Volume 7, Number 4

November 2011

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The Missionary Experience in Ireland, Latin America and the Caribbean: Connections, Influences, and Reflections

By Clíona Murphy

California State University Bakersfield  


This issue of Irish Migration Studies in Latin America sees a transition in personnel. The new editor-in-chief, Clíona Murphy, and her editorial team, Dennise Bentle, Matthew McCoy and Michael Gutierrez, are based in California State University Bakersfield.  John Kennedy, based in London, previous guest editor and contributor to this journal, as well as vice president of SILAS, is taking on the role of editorial consultant. Rubén Héctor Robledo Molloy is the new production editor of the journal and manager of the SILAS website. He is based in Argentina and has directed the yahoo group Irlandeses_Mercosur  (composed of five and a half thousand members) since 2002, which links Irish communities in Argentina and Latin America. He also runs the website www.comunidadirlandesa.com.ar  (on Facebook as Comunidad Irlandesa). Carolina Amador Moreno, based in the University of Extremadura, Spain, continues to be the book review editor. 

 The new team hopes to maintain the standards and inspiration of Edmundo Murray (journal and society founder and, for many years, journal editor), of Claire Healy  (also a former editor), and of the many guest editors. While difference in appearance and format may come as a surprise to some readers, it is hoped that it will not distract from the quality of the articles in this edition. The journal will continue to have occasional thematic issues (sometimes with a guest editor), and will also have non-thematic articles in most issues, reflecting new research and reassessment of old views and interpretations. The next issue of the journal, guest edited by Gráinne Kilcullen, will focus on Human Rights, Ireland and Latin America. Subsequent issues will deal with gender, science, and Latinos and Irish in the United States among other topics.

 With the aim of maintaining high academic quality, an effort is underway to form an international editorial board, composed of scholars from different geographic regions whose expertise reflects different time periods, disciplines, and linguist spheres. When the board is in place, all articles will be peer-reviewed, thus benefiting both authors and readers. The editor is approaching individuals to be on the editorial board.  Readers are also invited to apply and asked to cite their academic qualifications, affiliations, disciplines, areas of expertise, and linguistic ability. They should indicate their willingness to peer-review manuscript submissions and review books, by invitation and following stipulated guidelines. Contributors of articles, book reviewers, and peer reviewers are asked to consult and adhere to the latest version of ‘Notes for Contributors’ to be found on the journal website before they submit manuscripts or reviews.

 Another change reflecting the desires of a number of members of SILAS, and echoing concerns raised at the online Annual General Meeting in November 2010, is that articles may be submitted for consideration in Spanish, Portuguese, French and English. Consideration of articles will depend upon the availability of peer-reviewers in the language and discipline of the submitted article. Should an article be accepted for publication, and the author so desires, links can be provided to a professional translation of the article (provided by the author and subject to review by a language and discipline expert, if available).

 The participants at the stimulating Third Conference of SILAS held in Dublin City University in March 2011(http://www.dcu.ie/salis/conferencesecret-sandlies2011/pdf/Programme_SILAS_2011.pdf) discussed ways to reinvigorate SILAS, maintain communication among its members, promote discussion, encourage collaboration, and foster the vitality of the organization between the biennial conferences.  The suggestion that the Society have a blog has been enthusiastically taken up by Sebastião Martins, from Portugal who is a graduate student at the University of Cambridge and Christiany Vieira from Brazil, a psychology graduate student in Dublin.  The overlapping connections, histories, politics, literatures and social issues of Iberia, Spanish speaking South and Central America, Mexico, the USA, Brazil, the Caribbean and Ireland may be discussed depending on the concerns of the moment and the interests of the members. The blog will also report on research in progress, summaries of new research, reviews of conferences, news of upcoming conferences, the possibility of SILAS members forming panels for non SILAS conferences, and Calls for Papers. Other interesting news items like the recent exhibition at University College Cork, featuring Alma López’s controversial portrayal of the Virgin of Guadalupe http://www.examiner.ie/ireland/cork-bishop-criticises-offensive-mary-image-158770.html could also be reacted to and discussed. Therefore, the blog can be a means of reflecting concerns of SILAS members and focusing on items which may not be included in the journal, or included at a later point. Irlandeses.blog can be found at http://sertanejandoamerica.wordpress.com/about/

This Issue

 This issue of IMS focuses upon religious links between Latin America, the Caribbean and Ireland. Séamus O´Fógartaigh, a seasoned journalist and scholar who lives in Mexico, introduces and concludes the thematic section of the journal. His introductory article  ‘A Historical Review of Irish Missionary Activity in Latin America’ surveys the period from the 1500s to the twenty-first century.  However, it begins earlier with a discussion of an intriguing similarity in both Irish and Aztec folklore which alludes to a visitor who crossed the Atlantic centuries before the Spanish and Portuguese.  O´Fógartaigh finishes with the termination of the Cork Mission in Perú in 2004.

 Following O´Fógartaigh’s introduction are articles which combine recent research  (Binasco, Maher, and Howatt), personal memoir solidly set in the scholarly literature (Connaughton), and journalistic reflection and investigation of an event that is still contemporary for some and sinks into the annals of history for others (Cid).  Matteo Binasco, a recent PhD from National University of Ireland, Galway, now based in Genoa, discusses ‘The activity of the Irish priests in the West Indies of the seventeenth century: 1638-1669’.  His article, based on extensive archival research, is a fascinating study of the complicated relationship between Rome, Irish missionary priests, and British, French and other colonists. It is an example of the importance of the concept of the ‘Atlantic World’ where the individuals discussed live and think in a world connected by ships, letters, rules, ideas and religion.

 Conrad Hicks’ biographical article on  ‘Susannah Beamish-Strachan: From Cork to Costa Rica (1874-1950)’, reveals the life of a Cork woman who has not yet received the attention she deserves outside of her religious community. Nor can she be found in the extensive scholarship that has been produced over the last thirty years in Irish women’s history. In 1922, she founded Escuela de Capacitación para Mujeres Jóvenes (School for the Training of Young Women) which today is the thriving Universidad Biblia Latinoamérica.  (In 1924 men were admitted.)  Her religious convictions were embellished with ideas on the equality of women and an acceptance of different theologies and denominations.  Hence, the university is today seen as a theological centre for students from different denominations and from various parts of Latin America. The outline of her life here will hopefully be followed by more extensive studies by Hicks or others as a monograph is in order.

 The articles by Pablo Cid and Alo Connaughton bring us into the second part of the twentieth century and are disturbing in their accounts of what happened to clerics and others under the dictatorships in Argentina and Chile.  In the case of the Cid article, ‘The “Assassinated” Voice of the Pallotines: The San Patricio Massacre in Buenos Aires, 4 July 1976’, there are suggestions of possible cooperation/collusion between the Hierarchy and the State. Cid tells the chilling tale of a specific event, the murder of priests and seminarians. While Alo Connaughton’s  ‘Mission in Pinochet’s Chile: A Memoir’ discusses a more protracted period in the life of an Irish missionary priest working under difficult political conditions

 Garret Maher’sTransnational Religions: The Brazilians in Ireland.’ underscores the idea that the Atlantic World is as vibrant today as it has been in past centuries. Maher, who also received his doctorate from Galway, has written an article about the Ireland of the, now defunct, Celtic Tiger. Through interviews with immigrants and other sources, Maher describes life for Brazilians in Gort and Roscommon from the end of the 1990s into the first decade of this millennium. He elaborates on how they maintained a sense of community through their evangelical churches. An article which appeared in the Irish Times in 2009 by Ruadhán Mac Cormaic about over a hundred Irish Catholic missionaries working in Brazil is an interesting complement to Maher’s article (http://www.miseancara.ie/media_article_04-04-2009.htm).

 O´Fógartaigh’s concluding article to the missionary section of this issue discusses ‘Liberation Theology: A Catalyst for Social Change in Ireland and Latin America’. He argues that the close links and empathy between Ireland and Latin America are not just based on historical connections and a commonality of religious identity and experience. They are also firmly grounded in the postcolonial context of both areas, and in the efforts by some members of the Catholic priesthood to confront oppression.

 Irish immigration into Perú in the nineteenth century is the subject of the non-thematic article in this issue, and part of the research was funded by a SILAS grant. Gabriela McEvoy, from Perú and based in the United States, discusses various Irish immigrants of different means and their diverse fates in Perú.   She also introduces an element of gender analysis in looking at the immigrant experience of Irish females. Hopefully, an upcoming issue of this journal can further develop the theme of the different experiences of Irish women as immigrants in the Luso and Hispano world.

 Two of the book reviews are extensions of the theme of this issue.  Nini Rodgers’ review of Natalie A Zacek’s, Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands 1670-1776 can be read as a sequel of sorts to Binasco’s article on priests in the West Indies in the 1600s, which ends where Rodgers and Zacek pick up. Gabriela McEvoy’s, review of Leonard O’Brien’s book Children of the Sun, about the Cork mission to Perú, is pertinent as it is both a summary of the content of the book and written from the critical perspective of one who knows the land, terrain and psyche of the country.

 David Barnwell’s review of Mario Vargas Llosa’s El Sueño del Celta is of relevance for all readers of this journal, but particularly for non-Spanish readers as the novel by this 2010 Nobel Prize winner for literature has not yet been published in English (see Vargas Llosa’s interview with Angus Mitchell http://www.irlandeses.org/0907mitchell02.htm ). Besides commenting on the novel, Barnwell explores the author’s methodology, discusses the protagonist Roger Casement and his place in Irish history, as well as delving into the complexities, delights and pitfalls involved when one interweaves history and fiction. In a future issue, it is hoped to have reaction from Vargas Llosa to Barnwell’s review.


Copyright © Society for Irish Latin American Studies, 2011

Published: 01 November 2011
Edited: 07 Diciembre 2011

Cliona Murphy 'The Missionary Experience in Ireland, Latin America and the Caribbean: Connections, Influences, and Reflections: An Introduction' in "Irish Migration Studies in Latin America" 7:4 (November 2011), pp. 299-304. Available online  (www.irlandeses.org/imsla2011_7_04_10_Cliona_Murphy.htm), accessed .

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