History Faculty Publications and Presentations

“He Does Not Profess, Until Today, any Religion”: Catholic Clergy and Intermarriage in Paso del Norte during the Nineteenth Century

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During the nineteenth century, the Mexican clergy of Paso del Norte (now Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico and El Paso, Texas) witnessed the imposition of new borders, the redrawing of diocesan boundaries, and an influx of newcomers with Protestant or European Catholic backgrounds. Despite these changes, Mexican priests continued to exercise leadership over parishes in western Texas and southern New Mexico after these areas became part of the United States. They granted dispensations to Catholic foreigners, confirmed former Protestants, and performed interethnic marriages. This study examines how the clergy enabled the emergence of a “structure of peace” in the borderlands that drew from familial as well as economic ties between Euro-American settlers and Mexican landholders. The clergy’s oversight of family life also allowed for the continued governance of church affairs across international borders during an age largely marked by U.S. expansionism. At times, the clergy subverted conquest by exercising power over the personal and religious lives of settlers. This period of accord was short-lived, however, and the rapid growth of the Euro-American population near Paso del Norte after 1870 brought an end to most formal Mexican authority over Catholics in this section of the Southwestern United States.

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American Catholic Studies