Munich’s central square, Marienplatz, is best known today for its magnificent Rathaus-Glockenspiel that delights tourists and townspeople alike with its melodies. But until the nineteenth century, the square’s main attraction was a golden pillar adorned with the Virgin Mary known as the Mariensäule.
A Google image search for “Our Lady of Guadalupe” returns millions of images. This Catholic icon appears on paintings, coffee mugs, tattoos, and more. Her image is an international symbol for Catholics and non-religious alike.
During a recent drug bust in Houston, Texas, officers discovered a shrine to a skeleton statuette, robed in green and holding a scythe wrapped in dollar bills in her right hand, tobacco lying as an offering at her feet. Votive candles of various colors surrounded the statuette, as well as regularly replenished glasses filled with water and Mexican tequila. The officers had found Santa Muerte.
In 1617 King Phillip IV of Castile controversially elevated Teresa of Avila as patron saint of Spain, joining the current patron saint, Apostle Santiago the Great. Teresa de Avila (1515-1582) had been a sixteenth century Carmelite nun and reformer of the Carmelite Order. Phillip IV’s appointment of Teresa as patron saint, however, triggered a fierce letter writing campaign led by devotees of Santiago.
In the past ten years, Americans have shown a sustained interest in cultural depictions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), or the Mormon Church. South Park’s 2003 episode “All about Mormons” and the 2011 musical The Book of Mormon satirized the founding of the LDS church.
More on the variety of religious experiences in America.
Joan Wallach Scott introduces The Politics of the Veil, about the 2004 headscarf debates in France, with a telling sentence: “This is not a book about French Muslims; it is about the dominant French view of them.”
In October 1937, Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo ordered his troops to slaughter Haitians living in the Dominican frontier and the Cibao. The horrific violence left as many as 15,000 dead. Trujillo apologists managed to justify the action nationally, but the massacre created an international public relations nightmare for the regime.
In the last decade, the history of Muslims in America has come into its own and A History of Islam in America provides one of the most comprehensive and even-handed treatments of the subject. Many previous studies breezily pit “Islam” against the “West.”