religious attendance, public opinion surveys, Mexican population, Quintana Roo, Catholic bishops
During the colonial period, the Spanish colonizers imposed the Roman Catholic religion on the indigenous population. They did not permit the exercise of any other religions, including Protestantism and Judaism. Consequently, the population has remained largely Catholic, although in practice Native American and rural versions of Catholicism differ considerably from the typical European and urban forms of the religion. These differences occurred because rural and indigenous peoples were never fully converted to Christianity, and because local priests and bishops tolerated the combination of some indigenous practices with the rites of Catholicism.
Mexico’s 1917 constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Major constitutional reforms in 1992 eliminated many of the severe restrictions on the Catholic Church and other religions. Reforms included the repeal of measures that had prevented clergy from voting. Although still prohibited from direct involvement in political affairs, Catholic bishops have recently become more vocal in criticizing economic policies and human rights abuses.
About 89 percent of the Mexican population identifies itself as Catholic, but in recent years Protestant religions have become more important, particularly in rural regions and among Native Americans. Most of the growth in Protestant religions has occurred among evangelical sects. Protestants account for approximately 3 percent of the population.
The states that are the least Catholic generally have the highest percentages of Protestants. In the state of Chiapas 16 percent of the population is Protestant and 13 percent claims no religious affiliation. Tabasco, which persecuted priests in the 1930s and implemented severe restrictions on the Catholic Church, has a Protestant population of approximately 15 percent. The states of Campeche and Quintana Roo have Protestant populations of 14 and 12 percent, respectively.
Although religious attendance declined significantly in the 20th century, religion is regaining its appeal among younger Mexicans. According to public opinion surveys in the late 1990s, many Mexican Catholics who do not regularly attend church still describe themselves as quite religious.
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