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Acta Theologica

On-line version ISSN 2309-9089
Print version ISSN 1015-8758

Acta theol. vol.29  suppl.12 Bloemfontein  2009


Biblical literacy and transnational Mayan liberation movements



Roberto Domingo Toledo

Doctorate Candidate in Philosophy, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York, USA. E-mail:




The Zapatista and other Mayan movements in Mexico and Guatemala are demanding autonomy and respect for indigenous cultures. Still struggling for land-rights lost during colonialism and now suffering from neo-liberal trade policies, Mayan communities have creatively appropriated Christian doctrine to deal with their suffering. This paper examines the central role of the Bible in the mobilisation of Mayan communities where the majority of members identify themselves as Christian as well as Mayan. Revisiting the period of Yoruba identity formation and the Yoruba anti-slavery struggle in the 1800s will help illuminate the role of Christianity in contemporary liberation movements. In both cases, Christianity primarily impacted marginalised populations suffering the effects of colonialism. The scriptures have helped undermine colonial relationships as well as internal hierarchies within indigenous societies. Specifically, Biblical literacy has led to broader identifications across multiple dialects and has given women and lower classes greater access to religious doctrine.

Keywords: Bible, Translation, Indigenous, Latin America

Trefwoorde: Bybel, Vertaling, Inheems, Latyns-Amerika



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