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The approach of the year 2000 has created a surge of popular interest in millennialism-the idea that something climactic will happen at the turn of the millennium. But millennialism in the broader sense, comprising apocalyptic, messianic, and utopian ideologies and movements, has long been of intense interest to scholars of history and religion. Much has been written about millennialism in the U.S. and its European roots. Although it is widely recognized that millennialism is also endemic to Latin America, however, until now there has been no systematic study of this phenomenon as it has flourished in that part of the world. Frank Graziano here offers the first such study, examining Latin American millennialism from the Pre-Columbian period up to the present. Organizing his work thematically, he introduces a fascinating array of movements, ideas, and figures, from the legendary Aztec culture hero Quetzalcoatl (whose expected return led to Montezuma's initial acceptance of Cortez) to the contemporary Peruvian rebels of the Shining Path and their messianic leader Abimael Guzman.
Along the way he provides a comprehensive overview of indigenous efforts to eliminate the Spaniards and their culture and restore a remembered pre-colonial utopia, offering exampes from the Andes, the Tarahumara of Northern Mexico, the Yucatan Maya and others. Christian millennialism and its descendants also appear in many forms, from the Franciscan missionary attempt to recreate the Primitive Church in the New World, to Liberation Theology and the "Jesus of the Poor" of contemporary Nicaragua. Throughout the book, Graziano argues that millennialism in Latin America has roots in all three of the major cultural sources-native American, European, and African-that have come together to constitute Latin American culture, and he skillfully traces the subtle blendings and mutual influences among these millennial traditions. The result, he shows, is not just a mixture of existing ideas but a fusion exhibiting elements of real originality.