Nearly five centuries after the first wave of Catholic missionaries arrived in the New World to spread their Christian message, contemporary religious workers in the Bolivian highlands have begun to encourage Aymara Indians to return to traditional ritual practices. All but eradicated after hundreds of years of missionization, the "old ways" are now viewed as local cultural expressions of Christian values. In order to become more Christian, the Aymara must now become more Indian.
This groundbreaking study of the contemporary encounter between Catholic missionaries and Aymara Indians is the first ethnography to focus both on the evangelizers and the evangelized. Andrew Orta explores the pastoral shift away from liberation theology that dominated Latin American missionization up until the mid-1980s to the recent "theology of inculturation," which upholds the beliefs and practices of a supposedly pristine Aymara culture as indigenous expressions of a more universal Christianity. Addressing essential questions in cultural anthropology, religious studies, postcolonial studies, and globalization studies, "Catechizing Culture" is a sophisticated documentation of the widespread shift from the politics of class to the politics of ethnicity and multiculturalism.