chapter  8
24 Pages

Guatemalan Pentecostals: Something of Their Own

WithEverett Wilson

This chapter discusses the largest and most widespread of the new religious movements, the popular Pentecostals—their origins, their relationship to preceding Protestant efforts, their place in Guatemala's troubled history, and their actual or potential role in national life. The conditions that have facilitated Protestantism's becoming a religious alternative in contemporary Guatemala are rooted in the nineteenth-century policies of Guatemalan president Justo Rufino Barrios. Although the Pentecostals resemble the Protestant evangelical churches that have been at work in the country since 1882, these popular insurgents were largely ignored by the major missions and nationalized denominations. Almost half of the popular Pentecostals are Maya, more than token numbers of whom have advanced to positions of regional or national leadership in one or another of the denominations. Although popular Pentecostalism has become a religious alternative for many socially marginal Guatemalans, the movement is still too small, inexperienced, and divided to display much political importance or independence.