I’ve been doing some practice DBQs and was wondering if someone could score this one for me and provide some feedback on how to improve it.
Prompt: Evaluate the extent to which Christianity changed societies in Latin America in the period 1500–1800.
WIth the rise of European trans-atlantic exploration and the following assimilation of the Americans into Afro-Eurasia existing networks, global connectivity, for the first time, was truly global. Because of these new interactions, cultural sophistication spawned globally with the mixing and combining of different cultures. New networks of knowledge and interactions were made easier so that syncretic faiths such as Sikhism in India and Vodun in the Americas began to arise between two intersecting beliefs. Although the widespread exposure that Latin Americans had to Christianity during the 1500-1800 helped create syncretic religions like Vodun and helped create better labor conditions, native latin americans held strongly to their traditional beliefs and sometimes resisted the introduction of Christianity.
First, the interactions that Christianity had with native populations were beneficial in some instances and created new belief systems. With Spanish conquest and the imposition of the Encomienda system which declared all natives as subjects of the Spanish and used them for labor in often harsh conditions, Christianity helped to better these conditions. For example, people like Bartholome de las Casas, a Catholic Priest, judged the Spanish treatment as inhumane which helped to abolish the inhumane working conditions and system in the 1540s. Another positive effect that Christianity had on coerced laborers was the effect on enslaved Africans. Document 4 shows an African saint holding the infant Jesus which shows the influence Christianity has had on enslaved Africans. This church was built by enslaved and free African Brazilians which proves that Christianity was very appealing to the enslaved laborers who often liked Christ
ianity’s doctrines such as heaven. Also, the interactions between Christianity and the culture of the Africans residing in Latin America and the Carribbeans created new syncretic faiths such as Vodun, due to the mixing of traditional spirit worship from west africa with some aspects of Christianity, and even elements of animistic native american culture. Another example would be the Latin American cult of saints, which was the native spin of European catholicism in which believers had their own deities based on the Catholic saints. Furthermore the Virgin of Guadalupe, a representation of Mary as a native girl had a huge influence on native society. Document 3 recounts the testimony of a man who believes that native girl Luzia was divinely influenced and could heal people. This shows that the Virgin of Guadalupe was very influential in Brazil as the girl seems to be a typification of her. However, it should be noted that this was an Inquisition trial of Luzia which means that the Catholic Church was most likely denouncing her which means that the official Catholic Church did not always support the native “spin-off” practices even though they were influential.
However, Christianity also had a limited effect on native latin american culture which often resisted it. Document 1 recounts a priest that laments about how the natives in some areas have warped catholicism and replaced some of it with “idol practices.” He goes even as far to say that the Devil was indirectly trying to persuade the people not to forget the ways of their ancestors. This shows that the natives had really tried to retain their traditional practices and culture even in the face of Christian influence. It should be noted that this document was written by a Catholic priest during the 1600s which explains why he would have a horrified view of the natives potentially mixing catholicism with extra practices. Document 2 recounts a native ceremony where they sacrificed animals. This was much against the Catholic teachings at the time and this document proves the natives knew that by recording that the natives posted guards to give warning if a Spaniard came near. This further proves the natives were trying to actively resist Christian influence on their traditional culture. Document 5 says that the natives were “deficient” worshippers of christianity. Felix de Azara notes that there were a few natives who learned sermons, but they were mainly nonsense which shows that the natives didn’t really fully embrace christian doctrines and there was “little true” religion among the population. It should be noted that this document, written by Felix de Azara, has the purpose of informing the King of Spain and other officials about the effectiveness of Jesuit missionaries which explains why he would be evaluating how many natives and to what extent were the natives “real” worshippers.