Indigenous Apostles

Maya Catholic Catechists Working the Word in Highland Chiapas

Indigenous Apostles tells the story of conversion to Catholicism and birth of new ecclesial community with the arrival of Vatican II mission in Santa Maria Magdalenas, a Tzotzil-speaking village in Mexico’s Maya highlands. In the state of Chiapas, the nation’s erratic advance into the global market beginning in the 1970s drove landless young Magdaleneros to search for alternatives to peasant peonage. A few became catechists in the Diocese of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Cognitive entailments of newly-acquired biblical literacy warranted the subsequent critique of local Tzotzil tradition – costumbre – through which they reclaimed their ancestral land. This ethnographic account of their dialectical passage from the way of the ancestors to communion with the world Catholic Church demonstrates local constraints on liberation mission strategy and the power of indigenous agency in their own evangelization. It also points to the salience of place and everyday productive practice for native construction of local theology in the context of the new globalization.

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Ruth J. Chojnacki received the M.Div. from The Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley and Ph.D. from The University of Chicago. She has directed research and task forces for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, WI, and the Diocese of Oakland, CA, U.S.A. Her principal field study of Mexico’s Highland Maya took place from 1993-1995; she visited most recently in August, 2008. While working in the Diocese of San Cristobal de Las Casas during a period which spanned the Zapatista uprising, she collaborated with the diocesan Human Rights Center, “Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas,” and taught fundamental theology in the Conciliar Seminary. She currently teaches ethics and ecclesiology for the Instituto de Liderazgo Pastoral, University of St. Mary of the Lake, Chicago and Mundelein IL, and is Director of Development Communications and Outreach at DePaul University in Chicago.
"The author’s considerable gift as a writer and admirable empathy with the subject and the different (and opposing) actors are two notable qualities that make Indigenous Apostles a compelling read. Revealing both the inner workings of Maya society and the research process of a superb mind, this book deserves the widest possible readership." – Jean Meyer, Centre for Research and Teaching in Social Sciences, Mexico City
Orthographic Note
Contexts and Conversion. Origins of an Ecclesial Cargo
Constructing Highland Mission. Proposals and Problematics
Position and Place. Church, State, and Mission on the Ground
Proclaiming Religion, Reclaiming Land. History, Cognition and Religious Change
Working the Word. Constructing a Tzotzil Maya Theology
Decolonizing the Saints. From Myth to History
Epilogue. Doing What the Apostles Did
Index of Names