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Religion in Mexico

Home >> Mexico Cultural Directory >> Religion in Mexico

Mexico has no official religion; however, most people in Mexico report they are Christians, and this is reflected in several aspects of life there; Christmas is a national holiday and every year during Easter all schools in Mexico, public and private, take vacations.
During the Spanish conquest and colonization of Mexico, Roman Catholicism was established as the dominant religion of Mexico, and today, about 89% of Mexicans identify themselves with that division of Christianity. It is the nation with the second largest Catholic population, behind Brazil and before the United States. 6% of the population adheres to various Protestant faiths (mostly Pentecostal), and the remaining 5% of the population adhering to other religions or professing no religion. While most indigenous Mexicans are Catholic, some combine or syncretize Catholic practices with native traditions.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) has a growing presence in the major border cities of northeastern Mexico, and over one million members nationwide. Judaism has been practiced in Mexico for centuries, and there are estimated to be more than 45,000 Jews in Mexico today. Islam is mainly practiced by members of the Arab, Turkish, and other expatriate communities, though there is a very small number of the indigenous population in Chiapas that practices Islam.

 

The methods of Spanish domination of the Mexican indigenous people often resulted in forced conversions to Catholicism, which ultimately meant that the people continued in their previous belief system. This led to widespread religious syncretism, since indigenous religious practices were incorporated into the practices of Catholicism. It also explains the general lack of conviction among Mexican Catholics today – instead of being a religion that was chosen by individuals, it was forced upon a whole group.
Perhaps the most striking example of this fusion of different traditions is the widespread veneration of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Day of the Dead is another example of religious syncretism, in which the European Catholic All Souls' Day is combined with indigenous rites of ancestor veneration. In many Mexican communities, curanderos (traditional healers) use indigenous folk medicine, spiritual, and Christian faith healing to treat ailments and "cleanse" spiritual impurities.
In the southern areas of the country, which are predominantly indigenous, traditional religion has been mostly incorporated into Catholic rituals, as can be seen by the change in priest's attires, which instead of being decorated with the usual western symbols, instead include indigenous weaving designs and symbols. For example, the Christian cross converted to a flowery tree of life. In Mayan communities, the jmen, or healer, has an important place in the community comparable to (but not in competition with) that of a priest