The bonds of a common faith: Catholicism, marriage, and the making of borders in nineteenth-century Paso del Norte

Jamie Matthew Starling, University of Texas at El Paso


The Roman Catholic Church occupied a central place in life in the U.S.-Mexican borderlands as it governed interpersonal relationships, marriage, and family law from the Spanish colonial period until the 1860s and 1870s. This project examines the role of this church in Paso del Norte (present-day Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas) as a social institution that regulated domestic life against the backdrop of dramatic political, economic, cultural, and ecological transformations. The central sources for this study are the marriage records of the Parish of Guadalupe. This church emerged as a Franciscan Mission for the indigenous Manso people in the seventeenth century and became a secular parish of the Diocese of Durango in the eighteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the parish experienced many of the processes that defined the United States-Mexican borderlands on an intimate level; Mexican independence and attempts to forge a republic, military conflicts between Mexico and the United States, the emergence of long-distance trade networks, the growth of Euro-American settlement, and industrialization. One of the most significant changes the parish experienced was the imposition of a new boundary in 1848. However, Guadalupe, as the seat of the Vicariate of Paso del Norte, retained its authority over adjacent parts of Texas and New Mexico. For nearly three decades after the U.S.-Mexico War, Catholics who lived north of the border continued to be baptized, married, and buried by an institution that remained under Mexican leadership. Ultimately, the arrival of a wave of settlers who sought to "Americanize" the borderlands brought an end to a Mexican church hierarchy that extended north of the border.

Subject Area

Religion|Latin American history|American history|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Starling, Jamie Matthew, "The bonds of a common faith: Catholicism, marriage, and the making of borders in nineteenth-century Paso del Norte" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3525796.