Religion in Mexico. Find out more information about the evolution of the religion in Mexico and the principal mexican religions.
From its distinctive architecture to the prevalence of the Spanish language, Mexico is a nation still deeply rooted in its 16th Century colonial past and it is the importance of religion in Mexico, in particular, which can certainly be attributed to the powerful influence of the Spaniards. Bringing Roman Catholicism to Mexican shores for the first time in 1519, Extremadura-born colonizer Hernán Cortés would arguably never have foreseen that this same religion would be so central to Mexican culture almost five centuries later. Now the second largest Catholic nation in the world, after Brazil, Mexico not only sees widespread attendance to weekly mass services but equally witnesses an extraordinary influx of tourists to its globally-renowned Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe and takes absolute delight in celebrating its numerous, religious-orientated festivals.
- Prior to Cortés’ arrival in 1519, Mexico’s indigenous inhabitants practiced polytheistic religions which primarily revolved around the worshipping of multiple nature deities.
- Given that Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, one of Mexico’s 1810 independence heroes, was a Catholic priest, it is perhaps unsurprising that Catholicism is still so firmly established in Mexico today.
Not quite as different as is initially perceived, Catholicism and the religion of Mexico’s ancient Aztec civilization actually share many ideological similarities and it is precisely these mutual beliefs which Cortés and his cohort of clergymen clung onto as they strived to infiltrate indigenous Mexican culture with Roman Catholic practices. With both religions recognizing the importance of fasting periods, embarking on pilgrimages and worshipping a revered mother figure—Tonantzin in the case of the Aztecs and the Virgin Mary in the case of the Spaniards— the 16th Century colonizers were able to convince the native communities of the rectitude of Catholicism. Still very much woven into the fabric of the Mexican nation in present day, Catholicism may be the dominant, although not official state, religion but it is slowly being joined by the presence of various other religions and Christian denominations. From Judaism to Islam to Mormonism to Evangelicalism, Mexico may be experiencing slight changes in religious devotion but it remains almost certain that Catholicism will continue to prevail long into the future.
Often compared to Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica owing to the millions of intrigued visitors who flock to pass through its magnificent doors every year, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, situated on Mexico City’s Tepeyac Hill, is the epitome of Catholic grandiosity in Mexico. Home to the highly-prestigious image of the nation’s patron saint, the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Basilica is equally the final destination of an extensive pilgrimage. Allegedly appearing to a peasant named Juan Diego while he walked along the Tepeyac hill on 12th December 1531 and demanding the construction of a church in her honor, the visional figure, considered by Mexican Catholics to be the Virgin Mary herself, is now not only commemorated through the image present in the magnificent Basilica but equally enjoys a feast day on the very day in which she supposedly materialized before Diego. A day of respectful celebrations in which fervent followers pin milagros, which literally translates to “miracles” in English and take the form of small arm, leg or heart-shaped silver objects, near to the Virgin’s statue, Our Lady of Guadalupe Day is the highlight of the Mexican Catholic calendar after Christmas and Easter.
A Latin American country proud to publicly display its Catholic fervor, Mexico can not truly be understood without experiencing its long-held religious traditions and it is Our Lady of Guadalupe Day, in particular, which will provide curious visitors with a thorough insight into an undeniably devout nation.