Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D., Professor of History

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

History, M.A.


History and Social Studies Education Department


Bridget Chesterton, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History

Department Home page

First Reader

Bridget Chesterton, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History

Second Reader

Cynthia Conides, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History


After the Spanish conquest of Latin America different religious groups set up missions to convert the Indians to Catholicism. In the 1530s and 1560s overzealous officials started punishing the indigenous people for idolatry because they saw it as a rejection of Catholic and Spanish rule. This thesis examines why indigenous people continued their religious practices after their supposed conversion to Catholicism. The author argues that indigenous traditions of incorporating new deities into their pantheon led them to believe that the Catholic god was another to be included in their worship, not one to replace their belief system. Additionally, the Spanish did not understand the indigenous worldview and the role that religion played in the every day life of the people of Latin America. The Spanish did not understand how important it was for indigenous people to keep their practices alive. Finally, the conversion process was hindered by the language difference between the cultures, and using indigenous words to explain Catholic concepts led to false equivalencies that reinforced similarities and the blending of the two religions.