Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)



First Advisor

Dr. Guy Duke

Second Advisor

Dr. Carina Marques

Third Advisor

Dr. Servando Hinojosa


As a result of historical traumas caused by the Spanish invasion of Mexico, the autonomy of its Indigenous peoples has been replaced by a Eurocentric identifier based on a colonial language and theologies. Because of the vastness surrounding the Nahua pantheon, Spanish and Church officials relied on guided syncretism as means of correcting their methodologies in converting Mexico’s Indigenous population. This thesis examines syncretism as a process of religious mixing and its residual cultural changes that affected Mexico’s Indigenous populations. This ethnographic research argues that syncretism as an overarching, universalized term is insufficient to describe this process in the Chalma region of Central Mexico. Instead, the Indigenous Nahuatl term, Nepantla, or in the middle, is more accurate and properly places this process within its cultural and geographic context. Through interviews and conversations with fellow travelers while making a pilgrimage to Chalma, I came to understand Nepantla as a sacred middle ground to celebrate and perpetuate pre-contact customs and practices while exploring and in some cases rejuvenating lost traditions of the past. Via Nepantla’s unique context, Mexico’s once forbidden past can once again be seen on the streets of Mexico and serve as an example for other decolonization or anti-syncretistic initiatives.


Copyright 2023 Jose Luis Garcia III. All Rights Reserved.

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