Indigenous Sacraments


Indigenous Sacraments

Christian Rituals and Local Responses at the Fringes of Spanish America, 1529–1800

Oriol Ambrogio Gali

Borderlands and Transcultural Studies Series

378 pages
5 maps, index


December 2024


$70.00 Pre-order

About the Book

Indigenous Sacraments provides the first study of Indigenous perceptions of the Christian sacraments at the fringes of colonial Spanish America, particularly in the missions established by the Jesuits in northwestern Mexico, central southern Chile, and the Gran Chaco. After Jesuit missionaries arrived in these regions between the end of the sixteenth and the early seventeenth centuries, their sacraments came to control every rite of passage, from birth to reaching adulthood to the formation of new families to death. Through the administration of the sacraments, missionaries intended to replace extant Indigenous habits and beliefs with Christian values.

The disruptions triggered by such processes raised multiple local reactions, from initial curiosity and incomprehension to rejection, partial acceptance, and ritual imitation. Locals debated the newly introduced rituals and both violently rejected them and developed their own versions, becoming active participants in the sacraments’ diffusion.

Oriol Ambrogio Gali draws on a range of diverse sources to explore the changing attitudes toward the sacraments and to highlight the cultural and religious evolution of the Indigenous groups living at the fringes of Spanish America. By exploring local perceptions of the Christian sacraments, Ambrogio Gali shows that Indigenous peoples were far from static recipients of Christianity in the Americas.

Author Bio

Oriol Ambrogio Gali is a research fellow at the University of Nottingham.


“A major contribution to the history of the Christianization of Indigenous groups at the margins of Spain’s colonial American empire. Herein Oriol Ambrogio Gali comparatively studies the role of the Jesuit missions in three peripheral areas of colonization (northwestern Mexico, south central Chile, and the Gran Chaco), each with a plethora of Native ethnicities, distinct languages and cultures, and considerable resistance to religious change. . . . [An] amazing work of scholarship and research.”—Ramón A. Gutiérrez, author of New Mexico’s Moses: Reies López Tijerina and the Religious Origins of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement

Indigenous Sacraments reflects a deep education in church history and missionary history in the New World. Clearly, Ambrogio Gali knows the field inside and out and has immersed himself in the existing scholarship across the Spanish-, English-, German-, and Italian-speaking academic communities. The book is informed by countless well-known missionary chronicles, but also by less-familiar print sources and by substantial archival research.”—Sean F. McEnroe, author of A Troubled Marriage: Indigenous Elites of the Colonial Americas

Table of Contents

Chapter 1        The Jesuits in Spanish America: An Overview (1566-1767)
Chapter 2        Indigenous Peoples, Missionaries and Soldiers at the Fringes of Spanish America (1529-1767)
Chapter 3        Baptism, Healing Rituals and Death
Chapter 4        Confessing Indigenous Peoples
Chapter 5        Marrying Indigenous peoples
Chapter 6        The Chalice, the Host and the Indigenous Peoples

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