The Aztecs were several tribes in the North of Mexico that settled near the Lake of the Texcoco and dwelt there until their conquest in 1521. Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, the Aztecs, or more appropriately the “Mexicas”, were the dominant civilization, politically, militarily, and culturally. The concept of “nationality”, as we can now observe it in our country, was non-existent at the end of the 15th century.
The name “Mexico” comes from the predominance of “Mexicas” or “Aztecs” over other cultures located in the current national territory and because of their location and enormous influence during those years. Today Mexico recognizes more than fifty ethnic groups. Modern Mexico is a multicultural country which began the difficult process of miscegenation after it was conquered by Spain in1521. The presence of the ancient pre- Hispanic nations is unquestionable in the national culture and can be seen in our national character, festivity, color, architecture, gastronomy, and even in the most prevalent religion, Roman Catholicism.
In addition to the political and military alliances that Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés achieved to conquer Mexico, the arrival of the Dominican and Franciscan monastic orders, as well as the Jesuits swept in to advance colonization of the native peoples by their “evangelization” in true Romanist style: by sword and by syncretism.
Cleverly the Spaniards presented their new Spanish gods as victors over the pre-Hispanic pantheon by destroying their temples and building Roman Catholic temples on the ancient ruins of pre-Hispanic places of worship and by shrewdly merging both types of beliefs, such as the revelation of the ancient goddess “Tonantzin.” She was worshipped on the hill of Tepeyac, now known as the hill of “Guadalupe” (a name of Arab origin) and replaced by a new deity, the Virgin Mary. The “evangelists” gave the statue of Mary a brown skin color characteristic of our indigenous ancestors.
It is necessary to say that there is no evidence of a supposed appearance of the Virgin Mary in that place, nor are there records of the existence of “Juan Diego”, to whom the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe allegedly appeared in the seventeenth century. Perhaps the most brilliant idea was to subdue the different ethnic groups and cultures by the Spanish and Catholic hierarchy. Syncretism continues to be a powerful weapon of subjugation in our country.
On December 12 each year, Mexico holds national celebrations to venerate the “Queen of Mexico.” Mexico is more Marian than Roman Catholic. This presence of Marian paganism is a factor that, according to anthropologists, makes it very difficult for Islam to succeed in our country. Although we are a multicultural nation, we are not a country of plurality, nor of great openness to other religions. This mixture of prehispanic paganism and Roman Catholicism (already pagan in the Europe of the Middle Ages) makes Roman Catholicism a very peculiar religion in Mexico. When you compare Mexican Catholicism with Catholicism from the rest of the American continent, you will observe a flagrant idolatry overlapped by the Romanist hierarchy in Mexico. So the true gospel evangelist in Mexico must face the double issues of ancestral paganism and Roman Catholic paganism.
Eighty percent of Mexicans are Catholic, but most only follow its traditions nominally. Protestantism entered Mexico towards the end of the nineteenth century through historical denominations such as Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Free brethren, and Lutherans. Around 1920, Pentecostals began to “evangelize” Mexico with great success, but by the 1970s their efforts were superseded by the Charismatic Movement, adding confusion and creating more difficulties for Biblical evangelism. With the entrance of theological liberalism, many of the historical denominations have become less effective in their testimony of the gospel and with strong ecumenical influence, the presence of the extreme Charismatic Movement is a challenge.
Due to the spurious influences of these so-called “evangelicals” who preach a distorted gospel, it is necessary for us to re-evangelize by preaching the gospel of grace according to the Scriptures. My ministry is based in Córdoba in the center of the coastal state of Veracruz, where I have had the opportunity to work in urban and suburban areas of other states such as San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Guanajuato, and Chiapas. The influence of our pre-Hispanic cultures is always palpable.
Regardless of the global situation, the preaching of the Gospel remains compelling, for it is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Rom 1: 16b), regardless of location, culture, and time period. Please pray for me and my people here in Córdoba. Pray that we may know God’s enabling grace to preach the gospel in His power to precious souls here in Córdoba and other parts of Mexico. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “I am debtor both to the Greeks, to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise “(Rom 1:14).
Mr. Lalo Peña ministers in Córdoba, Mexico. He is under care of the Presbytery of the FPCNA and studies with Geneva Reformed Seminary by distance learning.