Giuseppe Bonazzi

The Gospel and Shamans: A Catholic Mission in Amazonia

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In an ethnographic style, the author recounts the main impressions of his stay among the Yanomami people at the Consolata Mission of Catrimani (Roraima, Brasil). The main topics include: the relationship between nakedness and decency; women's condition and fertility; the practice of infanticide and the Missionaries' soft suasion to abandon it; the maloca as a collective dwelling and «theological site»; shamans' activities and their relationship with the Missionaries; difficulties and progress in learning how to read and write and understanding arithmetic; the future perspectives and imminent dangers of the Yanomami people. In the final section of the paper, a general evaluation of the work of the Consolata Missionaries is discussed: a «secular » evaluation which stresses how difficult is to protect the ethnic identity of the Yanomami people in their contacts with white people; at the same time, admiration for the evangelic motivation of the Consolata Missionaries in helping a people to survive with dignity while respecting their traditional religion.


  • Yanomami
  • Consolata Missionaries
  • ethnic identity
  • shamans
  • traditional religion


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