Theses Doctoral

The Politics of Devotion: Militant Catholicism and the Fight for the Spanish Empire in Cuba and Puerto Rico

Enríquez Flores, Fabiola

“The Politics of Devotion” is a social, political, and intellectual history of Catholicism in the Spanish colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico during the last third of the nineteenth century. Against the backdrop of persistent quarrels about freedom of religion and political independence in which Liberals and Freemasons played a central role, the project argues that the twin threats of secularism and separatism pushed Catholicism to become a militant political stance in the island colonies. Faced with debates about would-be independent nations where Catholicism would be dethroned as the State religion, it became clear to both common Catholics and ecclesiastics that for Catholicism to survive, it was imperative that the Spanish Empire prevail.

The dissertation therefore details how Catholics confronted and engaged novel ideas that called their faith into question and shows how Catholicism, traditionally espoused as a matter of private belief, transformed into a political and public position. It explores how the faithful organized themselves around Catholicism to safeguard both their fate and the fate of their islands, and made religion a key element in civic life, whereby one was either a patriot and a good Catholic or a separatist and a godless individual. The project also reevaluates the development of civil societies in Cuba and Puerto Rico, reinserting Catholicism into a narrative of political struggle that eschews religion in favor of political philosophies and intellectual movements understood as modern at the time, and proposes that the expansion of these civil societies was achieved alongside, rather than in spite of, discussions about the centrality of Catholicism and its practices.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Pizzigoni, Caterina Luigia
Milanich, Nara B.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 13, 2022