THE INDIGENOUS ELEMENTS IN THE POPULAR RELIGION OF PUERTO RICANS

ANTONIO M STEVENS ARROYO, Fordham University

Abstract

The dissertation examines recent Latin American theological and pastoral documents which describe the importance of the folk Catholicism or religion of the people. By citation of relevant texts from the assemblies at Medell(')in and Puebla, the dissertation shows that the Pre-Columbian religions of the indigenous peoples of the Americas are considered to be the principal source of these "underlying beliefs rooted in God." Moreover, the religion of the people figures in the national and cultural identity of many Latin American countries. Puerto Rico, however, lacks a national political experience that utilizes themes of indigenous religion to identify the Puerto Rican culture. Accordingly, the dissertation attempts to use archaelogical, anthropoligical and archetypal methodologies to discover what, if any, Pre-Columbian beliefs survive in the contemporary religion of Puerto Ricans.^ By the use of comparisons with contemporary Indian peoples according to the methodology suggested by ethnoarchaeology, accounts of Taino social organization are analyzed for the tribes' religious premises. Archaelogical and historical data are reinterpreted with this perspective.^ The dissertation undertakes a detailed study of the Taino myths, which were recorded at the end of the fifteenth century by the eyewitness, Fray Ramon Pane. The sacred narration is reproduced in a scriptural format with ample notation. By employing materials and the methodology taken from Claude Levi-Strauss, the Taino myths are interpreted. The dissertation shows that the myths describe several taboos which include prohibitions against cannibalism, return migration and promiscuous sexual contact by syphilitics.^ The result of this analysis is interpreted by archetypal theory. The female archetype in Taino myth is found to closely resemble the Amazon of Mediterranean mythology. The Journey Motif appears to be central to Taino myth, although preference is given to an introverted or centroverted male hero rather than to an extroverted one who would directly confront authority. This characterisitc of the Taino mythic hero is described as a Trickster Motif. By analysis of contemporary descriptions of Puerto Rican culture and personality, the dissertation identifies the Trickster Motif with the figure of the Puerto Rican mountain peasant or j(')ibaro. This identification is strengthened by consideration of the Janus Mode in Taino art and stylistic similarities found in the carved wooden statues of Puerto Rican popular religion, or santos. Finally, these archetypal characteristics are related to select aspects of the popular religion of Puerto Ricans. The dissertation concludes that in moments of crisis and creativity, the archetypes that emerge from Puerto Rican popular religion bear similarity to those of Taino myth. Hence, while Taino religion is not necessarily the only source for these patterns of Puerto Rican culture and religion, indigenous beliefs are contributing elements. ^

Subject Area

Religion, History of

Recommended Citation

ANTONIO M STEVENS ARROYO, "THE INDIGENOUS ELEMENTS IN THE POPULAR RELIGION OF PUERTO RICANS" (January 1, 1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI8111319.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8111319

Share

COinS