UCL Institute of the Americas


Holy Wars on Top of the Andes: Army Veterans and Religious Conversion in Puno, 1910-1930

28 February 2023, 5:30 pm–7:00 pm

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An event part of the IHR Latin American History Seminar series

This event is free.

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Institute of Historical Research

This paper tells the unique success story of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Puno, Peru, between 1900 and 1925, by focusing on its indigenous leadership: army veterans. These men spent years away from their communities and, upon their return, discovered the numerous challenges of reintegration into rural society. In almost every aspect of communal life, veterans encountered obstacles to their reintegration: their lands had been usurped, they lacked the necessary social and political outreach, and they were ridiculed and marginalized because of the cultural—apparently mestizo—habits and practices they had adopted while away. In their quest for alternatives, these veterans left the Catholic Church and converted to Seventh-day Adventism. Conversion, I argue, offered an answer to the difficulties of their reintegration. It provided new opportunities for social and economic mobility and possibilities for veterans to reinterpret their Indian racial identity in a way that would include the seemingly mestizo traits they had adopted while in the barracks and on the coast. Thus, oddly, veterans who were designated to be heralds of nationalism, in a country were Catholicism was an inherent part of national identity, set the basis for a new religion.

Yael Mabat specializes in Andean history and the comparative history of religion. She is a fellow of the Sverdlin Institute for Latin American History, Tel Aviv University, and in 2022-3 holds a postdoctoral fellowship at Ben Gurion University. 

All welcome – This event is free, but booking is required.

Details on how to join this session will be sent to all registered attendees 24 hours in advance.  Booking will therefore close the day before the scheduled date.

UCL Institute of the Americas is delighted to collaborate with the Institute of Historical Research (School of Advanced Study, University of London) and other leading institutions in the organisation of this series

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