The Historical, Social, And Religious Context Of American Baptist Women In El Salvador -- By: Kathleen Hayes

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 08:1 (Winter 1994)
Article: The Historical, Social, And Religious Context Of American Baptist Women In El Salvador
Author: Kathleen Hayes


The Historical, Social, And Religious Context Of American Baptist Women In El Salvador

Kathleen Hayes

Kathleen Hayes is a freelance editor who received her M.A. in Theological Studies from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she concentrated on women’s issues in El Salvador.

“...the liberation of women requires, and is only really possible through, a change that goes to the root of this system and of its mechanisms of domination. We have to uproot structural violence and move toward a new type of social relations. We need a new exodus, in which the female role is fundamental and determining.”1

Such is the determination of a small but growing number of women in Latin America, including El Salvador. It is no accident that the imagery in this statement is both biblical and revolutionary, for those dimensions encompass the nature of the history of El Salvador. To understand the situation in which Baptist women in El Salvador find themselves today, let us first briefly consider their historical backdrop, particularly as it relates to women.

Women And The History Of Catholicism In El Salvador

Before the sixteenth-century conquest of the Americas by Catholic Spain, the indigenous people of El Salvador practiced their own native religions. According to Dom Bartolome Carrasco Briseno, archbishop of Oaxaca, Mexico:

“In America’s pre-Columbian cultures women had a predominant role... [Their] contribution to the development of indigenous cultures was so important that the concept of God remained closely linked both to maize and to the female principle. There were peoples who knew God only as Mother. Others, the majority, combined male and female in God.... It was impossible for the ancient—as it is for the present-day—native peoples to conceive of God only in a male mode.”2

Although there was probably a bit more diversity among the various cultures than the archbishop acknowledges here — and perhaps more oppression as well — it was to this type of Mayan religious culture that the Spanish came to conquer the land and “christianize” the natives and their society. The area of El Salvador fell to Spanish rule in 1525, at which time the Catholic faith was imposed on the Fipil and Lenca Indians, the peoples of the region.

Spanish women are not known to have been among the conquistadores, although they soon joined them as colonies were established. Native women were raped by their conquerors and required to serve as both mistresses and wives. Today over 90 percent of the Salvadoran population has become Mestizo (mixed race of Spanish/European an...

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