Anthropology Professor Researches Gender and Health During Sabbatical in Oaxaca, Mexico

By Jenna Pizzi

Published on November 19, 2019

Michelle RamirezMichelle Ramirez PhD, MPH, associate professor of anthropology in the Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at USciences, recently took a sabbatical to further her research of gender, sexuality, and health in Oaxaca, Mexico and among U.S. Latinos. Dr. Ramirez has been conducting a longitudinal study of Pentecostal healing in Oaxaca, Mexico since 2012. 

In the fall of 2018, she was awarded a sabbatical leave in order to conduct follow up research in Oaxaca for a book-length manuscript, which is currently in progress. The manuscript is entitled “Healing Gender, Healing Mexico in Oaxaca’s Pentecostal Movement.” 

“Each field visit reveals new insights into Pentecostalism in Mexico and Latin American more broadly,” said Dr. Ramirez. 

The literature on the global spread of Pentecostal conversion asserts that Pentecostals must make a complete break with the past, what scholars have called “rupture” (Meyer 1998). 

Oaxaca Girls“In Mexico, this means a disavowal of traditional or popular Catholicism, which often includes active and visible participation in public community rituals and parades,” she said. “These festivities are often associated with Catholic saints which Pentecostals view as idolatrous, thus a firm prohibition against attending such Catholic-cultural rituals is espoused.” 

However, in the fall of 2018, the ‘Divine Light Church,’ which Dr. Ramirez has been working with for 8 years decided to have a ‘calenda’ (parade) on Mexican Independence Day, September 16. Women and men were dressed in traditional Oaxacan garments and throwing out candy and religious pamphlets to onlookers. In other words it looked like any other Mexican parade. 

“This is interesting for serval reasons. First, Pentecostals are challenging ideas about Mexican national identity as ‘Catholic’ by displaying a Protestant patriotism, and second, The Divine Light Church is promoting the idea that you can have fun and a patriotic Mexican without alcohol,” Dr. Ramirez said. “One does not have to entirely rupture with traditional Mexican identity when you convert to Pentecostalism, perhaps a winning message in the competitive religious marketplace!” Dr. Ramirez dressed up in ropa tipica (traditional clothing) for the occasion.

Reference Cited:

Meyer, Birgit.1998. “‘Make a Complete Break with the Past’: Memory and Post-Colonial Modernity in Ghanaian Pentecostalist Discourse.” Journal of Religion in Africa XXVIII (3): 316–49.

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