Religion and Respeto: The Role and Value of Respect in Social Relations in Rural Oaxaca


This paper discusses the different ways that the notion of ‘respect’ (respeto) is used in common discourse in rural Oaxaca, Southern Mexico. My particular focus is on the relationship between religious affiliation and the meanings attributed to the term. In the ethnographic example of indigenous Zapotec villages, where I have done fieldwork since the late 1990s, I examine how Protestants and Catholics employ the term and how it serves as a tool for legitimising their attitudes towards each other and towards the social norms of communal life. Both Protestants and Catholics consider ‘respect’ as an important value in social relations and communal well-being, but in significantly different ways. Catholics conceptualise respect mainly as a hierarchical value central to which is villagers’ subordination to the authority of customs and communal leaders. For most Protestants, however, respect is a horizontal notion that is associated with freedom of faith and the individuals’ right to distance themselves from the ‘traditional’ without being excluded or marginalised. The differences between these two perspectives are reconciled by a mutual acknowledgement of the need to reciprocate respect. This has enabled many rural communities to reach social consensus despite the increasing diversification of religious identities and a long history of religious conflicts in Oaxaca.

Author Information
Toomas Gross, University of Helsinki, Finland

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2014
Stream: Ethics; Religion; Philosophy

This paper is part of the ACERP2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Helsinki T. (2014) Religion and Respeto: The Role and Value of Respect in Social Relations in Rural Oaxaca ISSN: 2187-476X – The Asian Conference on Ethics, Religion & Philosophy 2014 – Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon