“El Indio Gabriel”: New Religious Perspectives among the Indigenous in Garrido Canabal’s Tabasco (1927–30)

  • Massimo De Giuseppe
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


“Defanaticizing” the people was an important theme in Ministry of Public Education (SEP) reports from 1926–29, a time of religious crisis, church closures, and cristero violence. In this period, the aims of revolutionary reconstruction mixed political reforms, economic development, and sociocultural (religious, educative, pro-Indian [indigenista]) questions. The projects of indigenous incorporation and religious defanaticization must therefore be interpreted within a broader framework of postrevolutionary modernization, which achieved its greatest radicalism to date under President Calles (1924–28). A note written after a 1927 trip to Puebla by SEP Under-secretary Moisés Sáenz captures callismo’s incorporationist spirit. For Sáenz, it was necessary to “incorporate civilization into the Indian,” and vice versa, so that indigenous people would assimilate “white civilization” and transform it into a true “Mexican civilization.” The link between national integration and religious defanaticization was strong, and SEP missionaries were particularly concerned about “fanatical” indigenous resistance to modernization. Sáenz, too, concluded that indigenous resistance was an obstacle to “national redemption,” if not militarily (as shown in the 1926 defeated Yaqui rising) then culturally.2 This was clear in southern Mexico—in Chiapas, Yucatán, and Tabasco—where “rationalist” schools, cooperatives, and revolutionary leagues led the fight against “fanaticism.”


Mexico City Rationalist School Enforce Privatization Religious Perspective Sacred Heart 
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© Matthew Butler 2007

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  • Massimo De Giuseppe

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