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Emotional Bonds of Catholic Missionary Nuns across the Pacific and the Caribbean in the Age of Marian Veneration in the Spanish Empire, 1850-1914

My project explores emotional bondsthat Catholic missionaries forged with others during their missions, including, but not limited to, indigenous peoples, other missionaries, and nuns in the Pacific and the Caribbean. It examines the various interactions missionary societies had both among themselves and with native populations in the Pacific and the Caribbean, analyzing the ways in which missionaries practiced and conceptualized emotions during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. I investigate the following questions: To what extent did Catholic nuns’ and local devotees’ conceptions and venerations of the Virgin Mary and other holy figures differ during the imperial expansion and transformation of Marian cults during the 1850s? How did the emotional practices of missionary nuns – such as shedding tears during prayer – shape and motivate their discourses and practices of teaching, nursing, and charitable work?Acts of compassion in missionaries’ charitable work notably increased during the era of high imperialism (1884-1914). How did emotionally-laden missionary texts shape the practices of missionary nursing and education of the nuns?

The first stage of the project analyzes Spanish authorities and devotees’ support for Marian cults, particularly in the village of El Cobre in eastern Cuba. Beginning in the 1850s and 1860s, these forms of support were expressed in carnivals, rallies, and protests. I will research the ways performances of choirs and litanies in the streets played a central role in the increasing popularization of the brown-skinned effigy of Our Lady of Charity not only among Spanish missionaries, but also among black and mixed-race devotees. Drawing on ecclesiastical documents, I will analyze competing conceptions of Mary’s importance among church authorities. However, I will also incorporate the different ways working-class devotees viewed the miraculous holy figures that were brought to the mines of El Cobre during the expansion of the copper industry in the 1840s and 1850s.

This project draws on accounts of pastoral visits, Catholic newspapers, church records, and judicial sources as well as petitions, missionary writings, decrees, and letters from different archives around the globe.