Practice DBQ

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.


Just some thoughts. Your Contextualization was conceptual but make sure that you continue to use specifics. I would have moved the conversation to the Columbian Exchange and the Atlantic Ocean. You hinted at that but could have been more geographically focused. Solid and thoughtful thesis. I like how you wrote a complex sentence. Feel free to use two separate sentences if you feel like you are running on.

I encourage you to use sourcing words like purpose, point-of-view. You could have done POV on de las Casas but just addressing him as a Catholic Priest doesn’t thoroughly connect the person to the document.

We are not fulling grading DBQs here. However, I will say you are on the right track and I would be happy to have you in my classroom! Keep it up! If you have a specific question, feel free to ask!

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Hey – your practice is showing through this! Great use of documents, and an easy way to improve it would be a frame out the analysis of the docs. Instead of just “Catholic priest” consider WHY de las Casas would have written that (what about him being a Catholic priest would have influenced his writing) Inserting the idea of other syncretic religions into the first para is great (Sikhism) because it goes beyond the region that this question is about.

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Hey! Lots of great stuff to work with here.
Solid thesis and doc use.

I would potentially give complexity here. You do a nice job of it, particularly at the end of the first doc-based paragraph, where you tie in the OE and docs and note both resistance and conversion.

Thoughts here - you gloss over Doc 4 a bit, generalizing that because enslaved Africans built churches, they “likes Christianity’s doctrines…” It’d be stronger to note HC here, notably that the enslavers forced conversion, or by tying in Voodoo and Vodun more clearly (which, you do afterwards). Noting that Papa Legbo in Voodoo for instance parallels St. Peter in Catholicism is noteworthy and connected to imagery used in the religions.

Finally, you can sharpen up context to give yourself a “leg up” in OE. Some graders would p

potentially see this as “double-dipping” since you note Vodun in the intro and then go back to it for OE (I wouldn’t, personally - it’s clear that you’re supporting something you’ve noted in a ‘preview’). However, by noting specific evidence for what you’re saying - here, you say things like “cultural sophistication” but I’d rather hear what you mean by that, or have you note navigational tech that gets Christianity to Latin America in the first place, or even the Columbian Exchange.

Really solid job! You’re going to kill it tomorrow!

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Thank you! To resolve the “double-dipping” problem would it be okay if I took out the Vodun example in the intro.

For example, would this still be a specific thesis?

Although the widespread exposure that Latin Americans had to Christianity during the 1500-1800 helped create syncretic religions and better labor conditions, native latin americans held strongly to their traditional beliefs and sometimes resisted the introduction of Christianity.

Yep! I think your thesis was spot-on.

I’d go with what @bdramby noted and go broad to specific. If you want to use the broad idea of expansion and how that gets folks to Latin America (and ultimately spreading Christianity), give specifics - dates, events, people - that get us there. That’s why I think Columbian Exchange, nav tech like the compass, or religious splits like emerging Protestantism/Inquisition would be good examples to use in contextualizing this topic.

I like to use ACE for everything. In this case, if you’re contextualizing:
A = What’s your context? What’s the THING or -ism or trend that “sets the stage”?
C = what’s an example of the thing?
E = connect the dots - how do we get back to the prompt?

Context for the impacts of Christianity on Latin America is the Columbian Exchange. Due to the ever-increasing desire for Asian luxury goods and trade access, European maritime empires expanded greatly; countries like Spain and Portugual, among others, rapidly colonized Latin America. As a result, they brought with them their beliefs, notably Christianity.

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