Maya Christians and Their Churches in Sixteenth-Century Belize

Elizabeth Graham

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Available for pre-order. This book will be available March, 2020
"An important and innovative study that brings a good number of fascinating archaeological findings to bear on the process of Christian conversion in the colonial Maya world. Seldom has the archaeological material culture of an evangelized society been brought to light so thoroughly and engagingly."--Fernando Cervantes, coauthor of Angels, Demons, and the New World

"A convincing and fascinating study of Maya religion and Christianity in the frontier."--Joel Palka, University of Illinois-Chicago

Based on her analysis of archaeological evidence from the excavations of Maya churches at Tipu and Lamanai, Elizabeth Graham seeks to understand why the Maya sometimes actively embraced Catholicism during the period of European conquest and continued to worship in this way even after the end of Spanish occupation.

The Maya in Belize appear to have continued to bury their dead in Christian churchyards long after the churches themselves had fallen into disuse. They also seem to have hidden pre-Hispanic objects of worship in Christian sacred spaces during times of persecution, and excavations reveal the style of the early churches to be unmistakably Franciscan. The evidence suggests that the Maya remained Christian after 1700, when Spaniards were no longer in control, which challenges the widespread assumption that because Christianity was imposed by force it was never properly assimilated by indigenous peoples.

Combining historical and archaeological data with her experience of having been raised as a Roman Catholic, Graham proposes a way of assessing the concept of religious experience and processes of conversion that takes into account the material, visual, sensual, and even olfactory manifestations of the sacred.

Elizabeth Graham is senior lecturer of Mesoamerican archaeology at University College London.

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"Intellectually stimulating, original in perspective, and engagingly written. Graham’s book makes a major contribution to Maya archaeology, colonial history, and cultural studies."
--The Americas 69:3

"a splendid achievement"
--Winterthur Portfolio

Bring[s] to life the churches and communities of Lamenai and Tipu, two of the tiniest and most forgotten places in Spanish America.
--Latin American Research Review

An insightful narrative, filling in the relatively blank academic expanse that has been Belize in the post-Classic and early colonial periods. . . . Undoubtedly, the contributions of Graham's text are numerous and vast, with implications for the larger field of Latin American history, from the pre-Columbian and arguably into the modern era. . . . Graham places Belizean sites within the larger framework of Mesoamerican and colonial history, giving a voice to the historical and religious experience of a too often overlooked Maya population.
--Colonial Latin American Review

Deserves great praise and should be read by anyone interested in Mesoamerican and Iberian worldviews.

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