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Mexico: Religion
Country Study > Chapter 2 > The Society and Its Environment > Religion

RELIGION


The 1980s and early 1990s witnessed a notable shift in religious affiliation and in church-state relations in Mexico. Although Mexico remains predominantly Roman Catholic, evangelical churches have dramatically expanded their membership. Motivated in part by the evangelical challenge, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has sought greater visibility, speaking out on sensitive public issues and ignoring constitutional bans on clerical involvement in politics. These actions ultimately led in 1992 to dramatic constitutional changes and a resumption of diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

The Roman Catholic share of the population declined steadily during the period from 1970 to 1990. In 1970, 96.2 percent of the population five years of age and older identified itself as Roman Catholic. That dropped to 92.6 percent of the population in the 1980 census and to 89.7 percent in 1990. The 1990 census revealed significant regional variations in numbers of Roman Catholics. Roman Catholics represented more than 95 percent of all Mexicans in a band of central-western states extending from Zacatecas to Michoacán. In contrast, the least Roman Catholic presence was found in the southeastern states of Chiapas, Campeche, Tabasco, and Quintana Roo.

Dozens of evangelical denominations have engaged in strong recruitment efforts since 1970. Protestant or "evangelical" affiliation -- the terminology used by Mexican census officials -- surged from 1.8 percent in 1970 to 3.3 percent in 1980 and to 4.9 percent in 1990. Traditional Protestant denominations, including Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, have had a small urban presence dating from the late 1800s. However, the Protestant membership explosion during the 1970-90 period was led by congregations affiliated with churches such as the Assemblies of God, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mor mons), and Jehovah's Witnesses. For example, the Mormons reported that membership surged from 248,000 in 1980 to 617,000 in 1990 and increased further to 688,000 by 1993.

Protestant or evangelical growth was especially strong in southeastern Mexico. In 1990 Protestants or evangelicals composed 16 percent of the population in Chiapas, 15 percent in Tabasco, 14 percent in Campeche, and 12 percent in Quintana Roo. Yet a significant evangelical presence also has appeared in several other areas, including the states of Veracruz and México, where more than 20 percent of all Protestants or evangelicals live.

Data as of June 1996




Last Updated: June 1996


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Mexico was first published in 1996. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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