncretism and religious selection in Spanish Latin America. Europeans, Indigenous Peoples, and Africans in the New World selected religious elements based on three factors: survival, power, and resistance. This paper shows that religious elements in this region took on a Darwinian sense in which they became "traits" which individuals employed to survive and prosper.