Spanish Colonies: Religion


Spanish Colonization

Spain established a model of colonization consisting of three major elements: The crown maintained tight control over the colonies, imposing a hierarchical government that allowed little autonomy to New World jurisdictions, (second) most of the colonists sent from Spain were male, and lastly, the colonies' wealth was based on the exploitation of both the native people and slaves imported from Africa.


Spain's primary religion was Catholicism. Due to this new model of colonization and the tight control it maintained on its colonies, Roman Catholic priests ensured the colonists' conformity with orthodox religious views. This demonstrated the Spanish colonizer's clear intolerance to the native people's religion and desire to implement their own Catholic religion. The Roman Catholic priests did not wish to modify their religion with the Native Americans, rather, they (at least) wanted the Native Americans to modify their own religion with Catholicism.

Christianity in New Spain

The friars spent much of their time attempting to persuade Mesoamerican people to move into new towns and to build Roman Catholic Churches. European customs and religious rituals designed to assimilate Catholic and pagan beliefs were common in these towns. For this reason, Indians were often exposed to Spain's religious ways. Friars deliberately juxtaposed the cult of the Virgin Mary and that of the corn Goddess, and the Indians adeptly melded aspects of their traditional world view with Christianity, in a process called syncretism. Thus, thousands of Indians that were near or lived in Spanish territory began to accept Catholicism due to the fact that it was the religion of their new leaders and they were accustomed to obedience.