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The Spanish New World

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Chapter Summary

The subject of the Eucharist in the New World of the sixteenth century requires both humility and constraint on the part of the researcher. The colonizing enterprise of Spain resulted in huge territorial possessions that stretched from the southwest of the present United States to the tip of Tierra del Fuego, and from the Caribbean and Amazon Jungle westward to the Philippines. It would be impossible to do justice to eucharistic practices in an area that encompassed literally hundreds of tribes, languages, mythologies and later, missionary endeavors. This chapter discusses the paradigmatic encounter between missionaries and the Aztecs in the first century of the evangelization. The Christian Eucharist entered into the Aztec religious imaginary with cosmological, regal, and divine connotations. While other dynamics were occurring elsewhere in the Reformation period, in Mesoamerica eucharistic practice even rehabilitated notions of human sacrifice and ritual cannibalism.

Keywords: Aztec human sacrifice; eucharistic practices; Reformation; ritual cannibalism; Spain



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