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Mexican Phoenix: Our Lady of Guadalupe: Image and Tradition across Five Centuries [Hardcover]

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Item Number 156489  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   444
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 10.03" Width: 7.13" Height: 1.15"
Weight:   2.61 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 2, 2015
Publisher   Cambridge University Press
ISBN  0521801311  
EAN  9780521801317  

Availability  51 units.
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Item Description...
In 1999 Pope John Paul II proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe a patron saint of the Americas. According to oral tradition and historical documents, in 1531 Mary appeared as a beautiful Aztec princess to Juan Diego, a poor Indian. Speaking to him in his own language, she asked him to tell the bishop her name was La Virgen de Guadalupe and that she wanted a church built on the mountain. During a second visit, the image of the Virgin miraculously appeared on his cape. Through the centuries, the enigmatic power of this image has aroused such fervent devotion in Mexico that it has served as the banner of the rebellion against Spanish rule and, despite skepticism and anticlericalism, still remains a potent symbol of the modern nation. In Mexican Phoenix, David Brading traces the intellectual origins, the sudden efflorescence, and the theology that has sustained the tradition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Brading also documents the interaction of religion and patriotism, and describes how the image has served as a banner both for independence and for the Church in its struggle against the Liberal and revolutionary state. David Brading is Professor of Mexican History at the University of Cambridge. He began his career at the University of California, Berkeley, and at Yale University. He is also the author of Church and State in Bourbon Mexico (Cambridge, 1994), The First America (Cambridge, 1991), and Miners and Merchants in Bourban Mexico, 1730-1810 (Cambridge, 1971). Hb ISBN (2001): 0-521-80131-1

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Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! David Brading is Professor of Mexican History, University of Cambridge.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
The image on the mantle  Sep 2, 2002
In the history of Catholic Marian devotion, the Mexican Virgin of Guadalupe has no rivals. When Pope John Paul II recognized her as patron of the Americas in 1999, he was merely building on a tradition stretching back from Pius XII and Pius X in the twentieth century, to Leo XIII in the nineteenth and Benedict XIV in the eighteenth. No other Marian image has been accorded comparable honours.

The devotion is based on the story of the Virgin's apparitions to the Indian neophyte Juan Diego in 1531, and the subsequent appearance of her image, miraculously imprinted on the Indian's coarse mantle as he unrolled it to free the profusion of flowers that the Virgin had instructed him to take to a bishop. The mantle (tilma) is preserved in a basilica in Mexico City. The symbolic power of the devotion is impossible to exaggerate. It has been seen as the foundation of national identity, as a link between pre-Hispanic and modern times, as a rallying point uniting a racially complex society, and as a clear sign of divine favour.

Historians, however, have often felt uncomfortable with the lack of any convincing proof attesting to the existence of a tradition linked to the story before the publication of Miguel Sanchez's Image of the Virgin Mary in 1648. This disturbing gap has led to a number of attempts to connect Sanchez's treatise with an indigenous oral tradition stretching back to 1531, specifically to the sixteenth-century Indian humanist, Antonio Valeriano, still widely believed to be the author of the native Nahuatl account: the Nican mopohua. But recent scholarship has established that there is no evidence to support such a tradition. More-over, a meticulous linguistic analysis of the Nican mopohua conducted lately has demonstrated not only that the text is written in standard seventeenth-century church Nahuatl, but also that there is direct linguistic proof of its dependence on the treatise by Sanchez, a conclusion that invalidates all previous attempts to find a common source based on an earlier native oral tradition.

David Brading's definitive study, in Mexican Phoenix: Our Lady of Guadalupe, image and tradition 1531-2000, the result of at least three decades' research, is a detailed history of the tradition across five centuries based on a staggering range of primary sources, from theological treatises, chronicles and sermons, to occasional letters and polemical tracts. He laments the "wild, ill-considered arguments derived from a passionate determination to defend the historical reality of tradition", a determination most recently illustrated in the brave attempt by the Jesuit Xavier Escalada "scientifically" to prove the authenticity of a dubious codex, allegedly dating from 1548, which depicts Juan Diego and the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and is adorned by suitably apt contemporary signatures. "Within the context of the Christian tradition," writes Brading, it would have been "rather like finding a picture of St Paul's vision on the road to Damascus, drawn by St Luke and signed by St Peter."

But Mexican Phoenix is far from being a mere polemic. One of its many merits is that it wisely stays aloof from such fruitless debates in order to place the Guadalupe tradition in the much richer context of baroque piety. Brading demonstrates that Miguel Sanchez and the theological tradition in which he worked drew heavily on Eastern Orthodox spiritual literature, specifically the works of John of Damascus, Theodore the Studite and Basil the Great. Similarly, in the eighteenth century, several Jesuit writers echoed the suggestion, first voiced by Amadeus of Portugal in the fifteenth century, that Mary was present in images in the same way that Christ was present in the Eucharist. Brading has a keen eye for colourful detail and a deep sympathy for the intricacies and convolutions of the baroque, and this allows him to present Sanchez as one of the "most original, learned and audacious of Mexican theologians", the author of a treatise "brimming with devotion, in which religion and patriotism were inextricably meshed, and where audacious claims were sustained with deep learning".

Mexican Phoenix is incomparably the most complete and reliable study to have appeared on the Guadalupe tradition hitherto. Its conclusions, however, are more than likely to infuriate the zealous apparitionist school; so it is perhaps with this in mind that, in his concluding remarks, Brading makes an interesting theological excursus. Drawing on traditional church teaching, he reminds his potential critics that "in framing the gospels, God employed human authors who . . . could in no sense be seen as mere puppets used by a divine ventriloquist . . . . If that be the case, is there any real reason to suppose that when the Holy Spirit conceived the idea of the Guadalupe, he refrained from employing a human agent to implement that design?"

exquisite new approach  Jun 17, 2002
British historian David Brading offers an exquisite new approach to the tradition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in a masterpiece resembling Jaroslav Pelikan's Jesus Through the Centuries. While controversy has surrounded the historicity of Juan Diego and Guadalupe in the past decade, Brading offers a thesis that invites us to move beyond "probable fact" to the meaning of the Guadalupe event in the course of Mexican history.

Guadalupe represents more than a historical episode, and the expression of Mexican identity she embodies requires a study that furthers the reflection on the meaning she has represented to the Mexican people throughout the centuries. The scandal surrounding the former abbot of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which contributed poorly to the understanding of what Guadalupe means to her people, reduced faith and identity to mere scientific fact. Science ought to be but a single angle of interpretation to the cult that has always meant much more than "corroborated evidence for the supernatural."

Brading offers a way to move beyond the debate centered on declarations and counter declarations of the veracity of scientific fact, by contemplating the significance of Guadalupe from the heart of Mexican faith and history.This book is not an easy read, not exactly the pastoral manual on all things related to Guadalupe either. The uninitiated reader will not find the answers to all his or her Guadalupe questions easily. Both the theological and historical language used is largely for experts; nevertheless, if one manages to plow through the hermeneutics and the references to Byzantine iconography of the initial chapters, one will find the second half of the book most illuminating, particularly the post independence treatment of Guadalupe, which has not been as thoroughly studied as the colonial period.Mexican Phoenix is an exploration of the evolution of the Mexican psyche -- its need to affirm its identity and uniqueness, its search for symbols and authenticity.

The key is found in the collection of works that Brading has used to support his claims, panegyric sermons and other treatises used in different periods of Mexican history to "exalt the singular Providence which distinguished their country," especially those published in the 18th century at the height of Mexican patriotism on the threshold of independence.Despite the numerous books and theories on the Guadalupe apparitions and all the arguments that have fueled the debate over this event for centuries, Brading's new opus offers an elegant and comprehensive integration of the elements that have comprised this debate, both because of its historical thoroughness and its theological insight, Few historians have succeeded in unraveling the theological implications of the Guadalupe event with such skill. The transformation and process of the cult speak not only of the course of Mexican history but also of the evolution of its religiosity, in a way few other symbols can.

Perhaps Brading's most important contribution to contemporary Guadalupe scholarship is the historical and theological contextualization of the event. Myth, iconography and Catholic theology and history are all interwoven into an expert interpretation of the cultural convergence that took place in Guadalupe. Only a historian with his encyclopedic knowledge of the theological and historical context of the tradition could have ventured such an ambitious integration.

Few scholars have been able to place the Guadalupe cult in the perspective of the religious turmoil of the Counter-Reformation Catholic church. Moreover, he places texts in time and place referring to their use and acceptance, more than to the mere fact of their date of publication. Brading's hermeneutics of both the theological and historical texts (including images) lays the new rules for future study of Guadalupe.

Henceforward any serious debate, either historical or theological, will have to refer to the context Brading lays out in his book.After addressing the enigmatic silence of 16th-century sources for the Guadalupe event, Brading invites his readers to consider instead its theological dimensions. He recognizes that despite historicity, the image "possesses a charm and presence that exerts a power over the faithful" difficult to ignore. Any visit to the Basilica or any church consecrated in her name, or even the image in many a Catholic parish throughout the Hispanic world, will testify to that fact.

The final chapters then, ask the more important questions, pertaining to the theology and spirituality of Guadalupe, which in a final analysis are the only explanation to the cultural resilience of the tradition.

Brading has turned theologian and surprises his readers with a concluding interpretation that moves the debate definitely beyond history: "It is surely more theologically appropriate to presume that the Holy Spirit worked through a human agent, which is to say, through an Indian artist, possibly the painter." Drawing on contemporary theology, particularly Vatican II documents such as the "Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation," he draws the argument over Guadalupe full circle. Like most religious events, there is more than just fact involved and a fuller understanding requires the tools of interpretation offered only in scholarship outside history.

The author brings us to the present. Guadalupe continues to exert a powerful influence on Mexican identity both within and outside Mexico, but is it possible that even as we debate the evolution of the tradition new dimensions are being added to it? New questions need to be raised in the face of globalization. The displacement of Mexican or even Hispanic identity from a religious axis to a more secular one needs to be addressed.What does it mean that national soccer games attract as many, and perhaps more fans, than Dec. 12th celebrations? Have we found a modern replacement for the exaltation of national pride? Is it time for our faith to translate itself yet another time, redefining the Guadalupe tradition for today's world? How is Guadalupe being brought into the life of new generations of Mexicans and Hispanics?

The tradition was certainly built on theological interpretation. Now it must look to present-day theologians to offer the interpretation that recharges Guadalupe with the meaning today's global reality demands.

Guadalupe: Historiography  Nov 6, 2001
According to Brading, the "purpose of this book is thus to illuminate the sudden efflorescence and the adamantine resilience of the tradition of Our Lady of Guadalupe." (11) The study, however, reads more like and intellectual historiography of Guadalupan ideas and controversies over the past five centuries.

The method of the book is essentially that of an intellectual history. Social historians will not enjoy this book as much as, say, theologians and those interested in literary critique and historiography. What makes this historiography interesting is that the author is able to incorporate the historiographical tendencies in the field while simultaneously inserting his own interpretation of the events. In other words, the theological and historical debates surrounding Guadalupe evolved in accordance with the social and political structures. In the end, the reader emerges not only with an understanding of the debates but also the author's analysis of the literature and its history.

By far, this is one the most enjoyable books that I have read on Guadalupe. Brading is fair and discusses the historical literature in context. Impressive research skills and highly readable! Highly recommended.


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