The Reformation of Machismo

[ Latin American Studies ]

The Reformation of Machismo

Evangelical Conversion and Gender in Colombia

By Elizabeth E. Brusco

In this pioneering study, Elizabeth Brusco explores the intra-household motivations for evangelical conversion in Colombia.



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6 x 9 | 223 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-70821-1

Protestant evangelicalism has spread rapidly in Latin America at the same time that foreign corporations have taken hold of economies there. These concurrent developments have led some observers to view this religious movement as a means of melding converts into a disciplined work force for foreign capitalists rather than as a reflection of conscious individual choices made for a variety of personal, as well as economic, reasons. In this pioneering study, Elizabeth Brusco challenges such assumptions and explores the intra-household motivations for evangelical conversion in Colombia. She shows how the asceticism required of evangelicals (no drinking, smoking, or extramarital sexual relations are allowed) redirects male income back into the household, thereby raising the living standard of women and children. This benefit helps explain the appeal of evangelicalism for women and questions the traditional assumption that organized religion always disadvantages women. Brusco also demonstrates how evangelicalism appeals to men by offering an alternative to the more dysfunctional aspects of machismo. Case studies add a fascinating human dimension to her findings. With the challenges this book poses to conventional wisdom about economic, gender, and religious behavior, it will be important reading for a wide audience in anthropology, women’s studies, economics, and religion. For all students of Latin America, it offers thoughtful new perspectives on a major, grass-roots agent of social change.


1. Introduction
Contradictions in a Feminist View of Evangelical Women
More Contradictions: Colombian Evangelicalism and the Anthropology of Religion
Research Questions: The Domestication of Men?
Data Collection
The Different Levels of Meaning in the Conversion Experience
Gender Analysis in Conversion Studies
Plan of the Study

2. The Evangelical Movement in Colombia
Early Missions
The Contemporary Picture: The Size of the Movement
The Meaning of “Evangelical” in Colombia

3. Religion and Politics
The Power of the Roman Catholic Church in Colombia: The Concordat
Constitutional Reform and the Concordat
Liberals and Conservatives and the Separation of Church and State
La Violencia
The Effect of La Violencia on Evangelicals in El Cocuy

4. El Cocuy: Colombian Evangelicalism on the Community Level
Rural Life in Urban Colombia
Choice of El Cocuy as the Rural Field Site
Description of the Town
Early History of El Cocuy
Religion in El Cocuy
The Impact of Foreign Missionaries in El Cocuy: The Lutheran Church of Our Savior

5. Domestic Abdication, Individualism, and Machismo
Defining Machismo: Contradictions and Consistencies
Domestic Abdication
Psychological Approaches: Machismo and Male Dominance
Change over Time
Machismo, Proletarianization, and Individualism

6. Colombian Sex and Gender Roles and the Family
Sex Roles and Familial Roles
The Consequences of Machismo for Women’s Household Roles
Conjugal Roles and Status Consciousness
Case History: Rosalinda

7. Colombian Evangelicalism from the Household Out
Gender Roles and Marital Roles in the Conversion Process
The Economic Effects of Gender Role Transformation
The Feminine Ethos of Evangelical Religion

8. Conclusion
Colombian Evangelicalism as a “Strategic” Form of Female Collective Action
Progress, Modernization, and Culture Change
Women, the Prosperity Ethic, and the Household Writ Large

Appendix: Fieldwork with Colombian Evangelicals