The cult of santiago among the indigenous communities of hispanic america: symbol of comprehension, reinterpretation and identification of a new spiritual reality


  • Anna Sulai Capponi Università degli Studi di Perugia



Santiago, Imaginario, Religion


The cult of Santiago apostle, the patron of Spain, and the symbol of the Spanish reconquest, reaches America through the conquerors. During the conquest period, he became the symbol of Christendom’s strife before the indigene’s paganism. However, a fact of singular importance can be noted. The same Saint invoked by Spanish people during the conquest battles turns into a protector and defender for natives. His powerful and martial image immediately fascinates the natives who take possession of this Saint transforming him from Indian-slayer into a protector of Indians themselves. Before this fact, one cannot speak exclusively about syncretism, but about something that goes beyond it. The cult of Santiago is a concrete manifestation of the new American reality, a fruit of necessity and desire to recreate a new society in which ancient philosophies and religions are blended with new historical contexts. In Latin America, the indigenous communities conquered by the Spanish react to the cultural and emotional impact by interpreting the new spiritual elements imposed by the conquerors. The indigenous and the Spanish spirituality identify to each other in a new language of a new social reality. Hundreds of indigenous peoples devoted to Santiago are witnesses of the huge expansion of the cult of a Saint that, not only came from very far away, but also presented as an enemy. This new cult was became the symbol of identification of two peoples, two cultures, two religions, the symbol of the new race that arose at that time.


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