The Black Christ of Esquipulas


The Black Christ of Esquipulas

Religion and Identity in Guatemala

Douglass Sullivan-González

234 pages
6 photographs, 1 drawing, 1 map, index


January 2016


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

January 2016


$55.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

January 2016


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

On the eastern border of Guatemala and Honduras, pilgrims and travelers flock to the Black Christ of Esquipulas, a large statue carved from wood depicting Christ on the cross. The Catholic shrine, built in the late sixteenth century, has become the focal point of admiration and adoration from New Mexico to Panama. Beyond being a site of popular devotion, however, the Black Christ of Esquipulas was also the scene of important debates about citizenship and identity in the Guatemalan nation throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In The Black Christ of Esquipulas, Douglass Sullivan-González explores the multifaceted appeal of this famous shrine, its mysterious changes in color over the centuries, and its deeper significance in the spiritual and political lives of Guatemalans. Reconstructed from letters buried within the restricted Catholic Church archive in Guatemala City, the debates surrounding the shrine reflect the shifting categories of race and ethnicity throughout the course of the country’s political trajectory. This “biography” of the Black Christ of Esquipulas serves as an alternative history of Guatemala and sheds light on some of the most salient themes in Guatemala’s social and political history: state formation, interethnic dynamics, and church-state tensions. Sullivan-González’s study provides a holistic understanding of the relevance of faith and ritual to the social and political history of this influential region.

Author Bio

Douglass Sullivan-González is dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and a professor of history at the University of Mississippi.


“This is a wonderful book, beautifully conceptualized and charmingly written. It will be an important contribution to the historiography of Guatemala.”—Virginia Garrard-Burnett, author of Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit: Guatemala under General Efraín Ríos Montt, 1982–1983

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction: The Crucified Christ of Esquipulas

1. Power and Identity in the Making of Colonial Guatemala

2. The Liberal State and the Conservative Church

3. Carrera, the Church, and the Color of the Christ

4. The Liberal Republic and Religious Competition

5. Revolution, Counterrevolution, and Religion

6. The Black Christ of Esquipulas




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