Niches of Protestantism in Mexico : consequences of vacuums of political and religious influence
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Over the last hundred and fifty years, Mexico's religious landscape has been undergoing an unprecedented change. The Roman Catholic majority established since colonial times has been experiencing a steady decline in membership, while Protestant affiliation has been steadily growing in rural and urban areas. Although scholars have focused on different aspects of the growth of Protestantism since the 1960s, research that examines the early development of religious pluralism in Mexico has been limited. This research analyzes the interplay of structural and cultural factors as well as religious and political vacuums that promoted the early settlement and continued presence of Protestant groups in the states of Campeche, Tabasco, and Yucatán between 1880 and 1960. A comparative historical approach highlights how changes in political, economic, social, and cultural spheres in southern Mexico contributed to religious pluralism and why early Protestantism followed a different pattern of expansion than that observed after the 1960s. Environmental, demographic, and socioeconomic factors influenced where Protestants settled and how they expanded to areas where the spiritual and practical needs of communities were not being met and how the social ties individuals built within those communities influenced the creation of religious pluralism. Social network analysis underlines the importance of key actors, such as women and local pastors, in the development of niches of Protestantism particularly during the period of strong conflict between the state and the Roman Catholic Church and during the creation of a new national identity. Finally, the importance that some Protestant denominations gave to the individual, their internal organizational structure, and their ability to navigate the growing secular field was the last element that contributed to the creation of niches of Protestantism in southern Mexico. By including both quantitative and qualitative data, this dissertation provides a research methodology that could be tested quantitatively and be applied to other areas of Mexico in particular and of Latin America in general.