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South America Religion

Indigenous Peoples' ViewEuropean Contact

Beginning in 1492, under the epitomizing banner of Roman Catholic Christianity and Western wealth-production through the forced and violent acquisition, sale, and exploitation of indigenous and African labor to acquire gold, pearls, and spices, indigenous people were confronted not only with unrelenting demands on their bodies and their souls, but also subject to the sustained indignities of an Inquisitorial system that placed their sacred concepts and objects in league with the Christian devil. By the late twentieth century the "globalization of monopoly finance capitalist culture" (Hopkins, p. 8) ushered in an era of sustained indigenous rejection of neoliberalism, privatization, and deregulation.

In the face of conquest, inquisition, terror, slavery, oppression, relocation, reduction, population collapse, and a myriad of violent indignities, indigenous religious change from the fifteenth century through the present times-places is characterized by the fusing of ultimate cosmogonic contexts of the Primordium and Eschaton with the proximate contexts of political, economic, and cultural transformations. Changes in indigenous perspectives on religious phenomena in South America stem from the radical hegemony of the hyper-globalization of Iberian Catholic Church policies and practices syncretized with the Western god Mammon. More recently, North American fundamentalist Protestantism has sustained a Manichean cosmic competition with Roman Catholicism with similar effects.

Indigenous religious systems historically and in contemporary times take on strongly millenarian dynamics as people endeavor to right the universe and re-create a place for themselves in their own times—ancient, past, present, and future—and demarcated in their contemporary and ancestral landscapes. Sullivan writes: "In all the millennial movements … the earth is a primordial instrument of change as well as a cosmic object affected by alteration.… Eschatological ordeals and stylized performance transform human beings by allowing them to assume the mythic stature and heroic destiny formerly achieved by only a few after death" (pp. 613–614). Examples of indigenous millenarianism include nineteenth-century chiliastic movements in Amazonia, post-conquest movements to transform emerging Spanish society to imagined Incan systems in the Andes, movements by native people to bring a giant anaconda (corporal beings such as Tupac Amaru or Tupac Katari) to overwhelm the Spanish structures of the Andes, and the emergence and persistence of "dark shamanic" predation on modernity in the Guianas. Contemporary movements in the twenty-first century include, especially, indigenous and Afro-Latin American movements in Ecuador that have recently resulted in the bloodless expulsion of two elected presidents and created a new system of emergent space-times in national politics.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Reason to RetrovirusSouth America Religion - Indigenous Peoples' View - Conceptualizing Space-times, The Axis Mundi, Shamans And Ritual, European Contact, Conclusion