About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Bolivian Narco-Islamo-Commie State: Folks at WSJ are Bored This Week

Somebody let Wall Street Journal fiction writer Mary Anastasia O'Grady slip the leash this week and she's arguing that Bolivia has become a narco-islamo-communist terror state.  She tried before to argue that Nicaragua and Venezuela were harboring terrorists headed to the U.S. (all tosh) and now she's put Bolivia in her rifle scope of malarkey.  My guess is that O'Grady finally worked her way down as far as Bolivia with her Fisher Price "Nations of South America" floor puzzle and so decided to drop her discounted and tired theories on Bolivia.  Look out, Chile, she's coming for you next.

So, what is the evidence.  Well, the phrase "unconfirmed reports" most certainly make an appearance, so let's skip those moments. She also states that there is a narco problem because a Bolivian headed for Lebanon was detained by Bolivian officials for trying to smuggle 392 kilos of cocaine to Lebabnon.  Wait... the so-called narco-terror state arrested a guy for smuggling and that is proof of a coordinated state-run cocaine money for shoe bombs operation?  Never mind her confusion of the use of the coca leaf for daily use and the refinement of coca for cocaine.

She also quotes "global security specialist" Joseph Humire's testimony before the U.S. Congress that Iran is using its embassy to convert people to radical Islam and smuggle people.  It may be uncomfortably straw-man, but Humire is a former Koch brothers employee and currently a member of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation which is dedicated to the spread of free-market growth around the world.  With Bolivia sitting on vast deposits of lithium set to fuel Bolivia's quasi-socialist dream with minimal U.S. involvement and profits (they are dealing with China, Japan, Korea, and the Netherlands), angling for reasons to make Bolivia a target of U.S. security paranoia is a comfortable fit for Humire (and, frankly, O'Grady).

Read the "article" here, and take a look at the comical video below where the closest we get to sourcing is the "I've heard stories" trope.

 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Prosecution, Isn't it About ... Time.

Efrain Rios Montt is finally on trial in Guatemala for genocide.

Por fin. 

Read more here:
http://www.voxxi.com/rios-montt-trial-guatemala-genocide/

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nun Essays or, I Showed Great Restraint in Not Making a Pun Using the Word Nun in the Title



Students in the History of Religion in Latin America had to read Margaret Chowning's (fantastic in my opinion, pretty good in the opinion of the students) book Rebellious Nuns on the La Purisima Convent in what is today San Miguel Allende.  They also read a few short documents with brief accounts of female religious in other locations like Peru.  Their reflections on the meaning and power of the female religious range from the topical and political to the culinary and comical (yep, Thomas Gage's story of chocolate will make an appearance).  I don't think we're seeing any deep breakthroughs on the idea of the female religious in these essays, but we are seeing some students starting to think about "nuns" in a little more complex way.  My response (thinking about Teresa Forcades) is at the bottom.

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Ms. Littman


In colonial Mexico, convents served as so much more than a house of God for women. In the seventeenth century especially, there were clear ties between convents and the social, economic, and political stability of the towns they were built in. However, I read of not one aspect more striking than the impact convents had on women and education. Latin American society was extraordinarily male dominant, and the kinds of opportunities convents offered allowed women to escape the inevitable of marriage. The patriarchal standard still applied as nuns still answered to a bishop, but convents still served as both a safe and a socially acceptable option for women. From a modern perspective, I can’t help but be reminded of present day India and its persistent degradation of women’s rights. Beyond the similar social understanding Colonial Spain and modern day India have with their practice of arranged marriages, or the judicial response to rape, education comes to mind again. There is still a public outcry for a safe place where women can have an equal to education.

That being said, in my readings I noticed that in the book, Religion in Latin America, document fifty was entitled “A Unique Holy Woman from Seventeenth-Century New Spain”. As I read on, I was disheartened to find that it was a letter from a nun with an insatiable hunger for learning. Her name was Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and she spent half the document expressing how she dealt with her need for knowledge throughout her life, and the other half listing all the most learned women she had ever heard of. I found it so disappointing the book would call this incredible woman “unique” because I feel like any woman in colonial Mexico who aspired for something greater than becoming a housewife considered becoming a nun. Cruz even states, “I became a nun… in view of my total disclination to marriage, it was the most becoming and proper condition that I could choose to ensure my salvation.”

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Ms. Holbrook-Bruhns


As I study Catholicism in pre-independence Mexico I find myself deeply intrigued by the women who chose the habit as a way of life. One major thing that has captivated my interest is the idea that nuns are obedient, biddable, patient, peaceful creatures, but that underlying it all there is a core of strength and sometimes even obstinacy. For example, Estafania de San Jose, a professed Franciscan in Peru during the seventeenth century, was charitable, patient, and compassionate. However, when she was ill and visited by the Viceroy and his wife she “made them pray on their knees” and she blessed them.1  She may have been a quiet holy woman, but she was confident enough in her authority to tell the viceroy how to pray. Isabel Flores de Oliva was equally contradictory. She would fast for days on end to show her piety and was reportedly really quite modest. On the other hand, she defied her mother and cut all of her hair off to avoid taking care with her appearance. Nuns, it seems, are pillars of strength and personality, wrapped in ribbons of devotion and virtue.

The New York Times did a piece in August of 2012 on American nuns opening dialogue with the Vatican and male church hierarchy.2  The nuns feel that women do not have enough opportunities within the Church and the Church says that you cannot change doctrine. The nuns are determined to solve these differences through peaceful dialogue with no arguing or anger. However, they are also unwilling to negotiate on certain aspects of the debate and hold steady to their tenets, showing that nuns today are just as pious and determined as they were in the 1600s.

The nuns today like their sisters from four hundred years ago, want their way of life respected and affirmed. They hold to it just like Oliva cutting her hair, or San Jose visiting the sick and blessing her viceroy. Their strength and religious devotion has persevered for four centuries. Does it have a future today?

1 Lee M. Penyak and Walter J Petry ed, Religion in Latin America, 102. 
2 NY times website http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/11/us/national-nuns-group-seeks-dialogue-with-vatican.html?_r=0 accessed 1/21/13.

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Mr. Mailhot

Chocolate has an important place in Mexico’s history. In fact, one of Mexican cuisine’s most well-known uses of chocolate, molé sauce, has its roots in a convent in Mexico during the Spanish Colonial period. The widely accepted version of molé’s history traces back to nuns from the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla, Mexico. Upon learning that the Archbishop was to pay them a visit, and realizing they had little to serve him, the nuns scrambled to throw together whatever they had (nuts, spices, chilies, and yes, chocolate), boil it down, and serve it over turkey. Much to the nuns’ relief, the Archbishop was delighted with the meal.1  Today, that same meal is the Mexican National dish, often served during holidays. There is even an annual Feria de los Molés (molé fair), drawing over 30,000 people and showcasing up to 13 regional molés.2 

But, the relationship between nuns and chocolate in Mexico goes deeper than a story of humble nuns hoping to please a venerable visitor. Even in reformist convents, as described by Margaret Chowning in Rebellious Nuns, chocolate was a nearly obligatory refreshment taken up to three times a day, even during times of fasting. In La Purísima, the convent detailed in Rebellious Nuns, chocolate was allotted at 1.6 ounces per nun, per day. In the convent’s daily schedule, it is simply recorded; “9:15 Chocolate.”3  But, the most scandalous account involving nuns and chocolate is of a seventeenth century bishop in Chiapas who, after banning the addictively popular chocolate drink from being consumed during mass, was found dead as a result of a (ironically) poisoned cup of that very beverage!4  Though never confirmed, legend has it that some of the nuns of Chiapas were implicated in the poisoning.  

The history of chocolate in Mexico is closely tied to the nuns of colonial times. When the sisters of Santa Rosa decided to add some to their concoction, it was an act of great generosity, a deed of respect. Later, the chocolate addiction even led to murder, the first “death by chocolate.”  

“History of Mexico’s Most Famous Culinary Preparation,” Mexonline, http://www.mexonline.com/molepoblano.htm (accessed 22 Jan. 2013).

http://feriadelosmoles.com/ (accessed 22 Jan. 2013). 

Chowning, Margaret, Rebellious Nuns the Troubled History of a Mexican Convent, 1752-1863 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

Gage, Thomas, and J. Eric S. Thompson, Travels in the New World (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1958), 145.


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Ms. Trott

After reading Rebellious Nuns by Margaret Chowning, it was surprising to read about the upheavals that the convent of La Purísima faced while trying to appease the nuns that resided there. It seems as though each of the nuns had a different interpretations of how to abide by the original constitution of the convent, which created a large rift between the convent and the bishops. The main rule over the convent and the church fell from the Spanish Crown, and this made it difficult for the struggling towns in New Spain. These towns faced extreme economic downfall when Mexico declared its independence, making it difficult for the convent to survive without the dowries of pledging nuns. The sexist perspective towards women led to the economic downfall, as women had no high standing in the community. They were unable to collect debts owed to the church as their beliefs led them to believe in austerity and poverty. Due to the controlling aspects of the Spanish Crown, convents in New Spain were unable to survive with their original intents. Their responsibilities to the community were challenged by their economic status, which then led the communities to desire separation from Spanish rule.

This is similar to the situation of Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz1, a woman who desired an education but had to join the convent to pursue her dreams. The perfect example of hegemony in Mexico, the moral codes of the church were that women should either take care of their families, or to commit their lives to God in a convent. These beliefs were gently pushed upon Sor Juana, making it known that her desire to study was seen as a criminal offense in the eyes of God. This re-enforced the gender roles of women2, only allowing them to profess their devotion to God, or to bear children and cater to their husband’s needs. The continuity of gender roles displayed between the church and modern times of humanity in Latin America show evidence that the rules put forward by the church are still present.

1 Yo, la peor de todas. Dir. Maria Luisa Bemberg. Perf. Assumpta Serna. First Run Features, 1990. DVD.
2 http://www.pearsonhighered.com/assets/hip/us/hip_us_pearsonhighered/samplechapter/0205743153.pdf

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Mr. Lamers

My recent area of historical study has dealt with the situations of nuns in Latin America mainly during the colonial period. Perhaps the most significant aspect of a nun’s life that I noticed from my recent readings was how empowered these women became. Overall, women devoting themselves to the religious life placed them at a higher social status in Spanish Colonial Society than the typical submissive female status. Magaret Chowning’s writings of the La Purisima Concepcion convent in Mexico (Rebellious Nuns) described women joining nunneries not just for religious purposes but to avoid the compliant life of a wife/mother while pursuing literacy and expanding their intellects. Chowning commented on how nuns exercised authority within their convents and outside to a degree while receiving great respect from this rather devout area of the world. I observed a clear example of this deference toward nuns in a letter from Seventeenth Century Peru depicting the life of Sister Estafania de San Jose, a mulatto, who gained a reputation as blessed and humble. On her sickbed, Estefania was visited by the Spanish Viceroy and his Marchioness who asked the nun to commend them to God. He and his wife then kneeled before her to receive the blessing. This event illustrates the degree that nuns were empowered as women in colonial Spanish society. I would never think that such a powerful man would bow before any woman in this time period. Furthermore, Estafania would be thought to be of even lower rank than a typical woman since she was a former slave of mixed race.

A contemporary example of a woman rising to prominence through her position as a nun is Sister Simone Campbell of the “Nuns on the Bus” movement. Campbell is known for her resistance to Vatican policies of suppressing liberal American nuns and “promoting the needs of women.”1  Her activities have gained the attention of powerful men such from Pope Benedict XVI to President Obama and several other politicians. Overall, women have definitely empowered themselves through life as a “religiosa” in the past and present.


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Mr. Melton

The assigned reading, written by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, reinforced the theme of the film I, the Worst of All and our recently assigned book Rebellious Nuns.  In her reply to the bishop of Puebla, Sor Juana describes her struggle as a female in the seventeenth century who desired to garner an education equal to that of her male peers.  Not surprisingly, Sor Juana had to be proactive, educating herself and seeking out tutors who were willing to teach her.  Her resolve to learn trumped all other personal endeavors, and according to the first excerpt from her Reply, she went to the extreme of cutting her hair as a personal incentive to learn in an efficient and timely manner.  I was impressed by the determination she showed at a very early age, and I was equally astonished by her ability to absorb knowledge in such an oppressive environment.  Even under the domineering rule of her archbishop and abbess she was able to develop her craft, which allowed her to speak out for the equal rights of women, even those who, like her, had devoted themselves to a religious order that was by nature oppressed.

Sor Juana’s story is a prequel of sorts to the drama that is laid out in Margaret Chowning’s book, Rebellious Nuns.  The nuns in Chowning’s account also struggled with the bishop, vicar, and abbesses in order to obtain certain personal freedoms.  In the epilogue of Rebellious Nuns, however, there seems to be a breakdown in the hierarchy after the convent was closed.  When the nuns are allowed, or forced, to leave, they start home groups, continuing communal prayers and worship with more personal freedom than had been allowed under the direct rule of their bishop and vicar.1   I can only imagine how much Sor Juana could have thrived in such an environment.   

1 Margaret Chowning, Rebellious Nuns (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

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Latin America was a world in which the moral integrity of a person was judged by his and his family’s outward expression of devotion to his faith. It became a status symbol then, to be able to not only afford to have a daughter join a convent but also to have a daughter whose faith was strong enough to want to sacrifice what was necessary to join.  

The perception of women as delicate, pliable, and in need of protection encouraged the idea of women joining convents. They would be not only safe from physical harm, but from attacks to their faith as well. They would, in their absolute faith and subordination to their male clergy, be a role model and positive influence within a city, for both the feminine and masculine persons. This is how the New World thought. Cities sought to have a convent established within their limits. An example of this is the convent in San Miguel. The nuns were supposed to help encourage religiosity and be a shining example in a mostly creole city that was attempting to establish themselves on the map.

The lure of a convent to women was different. Convents offered the freedom to pursue academic interests, to be freed from the need to marry, even the possibility of positions of power – albeit within the limits of the convent. There were some examples of particularly influential women outside of the convent in which they professed but a majority sought power from within such as the power struggles endured by the women at La Purisma.

Inheritance played a role in the decision to place women into convents. As mandatory inheritors under Spaniard law, removing women from the equation allowed estates to stay better intact when being passed through generations. She would be well cared for, by both the convent and her family, but it allowed powerful, wealthy families to maintain that status.

Under Spaniard law and customs having a daughter within a convent was both a status symbol and critical to certain legal situations, such as inheritance. 

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Dormady Response

Reading Rebellious Nuns puts me in mind of the Spanish (Catalan) nun Teresa Forcades.  A crusader for women's health, skeptic of large-pharma, and a critic of capitalism, Forcades has a number of windmills to tilt at.  I previously commented on Fordades crusades for women's health and choice here, but today I'll place a link to a series of her speeches and interviews (most of which are in Spanish or Catalan).  Some female religious use their power to make monarchs bend, others use it to gain personal fulfillment, power or comfort, and others look into the abyss of structural sin and seek to change the world for everyone.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Ritual of Warfare: Blood for Paradise, Blood for Oil


The following are student essays from History 460: Religion in Latin America and their response to the idea of warfare as a religious ritual.  After the student essay I've included my own response.  Please consider leaving feedback for the students (or me).  The essays appear in no particular order.


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Ms. Littman

In Inga Clendinnen’s essay, “The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society” she discusses the complexity of the concept of courage, and it reminded me of the current oversimplification of the Islamic term Jihad. Courage, as Clendinnen eloquently lays out, is multifaceted and incredibly important to the Aztec belief system. She writes that, “[t]here seem to have been two kinds of bravery recognized in the Aztec fighting man… One was the attribute of those warriors… who hurled themselves heedlessly into the fray.” (Clendinnen 2010). Clendinnen adds that, “[that warrior] knows no fear because he has no knowledge. Admiration is reserved for the warrior who is morally informed; who understands his obligation. He will go humbly and quiet in this world, watchful, prudent… their only release, their only ease – the final encounter with Tezcatlipcoa…” (Clendinnen 2010). It was at the conclusion of that particular line that I felt a strong reminiscence for the Islamic Jihad, followed by an immediate annoyance at the overgeneralizations that surround the word. According to the BBC, “The literal meaning of Jihad is struggle or effort, and it means much more than holy war. Muslims use the word Jihad to describe three different kinds of struggle: A believer's internal struggle to live out the Muslim faith as well as possible, the struggle to build a good Muslim society, [or] Holy war: the struggle to defend Islam, with force if necessary. Many modern writers claim that the main meaning of Jihad is the internal spiritual struggle, and this is accepted by many Muslims.” (BBC 2009). To me, the Aztec concept of courage and the Islamic concept of Jihad share so much more that a religious connotation. Both words have several meanings within their own cultural context, both require knowledge and understanding before a difficult religious rite is undertaken, and both are humbling requirements in order to receive a positive final encounter with God. At their core, both concepts boil down to a powerful internal struggle. Jihad is too often oversimplified as “war” due to the current conflict in the Middle East and that is as frustrating and erroneous as saying the Aztecs were “violent”.

BBC. Jihad. 08 03, 2009. http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/beliefs/jihad_1.shtml (accessed 01 08, 2013).
Clendinnen, Inga. The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society: Essays on Mesoamerican Society and Culture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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Mr. Lamers

Over the past few days I have examined the writings of Inga Clendinnen on the Aztecs’ extreme focus on war in their most sacred religious practices. She described the life of a warrior from cradle to grave as centered on the sanctity of blood, which served as the most precious substance known to this ancient Mesoamerican culture. Clendinnen clarified the Aztec’s value of blood through their view of the world as being incredibly fragile and through their notion of how the earth’s stability depended on their proper performance of gory rituals to their gods. Aztec worship emphasized humanity’s relationship with their deities (and the earth) as one of give-and-take as illustrated in Clendinnen’s following passage: “This terrible creature [the earth] cried out in the night and refused to bring forth fruit until she was soaked in human blood and fed with human hearts. When satisfied, she brought forth the plants which provide man’s sustenance.” Constant gathering of war prisoners for ritual sacrifice seems to make sense when the earth will end or become inhospitable without a regular diet of human blood.

To label the Aztec religion as warlike is certainly correct, but the reasoning behind this behavior does not fit what is typically thought of as religious violence today. Upon mentioning the subject of war in the name of religion, most would think of holy wars with the objective of conversion and/or eliminating infidels like the Crusades carried out by Medieval Christians or contemporary violence from the jihads of Muslim extremists. An example of this brand of religious violence can be found in a recent incident in Bonn, Germany where a 24-year-old Indian student was beaten and had his tongue slashed by a group of Muslim extremists after he refused to convert to Islam.[1] Warlike activities of ancient Mesoamericans is so foreign to what we usually perceive as religious violence, that a warrior’s goal was not even to kill on the battlefield but to take prisoners for sacrifice to “feed the earth.”  Overall, I found war’s relationships with religion across these different peoples and situations fascinating.


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Ms. Holbrook-Bruhns:

This quarter I am taking class on religions in Latin America. One of the major themes that has piqued my interest is the idea of violence as an essential part of worship. Pre-conquest Aztec religion could not function without violence. In turn, the reliance on courage while participating in violent activities was equally central. According to Inga Clendinnen on “The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society”, the only way for males to enter paradise was by death in battle or by being captured and sacrificed on a killing stone. Not only did you have to die a violent death, but you had to strive for it, or at the very least embrace it.

For me this intersected, somewhat weirdly, with the current problem of suicide bombers in the Middle East. A recent suicide attack in Afghanistan killed four people according to Reuters Canada. Both violent ends were/are religious and function as an assurance of entrance into heaven for the practitioners. This type of religious violence is more similar to Aztec violence than one might assume at first blush. Both are religious acts and acts of violence and both accomplish more than just a religious end. With the Aztecs, one of the consequences was an elimination of the strongest warrior group in a rival city, leaving it weakened and easy to manipulate. With current deaths/killings, one of the consequences is a mental and moral degradation of the people attacked. At the very least it tends to discomfit the victims.

For example, U.S. General John Allen, the commander of the NATO forces in Afghanistan “condemned the attack” for “disregarding civilian life.” Both Aztec religious violence and suicide bombers are sectarian in nature with one goal having been the unsettling of those on the receiving end of the violence. The Aztecs were highly successful at both achieving practical and religious ends. Are suicide bombers equally successful? 

Reuters Canada. “Double Suicide Attack Kills Four in Afghan South”. http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCABRE90503I20130106 (accessed 1/8/13).

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Mr. Mailhot

The phrase “war and religion” often conjures up thoughts of Medieval Crusades or Jihads of Islam. But, there is a distinction that should be made; “war and religion” is different from a “war of religion.” Violence and war was, and still is, a large part of many faiths. Think of the accounts of stoning in the Bible, self-immolation in Buddhism and Hinduism, and martyr-suicide bombers of present-day Islam. These are some of the world’s most influential religions that, while rooted peace and tolerance, sometimes practice violence, war, and extreme intolerance. A prime example is the ancient Mayan and Aztec people whose history overflows with images and descriptions of a people who used war, bloodletting, and human sacrifice to intimidate an enemy, and show religious devotion to god. 

Modern religions do not take war prisoners, at least not any influential religion. The faithful are instead often focused on conversion. This difference was not as distinct for Mayan and Aztec cultures. When a war expedition resulted in victory, captives were taken for a twofold purpose. First, as Spaniard Diego de Landa recorded, male captives were often sacrificed and “their masters kept the bones, and displayed them in the [ceremonial] dances, as a mark of victory.” Second, as prisoners were brought in, mesmerized and intimidated by their captor’s city, watching their warriors being sacrificed, they would be all but forced to accept the customs of their conquerors. In this way, religion spread as a byproduct of violence rather than through forceful conversion. 

In many ways, however, connections between war and religion in these ancient cultures had the same aim as much of the violence we see today: to show devotion, even to death. Similar sentiments can be seen in modern Tibet where, in 2012, there were over 75 recorded self-immolations, acts that show the victim’s ultimate dedication and faith in their beliefs.  The spilling of blood through war or sacrifice had the significance of repaying the earth for what it had provided. Mayan and Aztec warriors approached war simply as courageous devotees, not as violent missionaries. 
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Mr. Melton

After reading The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society by Inga Clendinnen, I was convinced that the Aztec cities and tribes were unified, not necessarily by a feeling of nationalism, but by a common religion and a sense of “place” that the religion determined.  Upon reading the description of the attitudes of the warriors in Clendinnen’s work, I gathered that the Aztec warrior accepted his fate regardless of his status as captor or captive because of the greater connection to the encompassing religion of the region.  This seems to be in sharp contrast to the American idea of nationalism and more in sync with the theocracies of the Middle East. 
The American Dream is an ideal that exists apart from Christianity, or any religion for that matter, even though God is used by some as the centerpiece for its promotion.  The Islamic Middle East, on the other hand, seems to be a region united by religion instead of nationalism, much like the Aztec region.  The war effort by Islamic nations and sects appears to be an effort similar to that of the Aztecs, in that religion, not nationalism, is the driving force behind expansion, war, and terrorism.  Although violence does not seem to be as widely accepted by the population of the Islamic nation as it was by the Aztec population, it is justified by many government and religious leaders in the region. 

Even though it is true that Middle Eastern nations have governmental struggles that are unrelated to religion, the nation of Islam is just that—a nation.  Much like the Jewish nation, which has also embraced nationalism even in Diaspora, the Islamic nations of the Middle East have united around an encompassing religion to form the region that we now know as the Middle East.  Furthermore, the “Aztec warrior” is embodied by the suicide bomber when s/he is willing to sacrifice his or her life and the life of fellow believers for the expansion of that religion; consequently, the value of life is diminished when contrasted with the value of the larger belief system. 
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Ms. Trott

In the reading of The Cost of Courage in Aztec Society by Inga Clendinnen, the relation between the Aztec Warriors and their belief system is discussed. Warriors, chosen based on patriarchal heritage, were trained in acts of fighting. In rare cases, few commoners who showed promise of their ability to fight were allowed to have a higher standing, if only for their lifetime. Different rituals took place in the Aztec practice of warfare, ranging from group battles to holding enemies captive. It was seen to be more important to hold a victim captive, rather than killing them. The idea behind slaying and honoring the gods with the body and blood of one’s captive showed the warriors returning blood to the gods. This blood made up for all of the earthly goods the Aztecs received from the earth, as they believed that if you cut the earth, you are taking life and must return it in order to continue living. This connection of human sacrifice emphasizes the importance of warfare and religion in the Aztec culture.
Similar to the Aztec perspective of war and religion, is the example of suicide bombers in the Middle East. A suicide bomber attack that took place on January 6, 2013 in Afghanistanˡ is quite similar in the way of showing how a cultures belief can lead to the slaying of others. The Taliban disagreed with the community meeting of the Shura, and in retaliation, reacted with sacrificing their own lives and others to stop it. This shows the ties between religion and warlike tactics in order to achieve certain goals of a belief system. 
While both cultures emphasize needing to give a life in order to receive life, which is their primary method of paying homage, I find these methods extreme. I respect both methods of worship, but in western culture this is not seen as socially acceptable. Murder or sacrifice is one of the highest offenses in our culture, but in the case of the Aztecs and the Taliban, it is not our place to judge their form of religious practices.

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Dormady Response

As a class we recently began discussing the concepts found in the intersection of religion and warfare.  Inga Clendinnen, in particular, seemed to garner the most attention from students with her “Cost of Courage” essay that looks at the ceremonial nature of Nahua conflict, captive taking, sacrifice, and ritual cannibalism.  I’ve loved this selection since I first read it as an undergraduate for its ability to move “Aztec” warfare beyond simple violence and in to the world of community worship.

I was (mildly) surprised when almost every student made the connection between Aztec violence and suicide bombers.  Not because the community and ritual associations are much of a surprise – I think that is an easy leap for students to make that have spent at least half (or more) of their life with the images of suicide bombers and the discourse of the American interpretation of “Jihad.”  No, my surprise was that they all chose to downplay the associations of religion, ritual, warfare, and violence within their own society.

In a way, as Aztec violence fed the earth and brought forth the prosperity of that agricultural society, warfare provides the same function for the United States.  As we offer for sacrifice the lives of our citizens it brings forth from the earth the petroleum needed to make our lifestyle possible.  When the protestors raise their banner of “No Blood for Oil” they are not just challenging an economic model, but a ritual of violence and sacrifice that makes society work.  By extension it is little wonder that questioning war is not just a matter of policy for some, but instead an act of treason:  attacking the sacrifice of warfare is heresy in a world where the accumulation of goods is a religion of its own. 







Monday, December 31, 2012

Protesting the Reform of Article 24 Continues

The news from Veracruz is that (mostly Protestants) were out in the streets before Christmas protesting the reforms of Article 24.  The fuss over this began back in late 2011 and early 2012, with opponents of the reform saying that any changes to the article would kill the secular state and provide huge benefits to the Catholic Church.  The reform - which would allow the Catholic Church to teach religious classes in public schools - has been under fire from protesters for nearly a year now.  It looks like with the new PRI government another attempt is being made to hamper those changes.  See here.

Before anybody in the United States gets too anti-Catholic about this, I would point out that California schools reserve rooms for religiously observant students to conduct prayers and religious club meetings, and in many western states like Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, LDS students can take "seminary" classes in the public school buildings during "release" time.

The reform would also make other changes, as well.


Además de permitir al clero dar catecismo en las escuelas, esta reforma le otorga la facultad para poseer y administrar medios de comunicación, participar en el ejército y la marina mediante capellanías y obispados castrenses, así como en la política electoral, ocupar puestos de elección popular y recibir subvenciones económicas del erario para sus actividades religiosas y las visitas papales.  (See more from this story here.)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Whole New World ...

We have entered a new age... an age where politicians aren't afraid to think out of the box, color outside the lines, or draw new maps.  Maps, apparently, that lack the rest of the Americas.  "Fracaso" to both the parties for failing to engage the question of guns and drugs in the US relationship with Mexico, for ignoring Cuba, skipping over US coups in Latin America, disregarding the failed war on drugs through interdiction, and the apparently invisible economic relationship of intertwined labor and capital with this hemisphere.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Romney Novela?



How did I miss this take on the Craig Romney ad by Conan O'Brien.  Brilliantly funny.

On another front, we have a reminder of the failure of the GOP to understand the Latino vote outside of the Cuban quarter.  You want ads to appeal to Mexicanos and you run one saying "my grandpa came here from Mexico and got rich" with the subtext being "but you as a person are 'illegal'" - bad form, Big R.