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Cannibal Theologies in Colonial Portuguese America (1549-1759)

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Translating the Christian Eucharist as the Tupinambá Pledge of Vengeance

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This article examines Jesuit-signed texts written in the Brasílica lingua franca and used in the religious conversion of native peoples in colonial Portuguese America (1549-1759). I study translation strategies for conveying the sacrament of Communion, arguing that doctrinal explanations and word choices recorded in catechisms and dictionaries reflect Tupi-Guarani beliefs that shaped Christianity. These translations merged the theophagous doctrine of the Eucharist with Tupinambá vengeance and exocannibalism, which were central to rituals enacted to bring about that earthly utopia that the Indians called the Land Without Evil. Thus did a distinct eschatology form, compressed with thick layers of Tupi-Guarani and Iberian Catholicism in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In late colony, these became reinterpreted by non-Tupi-Guarani Indians who renamed the Eucharist. But in every telling, the promise of the Eucharist remained the same: that the eating of an other gave access to salvation and eternal bliss.

Affiliations: 1: California State University Los Angeles klee40@exchange.calstatela.edu

10.1163/15700658-12342530
/content/journals/10.1163/15700658-12342530
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/content/journals/10.1163/15700658-12342530
2017-03-23
2018-01-16

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