God, Cleanliness, and the City: Local Uses of Hygiene and Anticlerical Language in Religious Conflict-Guadalajara, Mexico 1939–1942

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By 1940, residents of Guadalajara faced overwhelming levels of population growth leading to challenges in infrastructure and cultural change. For Guadalajarans, this meant dealing with urgent issues of hygiene and health with the associated regulation of public spaces, including churches. Correspondence between the people of Guadalajara and the city government reveals that religious adherents in Guadalajara used the language of liberal reform–particularly that of hygiene and anticlericalism–in their own local disputes. Specifically, Catholics and Protestants used hygiene and anticlericalism to mobilize city officials on their behalf in inter- and intra-congregational disputes. While the state used hygiene to order the physical world and the citizenry, such language also aided religious attempts to order the spiritual world. The discourse of hygiene and sanitation was not exclusive to the state, but was instead co-opted by religious groups. The religious legitimated the state through their use of reform language while simultaneously turning the tools of secularism toward religious ends.


This article was originally published in The Latin Americanist. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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The Latin Americanist