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Sistema de Información Científica
Red de Revistas Científicas de América Latina y el Caribe, España y Portugal
Sociedad y Política
125
Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales,
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Año LVI, núm. 213, septiembre-diciembre de 2011, pp. 125-155, ISSN-0185-1918
)
*
Doctora en Ciencia Política por la Universidad de Los Ángeles. Miembro del Sistema Nacional de Investigadores, Nivel
II
. Profesora-
investigadora de la División de Estudios Políticos del Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, A.C., (
CIDE
) Carretera México-Toluca
3655, Colonia Lomas de Santa Fe, México, D.F., 01210.
E-Mail: allyson.benton@cide.edu
The Catholic Church, Political Institutions,
and Electoral Outcomes in Oaxaca, Mexico
A
LLYSON
L
UCINDA
B
ENTON
S
HELDON
*
Recibido el 16 de febrero de 2003
Corregido el 10 de agosto de 2011
Aceptado el 21 de agosto de 2011
Abstract
This study analyzes two competing arguments about
the role of the Catholic Church in state politics Oaxaca,
Mexico in the 1990s and 2000s. One line of argument
claims that progressive Catholic bishops supported
and facilitated democratization in this state. Another
line suggests that the church may have inadvertently
facilitated ongoing authoritarian rule through its ac-
tive support for the formalization of local customary
political practices into law. Statistical analysis shows
that the level of Catholic presence across Oaxaca’s mu-
nicipalities only matters in some cases and not always
in the direction expected. Specifically, in some indig-
enous communities high levels of Catholic presence
facilitated the adoption of customary laws, declines
in
PRI
support, and lower first place party margins. In
other indigenous places, it had the opposite effect.
The lack of systematic effect demonstrates the Catholic
Church’s capacity to intervene in local political affairs
in multiple direction and ways, as well as its often tacit
support for existing political dynamics.
Key words
: Catholic Church, Political Institutions,
Electoral Outcomes, Oaxaca, political parties, indig-
enous, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (
PRI
),
democratization, transition, liberal democracy,
pluralism.
Resumen
En este artículo, se analizan dos argumentos con
respecto al papel que la Iglesia católica ha desempe-
ñado dentro de la política estatal en Oaxaca, México,
durante las décadas de 1990 y 2000. En el primero de
ellos, se plantea que los obispos tienden a favorecer
y a facilitar los procesos de democratización en este
estado. En el segundo, se sugiere que la Iglesia pudo
haber favorecido involuntariamente el autoritarismo
gubernamental al apoyar con entusiasmo la legali-
zación de usos y costumbres en la política local. El
análisis estadístico presentado en este trabajo mues-
tra que el grado de presencia católica en los municip-
ios oaxaqueños sólo importa en algunos casos y no
siempre en la dirección esperada. Más en concreto, la
Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales
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Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales,
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Año LVI, núm. 213, septiembre-diciembre de 2011, pp. 125-155, ISSN-0185-1918
defensa de tal legalización en algunas comunidades
indígenas donde la presencia del catolicismo preva-
lece, ha disminuido el apoyo al
PRI
y a los par t idos mar-
ginales. En cambio, en otras comunidades indígenas,
el efec to ha sido el contrar io. Finalmente, se concluye
que la falta de resultados sistematizados demuestra
la capacidad de la Iglesia católica para intervenir en
las políticas locales oaxaqueñas.
Palabras clave
: Iglesia católica, instituciones políti-
cas, resultados electorales, Oaxaca, partidos políticos,
indígenas, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (
PRI
),
democratización, transición, democracia liberal,
pluralismo.
The effect of religion on politics has long been a
popular topic for study for students of Latin American
politics. The historic position of the Catholic Church
and the region’s recurrent problems with authoritarian
political structures have led some scholars to conclude
that the rise of Protestantism during the 1960’s and
1970’s facilitated the transition to democracy across
the region thereafter. It has been argued that the
Catholic Church and Catholicism represent tradi-
tional ruling elites and in so doing help perpetuate
traditional social and economic relationships, and
undemocratic regimes.
1
The Protestant denominat ions
and Protestantism, in contrast, are said to challenge
traditional relationships, undermining authoritarian
rule.
2
For these scholars, democracy is more likely
where the Catholic Church is in decline, or is being
challenged by alternative faiths.
Not all scholars agree that differences between
Latin America’s Catholic and Protestant churches re-
flect a struggle between the traditional and the mod-
ern. For example, some scholars focusing on the rise
and dynamics of Protestantism have shown that these
churches sometimes supported traditional clientelistic
socio-economic and thus undemocratic political rela-
tionships
3
. Others have argued that Catholic priests
were often important in undermining authoritarian
rule in their localities. Catholic progressivism, dating
from the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) but crys-
tallizing their thoughts during the Second General
Conference in Medellín, Colombia, in 1968, spawned
a redefinition of the mission of the Catholic Church
from that of (implicitly) interacting with traditional
political and socio-economic elites to helping solve
the economic and political problems of the poor.
4
1
Ralph Miliband,
The State in Capitalist Society
, New York, Basic Books, 1969.
2
Lawrence Harrison,
Who Prospers? How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success
, New York, Basic Books, 1992; Edward A.
Lynch, “Reform and Religion in Latin America”, in
Orbis
vol. 42, num. 2, March 1998; David Martin,
Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of Protes-
tantism in Latin America
, Oxford, Blackwell, 1990; Eric Patterson, “Religious Activity and Political Participation: The Brazilian and Chilean
Cases”, in
Latin American Politics and Society
, vol. 47, num. 1, Spring 2005; Amy Sherman,
The Soul of Development: Biblical Christianity and
Modernization in Rural Guatemala
, New York, Oxford University Press, 1998;
David A. Smilde, “Venezuela: Nationhood, Patronage, and the
Conflict over New Religious Movements”, in Paul E. Sigmund (ed.),
Religious Freedom and Evangelization in Latin Amerca: The Challenge of
Religious Pluralism
, Ossining , NY, Maryknoll/Orbis Books, 1999; Christian Smith, “The Spirit and Democracy: Base Comunities, Protestantism,
and Democratization in Latin America”, in
Sociology of Religion
vol. 55, num. 2, Summer 1994. William H. Swatos Jr., “On Latin American
Protestantism”, in
Sociology of Religion
, vol. 55, num. 2, 1994.
3
Jean Pierre Bastian,
Protestantismo y modernidad latinoamericana: historia de unas minorías religiosas activas en América Latina
, Mexico,
FCE
, 1987; R. Andrew Chesnut,
Born Again in Brazil: The Pentecostal Boom and the Pathogens of Poverty
, New Brunswick, NJ, Rutgers University
Press, 1997; Sara Diamond,
Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right
, London, Pluto Press, 1989; Christian Lalive d’Epinay,
Heaven of
the Masses: A Study of the Pentecostal Movement in Chile
, London, Lutterworth Press, 1969; Yvon Le Bot, “Churches, Sects, and Communities:
Social Cohesion Recovered?”, in
Bulletin of Latin American Research
, vol. 18, num. 2, 1999; D. Martin,
op. cit
.; David Stoll,
Is Latin America
Turning Protestant? The Politics of Evangelical Growth
, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990.
4
Anthony Gill,
Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Church and the State in Latin America
, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1998;
Scott Mainwaring and Alexander Wilde,
The Progressive Church in Latin America
, Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame Press, 1989.
Introduction
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For other scholars of religion in Latin America,
competition between faiths fundamentally changed
politics in Latin America.
5
Scholars have noted that
religions in competition with a dominant church,
whatever that faith might be, have often formed civic
groups and political parties to carve out social space
and that this supports democratic political change.
6
Scholars have noted that in Latin America the Catho-
lic Church only began to reach out to the poor and
indigenous as a way of maintaining parishioners
who were being lured to Protestant churches,
7
with
those Catholic Churches under the greatest threat of
religious encroachment also the most likely to de-
nounce authoritarian regimes.
8
The implicit message
is that the dominance of a single religion, regardless
of its faith, can facilitate the survival of traditional,
hierarchical and thus undemocratic socio-economic
and political relationships. In contrast, religious
competition supports competing ideas and with this
democratic change.
The diverse findings about the role of religion in
politics in Latin America raise questions about where
Mexico falls within this debate. For some scholars
of Mexico, the Catholic Church facilitated or at least
remained wholly tacit during Mexico’s longtime rule
by a single dominant political party, the Institu-
tional Revolutionary Party (
PRI
). It was only after
the growth of Protestant churches that the nation
underwent the transition to democratic rule. Yet,
the effect of the Catholic Church and the Catholic-
Protestant balance of power on Mexican politics is
more complex for others. Some scholars document
how Mexico’s Catholic Church incorporated numer-
ous progressive bishops and supported liberation
theology, especially in the late 1960’s and during the
1970’s, as well as developed extensive ecclesiastical
base communities and social programs to reach out
to the nation’s poor, thereby carefully maneuvering
against
PRI
rule.
9
Others, in contrast, suggest that
the Catholic Church remained silent during the rise
and strengthening of
PRI
rule in order to protect its
institutional interests,
10
w ith the church’s well known
social activities enabling the
PRI
to survive because
they helped diffuse potential social and political
discontent.
11
Despite the ongoing presence of a few
progressive bishops in Mexico, the Mexican Catholic
Church became more conservative in the 1980’s and
1990’s, as a result of pressure from the Vatican and/
or strategic maneuvering by the Mexican Episcopal
Conference to protect its institutional interests
and work to regain legal recognition from the
PRI
controlled national government.
12
The variety of conclusions about the role of the
Mexican Catholic Church in Mexican politics raises
questions about whether this institution buttressed
or undermined –whether actively, tacitly, or unwit-
tingly–
PRI
rule during this nation’s political trans-
formation in the 1990’s and 2000’s. Specifically,
I analyze the explanatory power of the two main
competing arguments about the role of the Catholic
5
Bryan T. Froehle, “Religious Competition, Community Building, and Democracy in Latin America: Grassroots Religious Organizations
in Venezuela.”, in
Sociology of Religion
, vol. 55, num. 2, Summer 1994; A. Gill,
op. cit
.
6
Paul Freston, “Brother Votes for Brother: The New Politics of Protestantism in Brazil”, in Virginia Garrard-Burnett and David Stoll (eds.),
Rethinkink Protestantism in Latin America
, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1993.
7
A. Gill,
op. cit
; Guillermo Trejo Osorio, “Indigenous Insurgency: Protest, Rebellion and the Politization of Ethnicity in 20th Century
Mexico”, Chicago, University of Chicago, 2004 (PhD Dissertation in Political Science).
8
A. Gill,
op. cit
.
9
Juan Manuel Lombera, “Civil Society, the Church, and Democracy in Southern Mexico: Oaxaca 1970-2007”, Philadelphia, Temple Uni-
versity, 2009 (PhD Dissertation in Political Science).
10
Roberto Javier Blancarte Pimentel, “Recent Changes in Church-State Relations in Mexico: An Historical Approach”, in
Journal of Church
and State
, vol. 35, num. 4, 1993.
11
A. Gill, “The Politics of Regulating Religion in Mexico. The 1992 Constitutional Reforms in Historical Context”, in
Journal of Church and
State
, vol. 41, num. 4, Autumn 1999.
12
Ibid
.; J. M. Lombera,
op. cit
.
Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales
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Church in Mexican democratization. Rather than
studying the Catholic Church throughout Mexico,
however, I study its political effects in a single
state, the state of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is a convenient
case in which to study the mechanisms through
which religion affects politics in Mexico. The state of
Oaxaca falls within a single archdiocese, controlling
for the potential effect of variation in theological
positions across archdioceses in the nation. Oaxaca
also counts on considerable variation in the share of
Catholic adherences and the presence of Protestant
groups among its 570 municipalities. And, the state
also counts on considerable cross-municipal varia-
tion in the level of
PRI
support. This variation on the
principal explanatory variable under examination,
the level of Catholic Church presence, and on the
principal dependent variable at issue, the level of
democratization, will let me reveal the role of the
Catholic Church in politics throughout this state.
The study proceeds as follows: First, I discuss prior
research on religion and politics in Mexico to show the
different positions taken on the role of Catholicism in
this nation’s democratization in the 1990s and 2000s.
Second, I discuss studies of religion and politics in the
state of Oaxaca more specifically, in order to account
for any peculiar ities in the Catholic Church’s position
in this state. From these two literatures, I extract
and summarize the two main competing arguments
for how the Catholic Church has been said to affect
politics in Oaxaca. I compare the explanatory power of
these arguments by conducting a statistical analysis
of the effect of Catholic Church presence on various
political outcomes across Oaxaca’s 570 municipalities.
I then conclude.
13
Carlos Garma Navarro,
Protestantismo en una comunidad totonaca de Puebla, México
, Mexico, Instituto Nacional Indigenista, 1987; En-
rique Marroquín Zaleta,
El conflicto religioso. Oaxaca 1976-1993
, Mexico,
UNAM
,
CIICH
/
UABJO
,
IIS
, 2007 (Colección Alternativas).; Olga Montes
García , “Movimientos religiosos en Oaxaca: sus características”, in
Religiones y Sociedad
, num.
1, October-December
1997; Irene Sánchez
Fanco, “Los presbiterianos tzeltales de Yajolón, Chiapas”, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas, 1995 (
BA
Thesis in
Social Anthropology).
14
Toomas Gross, “Protestantism and Modernity: Implications of Religious Change in Contemporary Rural Oaxaca”, in
Sociology of Religion
,
vol. 64, 2003.
Religion and politics in Mexico
Mexico’s recent experience with authoritarian rule,
where politics was controlled by the hegemonic
Institutional Revolutionary Party (
PRI
) throughout
most of the 20
th
century, provided convenient fodder
for scholars advocating the traditional-modern line
of thought about how the Catholic and Protestant
faiths affect society, economics, and politics. Spe-
cifically, scholars of Mexican politics have sometimes
argued that Catholicism contributed to the survival
of traditional socio-economic and political relation-
ships while Protestantism fostered socio-economic
and political modernization in this nation.
13
Mexico’s
democratization, beginning in the 1980s but gain-
ing force in the 1990’s and concluding in the 2000’s,
supported these views. Regional trends in the rise
of Protestantism reflected regional challenges to
authoritarian
PRI
rule. Protestantism challenged the
Catholic Church in the northern border states and in
urban areas in the central part of the country during
the 1960’s and 1970’s, with the growth of this religion
in the western and southern states and in rural areas
during the 1980’s and 1990’s.
14
Opposition parties
were first able to win sizeable shares of support and
make inroads into Mexican politics and government
in the northern states and in the center’s urban areas,
beginning in the 1980’s and 1990’s, as well. Opposi-
tion parties only enjoyed success in building support
against the
PRI
’s hold on power in the more Catholic
western and southern states and in rural areas begin-
ning in the 1990’s and 2000’s.
Although the simultaneous decline of the
Catholic Church and
PRI
across Mexico have led most
Sociedad y Política
129
Revista Mexicana de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales,
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Año LVI, núm. 213, septiembre-diciembre de 2011, pp. 125-155, ISSN-0185-1918
scholars to agree that religion plays an important role
in Mexican politics, the mechanism through which
this occurs is in dispute. Several scholars argue that
Catholic doctrine and church institutions reinforced
traditional socio-economic and thus political rela-
tionships, while Protestantism supported a more
pluralistic and less hierarchical view of socio-eco-
nomic relationships, facilitating democratization.
15
Religious pluralism leads to a transformation in
citizen relationships with the state, often through
demands for changes to state structures, leading to
a rise in political competition and changes in the
political regime.
16
For these scholars, religious con-
version precedes democratization, though many also
note that religious conversion that does not result
in religious pluralism can end up reproducing prior
socio-economic and political relationships under
a new religious regime.
17
However, other scholars
see a reverse causality. For them, the decision to
convert to Protestantism in Mexico was triggered
by rising political opposition to the
PRI
, with rising
support for regime transition and liberal democracy
preceding religious pluralism.
18
As such, although
most scholars agree that religion and politics are
somehow connected in Mexico, the direction of that
connection is under debate.
Scholarship on the history of the Catholic Church
as an institution in Mexico is no less complex than
that focusing on an ideational approach, as outlined
above. As mentioned in the introduction, several
scholars have noted how Mexico’s Catholic Church,
through its Mexican Episcopal Conference, incorpo-
rated numerous progressive archbishops and bishops
and actively adopted the church’s new progressive
approach resulting from the Second Vatican Council
(1962-65) and the Second General Conference in Mede-
llín, Colombia in 1968
19
. Yet, this view of the Catholic
Church in Mexico is complicated by its history during
PRI
rule. The Catholic Church remained silent during
the rise and strengthening of
PRI
rule.
20
Some claim
that this was done only insofar as to protect its insti-
tutional interests in a situation where anticlerical laws
had given the Catholic Church no legal constitutional
standing.
21
Either way, the church’s social activities
and antipoverty programs might have enabled the
PRI
to diffuse potential social and political discontent
during the 1980’s thanks to the government’s neo-
liberal economic reforms.
22
Supporting this view is the Mexican Episcopal
Conference’s deliberate shift away from liberation
theology to a more conservative stance in the 1980s
and 1990’s.
23
Some argue that this was the result of
15
Gerardo Alatorre Frenk, “La empresa social forestal y sus asesores: avances y dificultades en la construcción de la democracia, la efi-
ciencia y la sustentabilidad”, Mexico,
UNAM
,
FF
y
L
, 1998 (PhD Dissertation in Anthropology
)
; E. Marroquín Zaleta,
El botín sagrado: la dinámica
religiosa en Oaxaca
, Oaxaca,
UABJO
, 1992; E. Marroquín Zaleta, “El conflicto religioso…
op. cit
.; O. Montes García,
op cit
.; I. Sánchez Fanco,
op. cit
.
16
O. Montes García, “Los conflictos religiosos en Oaxaca: una aproximación a su estudio”, in E. Marroquín Zaleta (ed.),
Persecución religiosa
en Oaxaca? Los nuevos movimientos religiosos
, Oaxaca, Instituto Oaxaqueño de las Culturas, 1995; O. Montes García, “Movimientos religio-
sos…”,
op. cit
.
17
T. Gross,
op. cit
.; D. A. Smilde,
op. cit.
; D. A. Smilde, “El clamor por Venezuela: Latin American Evangelicalism as a Collective Action
Frame”, in C. Smith and J. Prokopy,
Latin American Religion in Motion
, New York, Routledge, 1999.
18
Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán,
Zongolica. Encuentro de dioses y santos patronos
, Mexico,
FCE
, 1992; Patricia Fortuny Loret de Mola,
Religión y
sociedad en el sureste de México
V
, Mexico,
CIESAS
del Sureste, 1989 (Cuadernos de la Casa Chata, 165); Elizabeth Juárez Cerdi, “Yajalón, ciudad
confesionalmente pacífica”, in A. Fábregas
et al
.,
Religión y sociedad en el Sureste de México
VII
, Mexico,
CIESAS
del Sureste, 1989 (Cuadernos
de la Casa Chata, 167); I. Sánchez Fanco,
op. cit
.
19
A. Gill, “The Politics of Regulating…”,
op. cit
.; J. M. Lombera,
op. cit.
; G. Trejo Osorio,
op. cit
.
20
R. J. Blancarte Pimentel,
op. cit
.
21
A. Gill, “The Politics of Regulating…”,
op. cit
.
22
Ibid
.
23
Ibid
.
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Año LVI, núm. 213, septiembre-diciembre de 2011, pp. 125-155, ISSN-0185-1918
pressure from the Vatican after the appointment
of a more conservative pope.
24
However, others argue
that only the Catholic Church has revised its position
as a result of a strategic decision taken by the Mexi-
can Episcopal Conference to improve its bargaining
position against the
PRI
ruled national government
in order to lobby for constitutional recognition of its
status, a reform that was eventually approved by the
Mexican Congress in 1992.
25
Either way, the effect
was the same: the church as an institution rolled back
its progressive position and transferred many of its
social and poverty relief activities to non-religious
civil organizations during this period.
26
Religion and politics in Oaxaca, Mexico
Divisions between scholars over the role of the Catholic
Church in Mexican politics are reflected in research on
the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s
32 states, including the Federal Distr ic t, and lies along
the Pacific Ocean in southern Mexico. It is well known
for its high levels of poverty and multiple indigenous
groups. It is also known for the influential social and
political presence of the Catholic Church throughout
the state, dating back to the colonial period. And it is
known for having served as a longtime bastion of
PRI
rule, only transferring power to an opposition coalition
after the 2010 gubernatorial election, with the demo-
cratic nature of this transition somewhat in doubt.
27
However, the state is also known for its growing Prot-
estant religions, its progressive Catholic archbishops
and bishops, as well as for growing social unrest and
political conflicts in some of its localities, especially in
the 1980’s and 1990’s. Oaxaca thus combines many of
the elements characterizing Mexican socio-economic,
religious, and political life more generally. And, it is
thus not surprising that there is no consensus on how
religion and politics interact in this state.
Generally speaking, arguments about religion and
politics in Oaxaca take one of two main competing
lines: an authoritarian and a democratizing one. On
the more “authoritarian” side, some scholars argue
that the Catholic Church facilitated socio-economic
and thus political domination in the state that can be
traced from the colonial times until the modern era.
The Catholic Church helped colonial authorities bring
the state’s various indigenous communities under
spiritual and political control. In the 20
th
century,
PRI
came to rely on the local forms of governance that
the church helped put in place to maintain control
in these localities and thus over the state govern-
ment.
28
These forms of governance trace their roots
to a combination of ancient indigenous practices,
colonial organizational structures, and secular posi-
tions in the Catholic Church (dating from colonial
times but more clearly integrated into the community
hierarch in the 19
th
century).
29
Community leader-
ship positions were only open to those (usually men)
who had performed a series of unpaid jobs and held
a series of unpaid positions in the community over
the years, including both administrative and secular
Catholic ones (mainly organizing religious festivals
throughout the year), creating a system referred to
as the civ il-religious cargo system.
30
Elders’ council s,
24
J. M. Lombera,
op. cit
.
25
A. Gill, “The Politics of Regulating…”,
op. cit
.; J. M. Lombera,
op. cit
.
26
J. M. Lombera,
op. cit
.
27
Lucinda Allyson Benton Sheldon, “Subnational Regime Dynamics After National Authoritarian Breakdown: When Political Competition
and Turnover Don’t Indicate Democratization”, paper presented at
Workshop on Elections, Electoral Behavior and the Economy in Latin America
,
held at Hotel Clarendon, Quebec City, Canada, 2011.
28
David Recondo,
La política del gatopardo. Multiculturalismo y democracia en Oaxaca
, Mexico,
CIESAS
/Centro de Estudios Mexicanos y
Centroamericanos, 2007.
29
T. Gross, “The Other Side of Custom: Reinterpreting Usos y Costumbres in Rural Mexico”, in
Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society
,
vol. 31, 2009; D. Recondo,
op. cit
.
30
D. Recondo,
op. cit
.
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whose members had met all the requirements of the
cargo system,, are often charged with selecting
communit y leaders and of ten w ith making impor tant
community decisions.
31
Thanks to the civil-religious cargo system, it
is possible to argue that the Catholic Church had
a hand in and benefitted from developing a closed
and highly centralized ruling apparatus that has
frequently been criticized for having facilitated the
domination of local strongmen or caciques in these
communities.
32
Indeed, some scholars have noted
cases where local leaders have used their political
and social authoritarian control to sanction non-
Catholic religious groups, destroy their churches,
and expel their members from their communities.
33
And, the celebration of Catholic religious festivals
are thought to reinforce social cohesion, community
identify and, most important, power relationships.
34
The religious cargos required of community members
to organize and pay for these celebrations have been
described as creating and reinforcing the sense of
inequality of economic positions in the community,
as well as hierarchical political relationships among
and between citizens and their authorities.
35
It is also thought that the
PRI
benefitted politica-
lly through its capacity to harness these systems and
integrate their leaders into their political apparatus,
and thus to ensure political support in state and
federal elections.
36
Seen in this way, the Catholic
Church’s support for reforms to the state’s electoral
institutions in the 1990s to allow the formal codifi-
cation of these forms of local governance in Oaxaca’s
municipalities, formally called Usos y Costumbres
(
U
y
C
) systems, could be interpreted as an effort to
shore up its preferential institutional position among
aspiring and current municipal leaders, something
that would perpetuate its influence over communi-
ties, purposefully or unwittingly resulting in ongoing
authoritarian systems of governance. Indeed, that
the
PRI
also advocated for, and the opposition Na-
tional Action Party (
PAN
) to advocated against, the
formal introduction of
U
y
C
systems in Oaxaca reveals
that most expected these institutions to support
ongoing antidemocratic political structures in the
state, even if it turns out that these rules did not
end up working to the benefit of the
PRI
over time.
37
However, that the opposition Democratic Revolution
Party (
PRD
) advocated for their adoption might de-
monstrate that this party hoped that these institu-
tions might let them gain entrance into these closed
and hierarchical municipal community systems,
38
and
perhaps even come to dominate them as well.
Before proceeding, it is important to note several
things about Oaxaca’s formal
U
y
C
systems. Oaxaca is
the only state that has codified this system of mu-
nicipal governance into law through reforms to the
state electoral code in 1995 and 1997. Out of Oaxaca’s
570 municipalities, 412 chose to adopt
U
y
C
systems
in 1995, with another six adding themselves to their
ranks in 1997 to bring the total to 418. The remaining
municipalities stayed with what is called the Politi-
cal Parties (
PP
) system, whereby all citizens over 18
31
Ibid
.
32
T. Gross, “The Other Side of Custom…”,
op. cit
.; Jorge Hernández Díaz,
Ciudadanías diferenciadas en un estado multicultural: los usos y
costumbres en Oaxaca
, Mexico, Siglo Veintiuno Editores, 2007; D. Recondo,
op. cit
.
33
T. Gross, “The Other Side of Custom…”,
op. cit
.
34
Stanley H. Brandes,
Power and Persuasion: Fiestas and Social Control in Rural Mexico
, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press,
1988; T. Gross, “Farewell to Fiestas and Saints? Changing Catholic Practices in Contemporary Rural Oaxaca”, in
Journal of Ethnology and
Folkloristics
, vol. 3, num. 1, 2009; T. Gross, “The Other Side of Custom…”,
op. cit
.
35
T. Gross, “Farewell to Fiestas…”,
op. cit
.
36
Fausto Díaz Montes,
Los municipios: La disputa por el poder local en Oaxaca
, Oaxaca,
UNAM
,
IIS
/
UABJO
, 1992; D. Recondo,
op. cit
.
37
Alejandro Anaya Muñoz,
Autonomía indígena, gobernabilidad y legitimidad en México
, Mexico, Universidad Iberoamericana/Plaza y
Valdés, 2006; A. L. Benton Sheldon, “Bottom-Up Challenges to National Democracy: Mexico’s (Legal) Subnational Authoritarian Enclaves”,
in
Comparative Politics
(forthcoming); D. Recondo,
op. cit
.
38
D. Recondo,
op. cit
.
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years of age (universal suffrage) cast secret ballots
for candidates for municipal governments presented
by political parties. In contrast,
U
y
C
candidate selec-
tion and elections formally revolve around what is
called a General Communal Assembly (
AGC
). In most
U
y
C
regimes, the
AGC
is the highest level of political
authority, with its decisions/rulings adopted by the
municipal government.
39
Those allowed to partici-
pate in the
AGC
vary by
U
y
C
system, with sex, age,
residency, and fulfillment of the stringent municipal
cargo system requirements most often limiting par-
ticipation.
40
Although
U
y
C
municipalities are required
to select a mayor and municipal council, as does the
system
PP
, they can limit who is eligible for these
posts according to sex, age, residency, and cargo
system requirements as with
AGC
participation.
41
Most
AGC
s use public ballots for electing government
or making decisions.
42
U
y
C
government s do not allow
political parties to run candidates.
43
Along the more “democratic” line of thought
about the role of religion in Oaxaca, other scholars
have documented the important role of the Catholic
Church in reaching out to and advocating for the
state’s impoverished indigenous communities in
Oaxaca, especially in the mid to late 20
th
century.
44
The Catholic Church’s support for
UYC
systems is the
product of its progressive attitude toward its social
mission, despite the Mexican Episcopal Conference’s
decision to reign in the activities of several of its
most outspoken progressive archbishops and bishops
dur ing this same per iod.
45
As such, it could be argued
that the Catholic Church’s support for the formal
adoption of
U
y
C
systems in Oaxaca was motivated by
its interest in improving the socio-economic situa-
tion of the state’s indigenous population, and not
in protecting its position in these communities.
46
More autonomous forms of local governance, as
well as fraud-free elections, would help reduce the
political domination of indigenous people by local
caciques who had ruled up until that time with the
blessing of the
PRI
support.
47
Although some scholars
also attribute the Catholic Church’s support for
U
y
C
systems to its pursuit of its more strategic interest
in attracting indigenous parishioners and thus pro-
tecting itself from Protestant encroachment,
48
the
political effect of this line of reasoning is the same:
the Catholic Church was an active participant in the
U
y
C
movement out of its interest in fomenting rising
political plurality in the state.
There are many insightful case studies document-
ing the incentive for adopting
U
y
C
systems, their
complex internal workings, and their variety of effects
on politics and society in particular municipalities.
49
Statewide cross-municipal studies have focused on
explaining the political and social factors explaining
U
y
C
institutions adoption, how these systems affected
the incidence of post-election conflicts, and how they
affect political participation and voting behavior.
50
Few scholars, however, have attempted to connect
the Catholic Church systematically to
U
y
C
adoption
39
T. Gross, “The Other Side of Custom…”,
op. cit
.; María Cristina Velázquez Cepeda and Luis Adolfo Ménez Lugo,
Catálogo municipal de usos
y costumbres
, Oaxaca,
CIESAS
del Sureste/Instituto Electoral Estatal de Oaxaca, 1995.
40
M. C. Velázquez Cepeda and L. A. Ménez Lugo,
op. cit
.
41
Ibid
.
42
Ibid
.
43
Ibid
.
44
J. M. Lombera,
op. cit
.
45
Ibid
.
46
Ibid
.; D. Recondo,
op. cit
.
47
J. Hernández Díaz,
op. cit
.; J. M. Lombera,
op. cit
; D. Recondo,
op. cit
.
48
G. Trejo Osorio,
op. cit
.
49
Lourdes de León Pasquel,
Costumbres, leyes y movimiento indio en Oaxaca y Chiapas, México
, Mexico,
CIESAS
del Sureste/Miguel Ángel
Porrúa, 2001; T. Gross, “The Other Side of Custom …”,
op. cit
.; J. Hernández Díaz,
op. cit
.
50
Todd Eisenstadt, “Usos y Costumbres and Postelectoral Conflicts in Oaxaca, México, 1995-2004: An Empirical and Normative Assess-
ment”, in
Latin American Research Review
, vol. 42, num. 1, 2007; D. Recondo,
op. cit
.
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and subsequent politics in Oaxaca, even if many note
that the church had a role in the construction of the
civil-religious cargo system predating
U
y
C
systems and
that the church advocated in favor of the adoption
of these
U
y
C
regimes. The principle exception is work
that notes and/or analyzes the impact of religious
competition on the civil-religious cargo system or on
U
y
C
adoption, implying (but not testing) that this had
the effect of undermining
PRI
rule in this state.
51
I should mention here that the arguments pre-
sented above treat the Catholic Church as an insti-
tutional organization and not as a set of ideas. As
other scholars of religion and politics have done
before me, for the purposes of this study, I treat all
churches –Catholic or otherwise– as institutional
organizations that have formal structures, rules, and
procedures for determining leaders and followers. I
thus analyze the role of the Catholic Church as an
institution on politics. This also means that I do
not delve into issues of teachings or faith, that is,
ideational analysis. Although ideational analysis is
certainly an important topic of study for its affects
on politics as well, and is probably relevant for the
particular case of Oaxaca that has a variety of syn-
cretistic religions throughout the state, I am more
concerned with how the church’s efforts to protect
its interests, in the form of its institutional posi-
tion in localities, affects the structure of politics in
Oaxaca and Mexico. As such, I believe that treating
the Catholic Church as an organizational structure in
order to understand its effects on the organization
of politics is appropriate.
Returning to the competing arguments outlined
above, we can develop several testable hypotheses
to distinguish between their relative explanatory
power. If the first “authoritarian” argument is true,
then we should see higher rates of Catholicism in a
municipality associated with greater chances of
U
y
C
adoption and higher first place party margins, and
perhaps even higher levels of support for the
PRI
,
especially in the
U
y
C
systems. Ongoing
PRI
domina-
tion is not necessarily a requisite of this hypothesis,
however. While the
PRI
may have benefitted from
Oaxaca’s civil-religious cargo systems during the
period of national hegemony, in reality it engaged
in a complex system of accepting and supporting
their leaders in order to keep them loyal.
52
As such,
decline of the
PRI
’s capacity to retain local loyalty
would not necessarily mean that this led to a decline
in local authoritarian control. Indeed, local leaders of
U
y
C
systems could easily retain authoritarian control
and merely switch parties, leading to ongoing or even
higher first place party margins but not necessarily
directing these margins toward the
PRI
.
53
If the second
“democratic” argument best explains the role of the
Catholic Church in Oaxaca, then we should see higher
rates of Catholicism associated with
U
y
C
adoption,
given its campaign in favor of these institutions, but
also lower first place party margins, and lower
PRI
support, especially in
U
y
C
regimes.
51
J. Hernández Díaz,
op. cit
.; G. Trejo Osorio,
op. cit
.
52
D. Recondo,
op. cit
.,
53
A. L. Benton Sheldon, “Bottom-Up Challenges…”,
op. cit
.
Statistical analysis of the competing arguments
Before beginning the statistical analysis, it is worth tak-
ing a look at some descriptive statistics to demonstrate
the considerable variation in our principal explanatory
variable, the strength of the Catholic Church, and our
principal dependent variables,
U
y
C
adoption,
PRI
sup-
port, and first place party margins, across Oaxaca’s 570
municipalities. As shown in Figures 1 and 2 (below),
although Catholicism is by far the largest religion in
Oaxaca, measured as the percent share population over
five years of age claiming Catholic religious affiliation,
there is considerable variation as to just how dominant
it is by municipality, with rising competition from
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Protestant groups.
54
I count those people expressing
affiliation to “other” or “no” or “unspecified” religions
as likely affiliates of some form of Catholic syncretism.
55
I expect places where people identify themselves as
Catholic to have a better sense of the church’s presence
as an institutional organization compared to those
people who identify with syncretistic versions of this
faith, even if the church allows them to survive and may
even embrace them (probably as a means of thwating
Protestant encroachment).
There are three main dependent variables under
study here. The first variable is the choice of
U
y
C
or
PP
system, coded as a dummy variable (one for
U
y
C
and
zero for
PP
systems).
56
If the Catholic Church matters,
either for authoritarian or democratic ways, it must
matter for the original selection of
U
y
C
systems. As
mentioned, 418 municipalities adopted
U
y
C
systems by
1997, compared to 152 that maintained the
PP
system.
The second dependent variable is the percent share
PRI
support. I examine state elections, as municipal level
election data is not available for the
U
y
C
systems be-
cause (starting in 1997) parties do not field candidates
in municipal contests in
U
y
C
regimes. Municipal level
state electoral data is from the Instituto Electoral
Estatal de Oaxaca (
IEEO
). The final variable is the first
place party margin won by any party coming in first
in the municipality in state elections, measured as
the difference in the share of votes won by the first
place winner. Table 1 presents summary statistics of
these last two variables for all municipalities in Oax-
aca.
PRI
support and first place party margins stayed
on average high over the years under study here but
with considerable variation across municipalities, as
demonstrated by the relatively high standard devia-
tions around these means as well as by the range from
minimum to maximum values.
54
Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (
INEGI
),
Anuario Estadístico de los Estados Unidos de Mexicanos
, Mexico,
INEGI
,
1991;
ibid
.,
Anuario Estadístico de los Estados Unidos de Mexicanos
, Mexico,
INEGI
, 2001.
55
G. Trejo Osorio,
op. cit
.
56
Vid
Figure 1
Municipal Religious Affiliates, 1990
% Catholic
% Jewish
Percent Share Population (Over Years of Age)
% Protestant and Evangelical
% Syncretic Religions
1
.8
.6
.4
.2
0
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Figure 2
Municipal Religious Affiliates, 2000
% Catholic
% Jewish
Percent Share Population (Over Years of Age)
% Protestant and Evangelical
% Syncretic Religions
1
.8
.6
.4
.2
0
T
ABLE
1
Summary Statistics of Dependent Variables
Variable
Number of Cases
Mean
Standard Devia-
tion
Minimum
Maximum
PRI
Support 1998
567
0.516
0.162
0.031
0.997
PRI
Support 2001
569
0.516
0.170
0.012
0.962
PRI
Support 2004
569
0.521
0.144
0.102
0.960
PRI
Support 2007
569
0.513
0.149
0.030
0.966
First Place Party Margin
1998
567
0.278
0.221
0.000
0.994
First Place Party Margin
2001
569
0.316
0.215
0.000
0.962
First Place Party Margin
2004
569
0.242
0.198
0.000
0.940
First Place Party Margin
2007
569
0.284
0.199
0.001
0.959
Note: Number of municipalities does not total 570 due to missing election data. Own calculations based on data from the
IEEO
.
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It is also important to mention the series of con-
trol variables included in the models. Many things
can affect the choice of electoral laws, levels of
PRI
support, and margins won by first place political par-
ties beyond the level of Catholicism in the locality. I
thus include the effective number of parties or prior
levels or
PRI
support when potentially relevant for
explaining outcomes on the dependent variable of in-
terest. I also include controls for a series of spending,
socioeconomic, and demographic factors, including
municipal government spending per capita, a mea-
sure of municipal level poverty, total population, the
percent share population living in rural areas –those
with fewer than 2,500 inhabitants– and the percent
share population living on communal
ejido
lands.
57
Poverty is captured by the Marginality Index.
58
Prior
research also shows that election violence may have
influenced the choice of
U
y
C
regimes, while post elec-
t ion v iolence af ter their formal adopt ion might af fec t
leaders’ capacity to retain control in their localities.
59
I include a dummy variable for the presence of post-
electoral conflicts after state elections to control for
the effect of social conflict on politics.
60
Finally, I control for each municipality’s indig-
enous (ethnic) makeup, measured as the percent
share indigenous language speakers (over five years
of age) in the municipalit y.
61
Var ious authors ment ion
the variety of Oaxaca’s indigenous groups, as well as
their differing relationships with the Catholic Church
and their varying interest in the promotion of
U
y
C
systems.
62
The Mixe, in particular, organized in favor
of and in many ways spearheaded the formalization of
U
y
C
systems in the early 1990’s,
63
whereas some other
groups tended to be less interested in these systems.
It is beyond the scope of this study to develop specific
testable expectations about their attitudes toward
U
y
C
or interactions with Catholicism. However, I do
expect that their relationships with the Catholic
Church might vary and I control for this possibility. I
thus include a series of indigenous dummy variables in
some models indicating whether the particular group
accounted for over 50% of the municipal population
or not. I also interact these dummy variables with the
percent share Catholic adherents in the municipality
and include those interaction terms in relevant mod-
els, in order to estimate any interaction between the
type of indigenous group and the Catholic Church in
their municipality on politics.
Specifically, I include dummy variables captur-
ing whether the Chinantec, Mazatec, Mixe, Mixtec,
and Zapotec groups account for a majority of the
municipal population or not (1=yes, 0=no), as well
as another dummy variable measuring whether an-
other indigenous group held a majority. There are 15
indigenous groups with strong presence in Oaxaca.
Four of these groups have held no majorities in any
municipality
64
since 1995. Another six hold majorities
in so few municipalities that it was not possible to
estimate coefficients for their effects on
U
y
C
adop-
tion. These groups include the Amuzgo (1 municipal
majority), Chatino (7 municipal majorities), Cuicatec
(6), Huave (2), Nahuatl (2), and Triqui (1). Despite
possible variation among these groups in their at-
titudes toward
U
y
C
systems and their relationship
with the Catholic Church, I group them into a single
variable called “Other Indigenous Group Majority
Municipality,” coded in the same way as the separate
indigenous group variables noted above. The excluded
57
INEGI
, “Sistema Municipal de Base de Datos (
SIMBAD
58
Vid
. the web site of Consejo Nacional de Población (
CONAPO
59
F. Díaz Montes,
op. cit
; T. Eisenstadt,
op. cit
.
60
T. Eisenstadt (
ibid
.) kindly shared this data.
61
INEGI
, “Sistema Municipal de…”,
op. cit
.
62
D. Recondo,
op. cit
.; María de los Ángeles Romero Frizzi,
El sol y la cruz: los pueblos indios de Oaxaca colonial
, México,
CIESAS
del Sureste,
1996.
63
D. Recondo,
op. cit
.,
64
Chocho, Chontal, Tzotzil, and Zoque.
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group from the models includes those municipalities
where not a single indigenous group accounted for
a majority of the population. This can mean either
that the municipality was not indigenous major-
ity, or that it was indigenous majority but that this
majority was split among more than one indigenous
group. Investigation of the data shows that in 1995
only 8 municipalities fell into the category of having
indigenous majorities but no single indigenous group
accounting for that majority. I leave these 8 munici-
palities in the excluded group because the expected
effect of an indigenous majority on
U
y
C
adoption or
politics in the municipality depends on their control
over the municipality and capacity to internally orga-
nize. A single group of a indigenous majority should
be better at coordinating than multiple ones.
I begin the statistical analysis with an examina-
tion of whether the strength of the Catholic Church in
a municipality mattered for the original decision to
adopt
U
y
C
systems or not. Table 2 shows the results.
Given the dichotomous nature of the dependent
variable, I use logistic regression analysis. As shown
in Model 1, the variable capturing the effect of the
percent share Catholic population (% Catholic) was
not significant, demonstrating that this variable had
no general effect on the adoption of
U
y
C
regimes
across Oaxaca. Model s 2 and 3 in Table 2 add the var i-
ous indigenous majority variables and their catholic
interaction terms. As shown in Model 2, Mixe majority
municipalities were more likely to adopt
U
y
C
regimes
than municipalities with no indigenous or single
indigenous group majority (the excluded group), as
shown by the Mixe Municipal Majority variable’s posi-
tive and significant coefficient. In contrast, Mazatec
majority municipalities were less likely to adopt
U
y
C
systems compared to non-indigenous majority
municipalities, as shown by this variable’s negative
and significant coefficient. None of the coefficients
for the other indigenous groups majority variables
yielded statistically significant results.
Inclusion of the indigenous major it y and % Catho-
lic population interaction terms, however, paints a
somewhat more intricate picture of the relationship
between the Catholic Church and the various in-
digenous groups in their respective municipalities.
Several of the indigenous majority variables become
significant when placed in models with their Catholic
interaction terms, demonstrating the interactive ef-
fec t of Catholicism and indigenous polit ical behav ior
among some groups. Figure 3 presents a picture of
these complex relationships, with the underlying data
graphed in the figure found in Table 3. As shown, for
the Chinantec, Mixe, and Mixtec majority municipali-
ties (whose positive coefficients for the interaction
terms in Model 3 were significant), rising levels of
Catholicism was key for raising the chance of
U
y
C
adoption in them.
The strength of this relationship, however, varied
across these indigenous groups. In the Mixe majority
municipalities there was already a strong chance of
U
y
C
adoption with few Catholic adherents. This attests
to the Mixe’s strong commitment to
U
y
C
institutions
apart from any effort by the Catholic Church in these
communities. Even so, stronger Catholic Church pres-
ence did raise this probability of
U
y
C
adoption in these
communities. For example, a Mixe majority municipal-
ity with 20% Catholic adherents already had a 49.7%
chance of
U
y
C
adoption, with this chance rising to
81.2% in places where 30% of the population was
affiliated with the Catholic Church. The chance of
U
y
C
adoption was near 100% in Mixe majority municipali-
ties with at least 40% Catholic adherents. The effect
of rising levels of Catholic adherents in Chinantec and
Mixtec communities on
U
y
C
adoption was also positive
(and significant), but with higher levels of Catholic
adherents necessary for raising the chances of
U
y
C
adoption over 50% in these places.
The strength of the Catholic Church in a commu-
nity thus wielded no general effect on the chances
of
U
y
C
adoption in Oaxaca. However, the church
does appear to have wielded some influence in spe-
cific indigenous communities, namely in the Mixe,
Mixtec, and Chinantec majority municipalities. In
all other places, the level of indigenous presence,
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Table 2
2
The Catholic Church and the Adoption of UyC Regimes
Model 1
Model 2
Model 3
PRI
Support in 1992 (State)
5.4032
***
5.4867
**
5.2031
**
(2.0421)
(2.3302)
(2.2318)
Change in
PRI
Support (1991-94) (Federal)
-1.6248
**
-1.4791
*
-1.4096
*
(0.7066)
(0.7582)
(0.7841)
Abstention in 1992 (State)
0.1858
0.2312
0.2535
(0.7215)
(0.7603)
(0.7654)
Effective Number of Parties
1.2737
**
1.3366
*
1.2525
*
(0.6364)
(0.7350)
(0.6895)
Post-Election Conflicts
-1.8259
***
-1.9435
***
-2.2084
***
(0.3766)
(0.4057)
(0.4326)
Marginality Index
0.3164
0.4544
**
0.4644
**
(0.1981)
(0.2122)
(0.2214)
Municipal Expenditures
6.4787
**
6.4603
**
6.9034
**
(3.2615)
(3.2741)
(3.4682)
Population
-0.0001
***
-0.0001
***
-0.0001
***
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
% Population on Ejidos
2.2321
**
2.1839
**
2.1274
**
(0.9885)
(0.8651)
(0.8634)
Number of Ejidos
-0.0724
-0.0841
-0.1105
**
(0.0472)
(0.0527)
(0.0499)
% Rural Population
0.8877
**
1.1441
**
1.0573
**
(0.4273)
(0.4848)
(0.4927)
% Catholic
-0.9371
-0.0511
-2.4585
(1.6363)
(1.5544)
(2.3253)
% Indigenous
0.9090
**
1.0898
1.3172
(0.4175)
(0.8742)
(0.9583)
Mazatec Majority Municip.
-1.7674
*
3.9336
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The Catholic Church and the Adoption of UyC Regimes
(0.9591)
(11.5086)
% Catholic
*
Mazatec
-6.4477
(12.4656)
Mixe Majority Municipality
2.1769
**
-8.0207
**
(0.9443)
(3.3433)
% Catholic
*
Mixe
17.1831
***
(5.5220)
Chinantec Majority Municip.
-0.3438
-13.3156
***
(1.2291)
(3.4873)
% Catholic
*
Chinantec
18.3235
***
(4.8279)
Mixtec Majority Municipality
-0.8805
-6.6088
**
(0.7100)
(3.0100)
% Catholic
*
Mixtec
6.2352
*
(3.3986)
Zapotec Majority Municip.
0.7491
4.0079
(0.7901)
(5.1455)
% Catholic
*
Zapotec
-4.0317
(5.8104)
Other Indig. Group Maj. Mun.
-0.2096
-4.8642
(0.9333)
(3.0429)
% Catholic
*
Other Indig.
5.1227
(3.4597)
Constant
-5.5845
*
-6.8437
**
-4.1417
(2.9906)
(3.2402)
(3.4716)
Observations
555
555
555
Pseudo R-squared
0.39
0.41
0.43
Note: Logistic regression analysis. Robust standard errors in parentheses.
*
significant at 10%;
**
significant at 5%;
***
significant at 1%
Table 2
(continuation)
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Figure 3
The Effect of Catholicism in Non-Indigenous
Chanet of
U
y
C
Adoption
0.9
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5
0.4
0.3
0.2
0.1
0
0
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1
Share Catholic Adherents
% Jewish
No Indigfenous Majority
Mixe Majority-
Chinantec Majority
Mixtec Majority
T
ABLE
3
o
The Effect of Catholicism on the Chance of Adopting UyC Systems
in Different Indigenous Majority Municipalities
Share Catholic
No Indigenous Majority
*
Mixe Majority
Chinantec Majority
Mixtec Majority
0
0.994
0.049
0.000
0.176
0.2
0.990
0.497
0.006
0.312
0.3
0.987
0.812
0.030
0.398
0.4
0.983
0.949
0.129
0.491
0.5
0.979
0.988
0.421
0.585
0.6
0.973
0.997
0.780
0.673
0.7
0.966
0.999
0.945
0.750
0.8
0.957
1.000
0.988
0.814
0.9
0.945
1.000
0.998
0.865
1
0.931
1.000
1.000
0.903
Note:
*
When all indigenous majority dummy variables and their Catholic Adherents interaction terms held at 0. I exclude Mazatec, Zapotec, and Other
Indigenous Majority municipality variables due to their lack of significance.
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rather than the presence of the Catholic Church,
mattered more for
U
y
C
adoption. This is shown in the
positive and significant coefficient for the percent
share indigenous population in the municipality (%
Indigenous) on
U
y
C
adoption in Model1. (Multicoli-
nearity between the indigenous dummy variables
and the % Indigenous variable prevented it from
returning significant coefficients in Models 2 and
3.) Interestingly, several of the control variables
also produced significant effects on
U
y
C
adoption.
Municipalities that were more rural (% Rural Popu-
lation), that had more people living on ejido lands
(% Population on Ejidos), and that were smaller in
size (Population) also tended to adopt UyC regimes
at higher rates. Those that had higher prior levels
of
PRI
support (
PRI
Support in 1992) but where that
support had been falling in recent years (Change in
PRI
Support 1991-94) were also more likely to adopt
U
y
C
regimes. Municipalities with greater per capita
fiscal expenditures (Municipal Expenditures) and
fewer post election conflicts in prior state elections
(Post-Election Conflicts) were also more likely to
adopt
U
y
C
regimes than
PP
ones.
Although the effect of the Catholic Church on
U
y
C
adoption was limited to Mixe, Mixtec, and Chi-
nantec communities, the church may have affected
politics in
U
y
C
communities other ways. Indeed, it
is possible that the adoption of
U
y
C
institutions may
have served to raise the church’s level of influence
in these municipalities, thanks to the way that
U
y
C
institutions helped formalize the traditional civil-
religious cargo system in these places. Although
the Catholic Church may have wielded little political
control over the choice of
U
y
C
institutions, it may
have seen its influence grow after
U
y
C
adoption and
the formalization of their position within these
communities. With this in mind, I turn now to an
analysis of the effect of the level of Catholic Church
presence on politics in Oaxaca’s
U
y
C
municipalities. I
analyze the effect of Catholic Church presence on the
level of
PRI
support and on first place party margins
in
U
y
C
municipalities.
Tables 4 and 5 show results for the effect of Ca-
tholic Church presence on
PRI
support across Oaxaca’s
U
y
C
municipalities for state elections held in 1998,
2001, 2004, and 2007, after the formal adoption of
U
y
C
systems. As shown in Table 3, rising levels of
Catholic Church adherents had a generally negative
effect on
PRI
support in 1998, 2001, and 2007 across
Oaxaca’s
U
y
C
municipalities. The coefficients for this
variable were negative and significant in the models
for these years. In 1998, a municipalit y w ith 50% Ca-
tholic adherents could expect 7% (-0.1415
*
0.50) less
support than if there were no Catholics (-0.1415
*
0);
a municipality with 100% Catholic adherents could
expect 14% less support (-0.1415
*
1.0). With the ex-
ception of 2004, greater Catholic Church presence
was associated with falling levels of support for the
PRI
in
U
y
C
systems.
Table 5 shows the effect of Catholic Church pres-
ence on
PRI
support in different indigenous majority
municipalities. In these models, the coefficients for
the % Catholic Church have a different interpretation
because, thanks to the indigenous group Catholic in-
teraction terms, they measure something different.
Specifically, they measure the effect of the Catholic
Church in non-indigenous majority municipalities,
that is, on the excluded group. As we can see from
the models, this variable was negative and signifi-
cant in 1998 and 2001, meaning that for every 10%
rise in Catholic presence in a non-indigenous ma-
jority
U
y
C
municipality, the
PRI
counted on 1.668%
(-0.1668
*
0.10) less support in 1998 and 1.437% less
in 2001. In other words, 100% Catholic presence in
non-indigenous majority municipalities reduced
PRI
support by 16.68% in 1998 and 14.37% in 2001.
The effect of the Catholic Church in non-indigenous
majority municipalities wore off by 2004.
As regards the effect of the Catholic Church in in-
digenous major it y municipalit ies, the result s are more
complicated. The most systematic result is found in the
majority Mixe municipalities. Although coefficients
for the Mixe variables were not significant in 1998,
they were in all remaining years. In 2001, increases
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T
ABLE
4
The Catholic Church and PRI Support in UyC Municipalities, 1998 – 2007
1998
2001
2004
2007
PRI
Support in Prior Election
0.5414
***
0.3568
***
0.0081
-0.0559
(0.0564)
(0.0734)
(0.0534)
(0.0638)
Effective Number of Parties
-0.0008
-0.0493
**
-0.0031
-0.0168
(0.0072)
(0.0213)
(0.0098)
(0.0214)
Post-Election Conflicts
0.0098
-0.0330
-0.0104
-0.0248
(0.0161)
(0.0209)
(0.0190)
(0.0229)
Marginality Index
0.0241
**
0.0183
0.0017
0.0313
***
(0.0114)
(0.0113)
(0.0105)
(0.0113)
Municipal Expenditures
0.0191
***
0.0031
***
0.0024
0.0033
***
(0.0066)
(0.0010)
(0.0016)
(0.0008)
Population
-0.0000
0.0000
-0.0000
*
-0.0000
*
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
% Population on Ejidos
0.0140
0.0537
**
0.0039
0.0357
*
(0.0317)
(0.0258)
(0.0253)
(0.0201)
Number of Ejidos
-0.0038
0.0008
-0.0011
-0.0045
(0.0030)
(0.0025)
(0.0021)
(0.0030)
% Rural Population
-0.0267
0.0400
0.0048
-0.0116
(0.0234)
(0.0292)
(0.0237)
(0.0311)
% Catholic
-0.1415
**
-0.2774
***
-0.0735
-0.1675
***
(0.0578)
(0.0574)
(0.0675)
(0.0630)
% Indigenous
-0.0402*
-0.0470
**
-0.0249
-0.0761
***
(0.0206)
(0.0226)
(0.0217)
(0.0237)
Constant
0.3685
***
0.6458
***
0.5944
***
0.7525
***
(0.0798)
(0.0978)
(0.0873)
(0.1016)
Observations
399
407
415
396
R-squared
0.41
0.32
0.04
0.11
Adjusted R-squared
0.39
0.30
0.01
0.08
Note: Ordinary Least Squares Regression. Robust standard errors
in parentheses. Total observations do not total to 418 municipalities due to missing
data.
*
significant at 10%;
**
significant at 5%;
***
significant at 1%
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T
ABLE
5
The Catholic Church, Indigenous Groups, and
PRI
Support in
U
y
C
Municipalities, 1998 - 2007
1998
2001
2004
2007
PRI
Support in Prior Election
0.5510
***
0.3373
***
0.0085
-0.0344
(0.0560)
(0.0752)
(0.0541)
(0.0647)
Effective Number of Parties
0.0010
-0.0580
***
-0.0036
-0.0102
(0.0072)
(0.0220)
(0.0099)
(0.0219)
Post-Election Conflicts
0.0151
-0.0344
-0.0100
-0.0289
(0.0175)
(0.0216)
(0.0198)
(0.0223)
Marginality Index
0.0321
**
0.0147
-0.0001
0.0358
***
(0.0126)
(0.0122)
(0.0111)
(0.0117)
Municipal Expenditures
0.0162
***
0.0027
**
0.0022
0.0030
***
(0.0061)
(0.0011)
(0.0016)
(0.0008)
Population
-0.0000
0.0000
-0.0000
-0.0000
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
% Population on Ejidos
0.0359
0.0457
*
0.0091
0.0459
**
(0.0298)
(0.0261)
(0.0260)
(0.0198)
Number of Ejidos
-0.0046
-0.0014
-0.0022
-0.0040
(0.0033)
(0.0026)
(0.0025)
(0.0027)
% Rural Population
-0.0116
0.0330
0.0144
-0.0013
(0.0243)
(0.0310)
(0.0253)
(0.0315)
% Catholic
-0.1668
*
-0.1437
*
-0.0538
-0.0676
(0.0897)
(0.0856)
(0.0967)
(0.0943)
% Indigenous
-0.1063
**
-0.0262
-0.0280
-0.0421
(0.0499)
(0.0484)
(0.0464)
(0.0520)
Mazatec Majority Municip.
-0.2581
0.0778
-0.8148
**
0.2975
(0.4696)
(0.2870)
(0.4120)
(0.6746)
% Catholic * Mazatec
0.3567
-0.1234
0.9246
**
-0.3472
(0.5214)
(0.3302)
(0.4672)
(0.7553)
Mixe Majority Municipality
0.0729
0.3675
***
0.2768
*
0.2154
(0.1457)
(0.1264)
(0.1435)
(0.1430)
% Catholic * Mixe
-0.0829
-0.3408
*
-0.3930
**
-0.3326
*
(0.2022)
(0.1758)
(0.1687)
(0.1756)
Chinantec Majority Municip.
-0.0799
0.1514
0.3490
*
-0.4838
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The Catholic Church, Indigenous Groups, and
PRI
Support in
U
y
C
Municipalities, 1998 - 2007
(0.3181)
(0.3664)
(0.1893)
(0.3117)
% Catholic * Chinantec
0.1687
-0.1223
-0.4006*
0.5287
(0.3803)
(0.4777)
(0.2372)
(0.4298)
Mixtec Majority Municipality
-0.3220*
0.1663
-0.1176
0.2577
(0.1746)
(0.1493)
(0.2233)
(0.1809)
% Catholic * Mixtec
0.3649*
-0.2045
0.1319
-0.3629*
(0.1900)
(0.1655)
(0.2430)
(0.1998)
Zapotec Majority Municip.
0.0288
0.0733
-0.0073
-0.0534
(0.1281)
(0.1384)
(0.1103)
(0.1336)
% Catholic * Zapotec
0.0639
-0.1254
0.0156
0.0604
(0.1482)
(0.1610)
(0.1270)
(0.1634)
Other Indig. Group Maj. Mun.
0.2003
*
0.1104
0.0619
0.2533
*
(0.1025)
(0.1083)
(0.2056)
(0.1420)
% Catholic * Other Indig.
-0.2323
*
-0.1596
-0.0334
-0.3703
**
(0.1287)
(0.1391)
(0.2374)
(0.1622)
Constant
0.3604
***
0.5716
***
0.5684
***
0.6170
***
(0.1026)
(0.1123)
(0.1073)
(0.1218)
Observations
399
407
415
396
R-squared
0.43
0.34
0.06
0.15
Adjusted R-squared
0.40
0.30
0.00
0.09
Note: Ordinary Least Squares Regression. Robust standard errors in parentheses. Total observations do not total to 418 municipalities due to missing
data.
*
significant at 10%;
**
significant at 5%;
***
significant at 1%
Table 5
(continuation)
in the percent share Catholics in Mixe communities
reduced the level of support going to the
PRI
. Mixe
communities started out with 36% more
PRI
support
compared to non-indigenous majority municipalities
(as shown by the 0.3675 dummy Mixe variable coef-
ficient) but faced declining
PRI
support with rising
levels of Catholic Church presence (as shown by the
Mixe
*
Catholic interaction term coefficient -0.3408).
Adding the coefficient of the Mixe
*
Catholic interac-
tion term to that for the % Catholic variable gives us
the effect of rising Catholic adherents on
PRI
support
in Mixe communities compared to non-indigenous
majority places. Specifically, a rise of 10% in the level
of Catholic adherents in Mixe municipalities lowered
PRI
support by 4.8% total votes (-0.4845
*
0.10).
This means that a Mixe majority municipality with
100% Catholic adherents could expect 48% (-0.4845
*
1.0) lower
PRI
support than one with 0% Catholic
adherents. A Mixe majority municipality with 50%
Catholics could expect 24% lower
PRI
support than one
with 0% Catholics (-0.4845
*
0.5). Or, a Mixe majority
municipality with 100% Catholics could expect 24%
less support than one where Catholics only made up
50% of the population.
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In contrast to the findings for Mixe municipalities,
Mixtec communities changes their behavior toward
the
PRI
over the years. In 1998, Mixtec communities
started off with 32% less
PRI
support than that found
in communities without any indigenous majorities
but with the level of
PRI
support growing in across
these municipalities with the presence of the Catho-
lic Church. This is seen in the negative and significant
coefficient (-0.3220) for the Mixtec dummy variable,
which establishes the baseline point of divergence
between these communit ies and those w ith no indig-
enous majorities, and in the positive and significant
coefficient (0.3649) capturing the interactive effect
of Mixtec and Catholic adherents on
PRI
support in
the community. Adding this coefficient to that ob-
served for % Catholics translates the effect of a 10%
percent share increase % Catholics on
PRI
support in
the municipality. For every additional 10% Catholics
in a Mixtec majority municipality, we expect another
0.1981
*
0.10 or 1.98% votes going to the
PRI
. This
means that the
PRI
could expect 19.8% more votes in
Mixtec municipalities where 100% of the population
was Catholic than it could in municipalities where
there were no Catholic adherents. In 2001 and 2004
the variables for the Mixtec communities were not
significant, while in 2007 they reversed their effect.
In that year, Mixtec municipalities started out with
greater
PRI
support compared to non-indigenous
places, with this support falling with greater Catholic
Church presence.
All other variables measuring the effect of the
specific indigenous groups or their interactions
with the Catholic Church on
PRI
support were not
systematic, only gaining significance in one year
or not at all. I exclude interpretation of the varia-
ble grouping several indigenous group majorities
together because of the problems of interpreting
its results. This variable is only included for statis-
tical purposes to great the non-indigenous majori-
ty excluded group point of comparison.
The var iat ion in the findings for the specific indig-
enous group and Catholic interaction variables lead
me to two conclusions. First, strong Catholic pres-
ence in non-indigenous majority
U
y
C
municipalities
generally undermined
PRI
support in the early years
after formal
U
y
C
adoption but this effect wore off
over time. Second, the relationship of the Catholic
Church with different indigenous communities varies
across them and across time. In Mixe communities,
strong Catholic Church presence nearly consistently
hurt
PRI
support. In other indigenous majority places,
in contrast, strong Catholic Church presence only
occasionally mattered politically, and when it did
it sometimes raised
PRI
support and sometimes di-
minished it. Although the stat ist ical analysis cannot
tell us whether these indigenous communities were
sometimes using the Catholic Church to undermine
(or raise)
PRI
suppor t, or whether the Catholic Church
was the one engineering this political outcome, we
see that the interaction of the two groups produced
nonsystematic effects on
PRI
support across most
indigenous communities. This suggests some degree
of occasional yet intentional coordination to change
the election results for the
PRI
in selected years,
with the church remaining passive –and thus tac-
itly approving of
PRI
state and usually local rule– in
most years and in many places. This supports those
authors who have highlighted the Catholic Church’s
non-active, that is, passive role in delivering the
PRI
support.
Even so, it is not clear what any observed reduc-
tions in
PRI
support mean for the indigenous com-
munities where they occurred. Did reductions in
PRI
support signify that the Catholic Church had some-
thing to do with democratization in these places? Or,
might they signify something else, something less
democratic? Scholars have documented the presence
of potential pockets of ongoing authoritarian-type
political dynamics across Oaxaca’s municipalities
through analyses of first place party margins. Some
65
A. L. Benton Shelton, “Bottom-Up Challenges …”,
op. cit
.
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have noted the ongoing presence of high first place
party margins in Oaxaca’s
U
y
C
regimes compared to
PP
ones,
65
as well as the presence of municipalities
that shift their support from year to year to and
from the
PRI
but always generating high first place
party margins.
66
Given that strong Catholic Church
presence in some indigenous majority communities
sometimes lowered support for the
PRI
but sometimes
also raised it, it could be that shifts in support away
from
PRI
merely reflect the transfer of this support
to other parties directed by local authoritarian
leaders rather than rising electoral competition and
democratization.
To determine whether the Catholic Church played
a role in state and local democratization, we thus
must observe the level of political competition in
U
y
C
regimes rising with Catholic Church presence.
It is with this in mind that we turn to an analysis of
first place party margins. Tables 6 and 7 show the
results for models analyzing first place party margins
between 1998 and 2007. As shown in Table 6, the
effect of the percent share Catholic population in a
municipality was only negative and significant only in
2001. It would thus appear that only in that year did
any democratization really occur, given the impact
of Catholicism on declining
PRI
support that year
shown in Table 3, however, this effect was temporary
at best. In all other years, the presence of a strong
Catholic Church had no effect on reducing first place
party margins in the municipality, suggesting the
church’s tacit acceptance of ongoing authoritarian
dynamics across the state’s
U
y
C
municipalities. It is
important to note that first place party margins are
generally higher in
U
y
C
as compared to
PP
systems,
and that they averaged 31% in 1998, 34% in 2001,
23% in 2004, and 31% in 2007 in
U
y
C
municipalities,
compared to 17% (1998), 23% (2001), 25% (2004),
and 20% (2007) in Oaxaca’s
PP
municipalities. (Table
1 does not distinguish between
U
y
C
and
PP
systems.)
High first place party margins in Oaxaca have been
linked to ongoing local authoritarian control.
67
As
such, we conclude that, the Catholic Church only
aided in democratization in 2001, but rather sup-
ported the political status quo in
U
y
C
systems in all
other years.
In terms of the interaction of Oaxaca’s different
indigenous groups with the level of Catholic Church
presence, we turn to Table 7. As with
PRI
support
discussed above, the effect of the Catholic Church
in different indigenous majority municipalities var-
ies by indigenous group and by year, with no real
systematic pattern apparent. Although Zapotec
majority municipalities saw rising first place party
margins in 1998 and 2004 associated with greater
levels of Catholic Church presence, Mixe (in 2001)
and Chinantec (in 1998) and Mixtec (in 2007) oc-
casionally saw greater levels of Catholic Church
presence associated with declining first place party
margins instead. These results are seen in the posi-
tive Catholic
*
Zapotec interaction terms in 1998 and
2004, and in the negative interaction terms for the
other indigenous groups in a few years. For reasons
of space I do not go into the precise calculations of
the effects of these terms on first place party margins
but the point is clear: rising levels of Catholicism are
not systematically associated with rising or falling
first place par t y margins in indigenous communit ies,
leading us to conclude that the Catholic Church did
not have any active systematic effect on Oaxacan
politics.
To the extent that the Catholic Church mattered, the
general lack of significance of the variables measuring
either the Catholic Church presence in Table 6 or the
interaction of Catholic Church presence with indigenous
majority groups demonstrates the lack of impact that
the church had on changing traditional first place
party margins. In other words, the church tended to
leave politics alone in these communities rather than
actively intervene, though it certainly did on occasion.
Given that many of these communities are known for
local hierarchical patterns of control, this means that
the Catholic Church did not play any systematic role
in undermining the traditional civil-religious cargo
system nor in challenging local hierarchical political
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Table 6
The Catholic Church and First Place Party Margins in UyC Municipalities, 1998 – 2001
1998
2001
2004
2007
Effective Number of Parties
-0.0470
**
-0.1046
***
-0.0115
-0.0195
(0.0206)
(0.0205)
(0.0096)
(0.0221)
Post-Election Conflicts
-0.0779
***
-0.0735
***
-0.0204
-0.0608
**
(0.0279)
(0.0266)
(0.0241)
(0.0285)
Marginality Index
0.0693
***
0.0479
***
0.0087
0.0515
***
(0.0152)
(0.0143)
(0.0129)
(0.0133)
Municipal Expenditures
0.0238
**
0.0065
***
0.0013
0.0042
***
(0.0101)
(0.0015)
(0.0031)
(0.0010)
Population
-0.0000
***
0.0000
-0.0000
*
-0.0000
***
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
% Population on Ejidos
0.0411
0.0359
0.0064
0.0360
(0.0564)
(0.0322)
(0.0307)
(0.0265)
Number of Ejidos
-0.0068
-0.0022
-0.0031
-0.0005
(0.0046)
(0.0032)
(0.0031)
(0.0030)
% Rural Population
-0.0224
0.0429
0.0205
-0.0295
(0.0460)
(0.0367)
(0.0305)
(0.0352)
% Catholic
-0.1135
-0.2482
***
-0.1001
-0.0930
(0.1117)
(0.0764)
(0.0817)
(0.0845)
% Indigenous
-0.0294
-0.0175
-0.0335
-0.0217
(0.0313)
(0.0274)
(0.0278)
(0.0280)
PRI Win Current Election
0.0935
***
0.1172
***
0.1272
***
0.1625
***
(0.0237)
(0.0271)
(0.0166)
(0.0202)
Constant
0.4962
***
0.6475
***
0.2777
***
0.3088
***
(0.1258)
(0.0896)
(0.0820)
(0.0995)
Observations
399
407
415
396
R-squared
0.27
0.25
0.13
0.21
Adjusted R-squared
0.24
0.23
0.11
0.18
Note: Ordinary Least Squares Regression. Robust standard errors in parentheses. Total observations do not total to 418
municipalities due to missing data.
*
significant at 10%;
**
significant at 5%;
***
significant at 1%
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T
ABLE
7
The Catholic Church, Indigenous Groups, and First Place Party Margins in UyC Municipalities, 1998-2007
1998
2001
2004
2007
Effective Number of Parties
-0.0448
**
-0.1145
***
-0.0124
-0.0217
(0.0208)
(0.0214)
(0.0101)
(0.0225)
Post-Election Conflicts
-0.0819
***
-0.0713
***
-0.0162
-0.0646
**
(0.0286)
(0.0266)
(0.0250)
(0.0282)
Marginality Index
0.0684
***
0.0429
***
0.0008
0.0553
***
(0.0160)
(0.0151)
(0.0134)
(0.0140)
Municipal Expenditures
0.0210
**
0.0061
***
0.0014
0.0041
***
(0.0097)
(0.0015)
(0.0031)
(0.0010)
Population
-0.0000
***
-0.0000
-0.0000**
-0.0000
**
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
(0.0000)
% Population on Ejidos
0.0594
0.0179
0.0020
0.0365
(0.0573)
(0.0315)
(0.0318)
(0.0266)
Number of Ejidos
-0.0077
-0.0049
-0.0038
-0.0007
(0.0050)
(0.0038)
(0.0034)
(0.0031)
% Population Rural
-0.0300
0.0484
0.0257
-0.0272
(0.0458)
(0.0390)
(0.0319)
(0.0362)
% Catholic
-0.2973
*
-0.1949
-0.1826
-0.0031
(0.1637)
(0.1247)
(0.1285)
(0.1286)
% Indigenous
-0.1050
-0.1093*
-0.0614
-0.0382
(0.0662)
(0.0633)
(0.0574)
(0.0637)
Mazatec Majority Mun.
0.1529
0.5286
-1.5391
***
0.0067
(1.0667)
(0.4543)
(0.5418)
(0.9137)
% Catholic * Mazatec
0.0629
-0.5955
1.7381
***
-0.0458
(1.1643)
(0.5247)
(0.6147)
(1.0067)
Mixe Majority Municip.
-0.4550
0.4417
**
0.0946
0.1144
(0.3376)
(0.1722)
(0.2746)
(0.1461)
% Catholic * Mixe
0.5445
-0.2240
-0.1095
-0.0939
(0.4090)
(0.2172)
(0.3258)
(0.2025)
Chinantec Majority Mun.
0.9119***
0.1493
0.0788
-0.4249
(0.3370)
(0.3996)
(0.2279)
(0.3675)
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The Catholic Church, Indigenous Groups, and First Place Party Margins in UyC Municipalities, 1998-2007
% Catholic * Chinantec
-0.9838**
-0.0216
-0.0419
0.5725
(0.4274)
(0.5403)
(0.2763)
(0.4959)
Mixtec Majority Mun.
-0.2844
-0.0427
0.1124
0.5156
***
(0.2700)
(0.2254)
(0.1559)
(0.1979)
% Catholic * Mixtec
0.3816
0.1332
-0.0400
-0.5688
**
(0.2967)
(0.2487)
(0.1720)
(0.2331)
Zapotec Majority Mun.
-0.3019
0.0299
-0.2404
*
-0.0854
(0.2117)
(0.1736)
(0.1430)
(0.1740)
% Catholic * Zapotec
0.4262
*
0.0372
0.2807
*
0.1208
(0.2483)
(0.2060)
(0.1653)
(0.2058)
Other Indig. Group Maj.
0.4663
***
0.1250
0.0841
0.5135
***
(0.1607)
(0.1457)
(0.2599)
(0.1285)
% Catholic * Other Indig.
-0.5627
***
-0.0591
-0.0191
-0.5858
***
(0.1906)
(0.1791)
(0.2966)
(0.1712)
PRI Win
0.0938
***
0.1180
***
0.1246
***
0.1620
***
(0.0242)
(0.0267)
(0.0173)
(0.0206)
Constant
0.6714
***
0.6399
***
0.3572
***
0.2318
*
(0.1715)
(0.1221)
(0.1197)
(0.1343)
Observations
399
407
415
396
R-squared
0.31
0.29
0.16
0.23
Adjusted R-squared
0.26
0.25
0.12
0.18
Note: Ordinary Least Squares Regression. Robust standard errors in parentheses. Total observations do not total to 418 municipalities due to missing data.
* significant at 10%; ** significant at 5%; *** significant at 1%
Table 7
(continuation)
relationships. This undermines arguments about the
church’s role in the state’s democratization. The fact
that the church sometimes mattered for reductions
in first place party margins, sometimes mattered for
raising them, but usually did nothing to intervene also
highlights the inherently political role and varied local
church across Oaxaca. When it did get involved in local
political issues, it did so according to the local factors,
not state or diocese level Catholic Church doctrine.
The results of the statistical analysis show that
the Catholic Church wielded no statewide effect on
politics in Oaxaca. The church did, however, often
affect local political dynamics in a way that indi-
cates intentionality of decision. Stronger Catholic
Church presence led to greater chances of
U
y
C
adop-
tion in Chinantec, Mixe, and Mixtec municipalities,
but nowhere else. It also generally undermined
PRI
support in Mixe municipalities across several years,
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but only occasionally did so in Chinantec and Mixtec
ones, where it in fact appears to have played a role
in raising
PRI
support one year. Analysis of first place
party margins reveals that such reductions in
PRI
sup-
port belie ongoing authoritarian structures in many
places, with the effect of the Catholic Church on first
place party margins nonexistent in most years but,
importantly, occasionally raising and occasionally
lower ing first play par t y margins in some indigenous
dominant places.
Taken together, these results suggest that neither
argument about the deliberate and systematic role
of the Catholic Church in Oaxacan democratization
or authoritarian rule is correct. The data analysis
demonstrates that there was no statewide effect
of the Catholic Church among Oaxaca’s
U
y
C
regimes,
either in terms of their initial adoption or in terms of
later patterns of political behavior. Instead, the ef-
fect of the Catholic Church appears to vary according
to local dynamics and be limited to those
U
y
C
places
with indigenous majority populations. In some of
these places, the church occasionally facilitated
what appears to have been some form of political
competition through falling first place party margins.
However, in other places it sometimes it appears to
have actively facilitated ongoing authoritarian con-
trol through rising first place party margins. What is
perhaps most interesting is the lack of effect of the
Catholic Church on politics in most years. The oc-
casional but significant role that the Catholic Church
appears to have played, both in fomenting and in
actively undermining democratization in some places
and in some years, suggests that the church could and
did wield political influence when it chose to do so
but that it tended not to intervene in local political
affairs. The analysis cannot reveal the reasons for
the lack of intervention but the effect is clear: local
church officials took no part in seeking to change
local polit ical dynamics and instead tacitly suppor ted
the local political status quo in
U
y
C
systems.
Concluding remarks
The principle point of focus of this study was to
discern between two competing interpretations of
the role of the Catholic Church in politics in Oaxaca,
Mexico in the 1990s and 2000s. One line of argument
holds that the progressive Catholic Church success-
fully advocated for the adoption of
U
y
C
political sys-
tems in many of the state’s indigenous municipalities
in order to help indigenous groups gain autonomy
from the state hegemonic
PRI
, implying that they
were successful in this endeavor. A competing view
holds that the Catholic Church’s historic role in the
initial development of the hierarchical civil-religious
cargo system structuring municipal politics since at
least the 18
th
century, if not before, meant that the
church was either purposefully or unwittingly help-
ing the continuation of ongoing local authoritarian
rule across Oaxaca’s municipalities.
To evaluate these competing arguments, I ana-
lyzed religious, indigenous, political institutional,
and electoral data in Oaxaca’s municipalities. Sta-
tistical analysis shows that the Catholic Church did
not deliver any systematic effects across this state,
in either the democratic or authoritarian direction,
but rather only occasional did so, leading me to re-
ject both hypotheses about the role of the Catholic
Church in Oaxaca. As such, even if we begin with
the view that the Catholic Church may have been
originally altruistic in its efforts to help Oaxaca’s
indigenous groups by supporting the adoption of
U
y
C
systems, we see that the dominant position of
this church in highly indigenous communities did not
work to help these groups oppose their hierarchically
organized municipal institutional structures once
and for all. And, if we begin with the view that the
Catholic Church was mainly interested in crowding
out other religious groups and thus preferred to domi-
nate local politics to help them in this regard, we see
that this church sometimes actively supported local
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democratization, even if it often tacitly accepted
the traditional, ongoing hierarchical political rules
of the game.
This leads me to two conclusions about religion
and politics in Oaxaca. First, although the church
wielded no statewide systematic influence on poli-
tics, it does wield power at the municipal level on
occasion, although this power varies in direction and
by indigenous group. Second, although the church
has sometimes actively supported democratization
in some places, it has tended to allow the status
quo to prevail on most occasions, demonstrating
its tacit support for ongoing local hierarchical and
thus authoritarian dynamics in the state, even if it
does not always actively work to reproduce them.
Although religious domination or competition may
not produce any system-wide or structural effects,
it can have important local effects that are moder-
ated, aggravated, or countermanded by other local
factors.
In the end, although this study was designed to
analyze the role of the Catholic Church in Oaxaca,
the findings here speak to the wider literature on
religion and politics in Latin America more gener-
ally. First, it raises questions about the capacity of
the Catholic Church to implement country-level, or
even archdiocese or diocese level, policies in these
countries, especially in highly heterogeneous ones.
The analysis here reveals the inherently local and
highly varied effects of religion on politics, some-
thing that undermines the conclusions of research
taking a state or country level approach. However,
the study here also raises questions about the gen-
eralizability of locality-specific case studies of the
role of religion on politics as well. Although this lit-
erature certainly enriches our understanding of how
these dynamics might work in individual instances,
the statistical findings here demonstrate that these
effects can weaken, strengthen, and even reverse in
these same places over time, as well as across local
communities. This does not mean to say that both
research approaches are ill conceived, for they each
lend important insights into the study of religion
and politics. But, it does highlight the importance
of appreciating the limits of their application. The
research here suggests that state or country level
analyses as well as case study research should be
contextualized by way of cross-case comparisons
like the one conducted here.
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