Spirit, Transformation, and Gender in Borderlands: A Representative Case Study
Keywords:Borders, religion, gender, development
Questions of “development,” trade, and gender in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands (and globally) have attracted considerable academic attention, and other scholars have examined religious changes, particularly the expansion of evangelical Protestantism, in Latin America. This feminist history represents a fresh attempt to blend these two inquiries, describing Protestant Pentecostal growth and Charismatic Catholic Renewal (CCR) in the central U.S.-Mexico Borderlands during the 1970s and 80s. This preliminary study places these spirit-filled movements in the context of gendered socioeconomic change and the declining influence of Vatican II. Interviews, church documents, and newspapers show that while Social Justice Catholicism (and even some Liberation Theology-inspired Comunidades Eclesiales de Base) survived in the region, a conservative shift increasingly marginalized the Catholic Left. Regional and international power brokers, including Roman Catholic leadership, favored (or, at least, salutarily neglected) CCR, which, like Pentecostalism, was more accommodating and often supportive of the industrialization agenda. These gendered constructions, combined with the palliative effect of ecstatic spiritual experiences, likely contributed to the expansion of the maquiladoras and the global neo-liberal order they represent.
Noting the dearth of projects that blend feminist and neo-Marxist lenses in the study of liminal spaces, this essay sketches a case that speaks to the potential of that intervention.
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