Biblical border

Migrating Faith: Pentecostalism in the United States and Mexico in the Twentieth Century
Daniel Ramírez
2015, University of North Carolina Press
283 pages, plates, paperback

THE 1906 Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles – an ecstatic, controversial expression of spirituality generally considered to be the birth of the global Pentecostal movement – is associated above all with the African-American preacher William J Seymour. As religious historian Daniel Ramírez notes, the story of early US Pentecostalism has been rendered largely in black and white: “Early protagonists variously straddled, reinforced, or ignored the racial divides of Jim Crow America.” It has also been historically reconstructed in English. By contrast, Ramírez seeks to determine the Latino inflection of this story, and in particular the role played by the US–Mexico borderlands in the development of 20th-century Pentecostalism. The region was one of the most important crucibles for this movement that has since expanded globally, precisely because of the distance separating transnational migratory circuits from the dominant arbiters of religious orthodoxy in the US and Mexico, among them primarily the Catholic Church. The author shows how the border region was fertile territory for the religious innovation by which working-class Pentecostals overturned traditional ways of practising their Christian faith, and in the process nurtured a vibrant musical culture that tied them together. – EC