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The Fainting Mary: The Role of Marian Divinity in Colonial Nahuatl Drama
AuthorBrandenberger, Deanna S.
AdvisorCurcio-Nagy, Linda A.
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The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of Marian divinity within colonial Nahuatl drama in Mexico. The Virgin Mary is typically associated within Christianity as a staple of biblical representation and devotion. However, her representation within the colonial dramas indicates various attributes of pre-Columbian culture and religious belief. The analysis of 6 of the 19 currently available Nahuatl theatrical plays are examined and compared to the historiography and primary sources regarding pre-Colombian culture, and religion in particular, as well as the orthodoxy and hybridity of Christianity in the New World. Historiography of colonial Mexico, Christianity, the Franciscans, and Nahuatl Theater are employed to assist in the establishment of precedential work within the ethnographical subfield of cultural studies.The ritualization of theater strengthens the paradigm of compromised conversion in colonial Mexico and the creation of a syncretic religion, and thereby, hybrid deities. Nahuas found ways of demonstrating their traditional forms of worship by incorporating them into the practices introduced by the Franciscans. Nahuatl theater was a unique form of evangelization among the Aztecs, and its success was due to the cultural parallels in belief and ritual performance which could be translated across the cultural and linguistic barriers which stifled other efforts of proselytization. By allowing religious compromise, the lines of identity of divinity merged with the native associations. Mary began absorbed attributes of pre-Columbian deities and her identity became a conglomeration of many aspects.The figure of the Virgin Mary is a hybrid construct as a result of the confluence of cultures as a result of the Spanish Conquest in colonial Mexico and the subsequent evangelization efforts by Franciscans who utilized theater in order to accomplish it. Her attributes are distinctly syncretic with other feminine divinities which existed prior to the introduction of Christianity in the New World, and through her, they were reconciled with her Christian aspects, preserving a unique conceptual product within a unique vehicle of conversion: Nahuatl theater. The study proves that the Marian construct also became a legitimator of native autonomy in addition to a source of devotion.