Unit 4 DBQ (Christianity in Latin America) with Feedback

8 min readnovember 18, 2021


William Dramby

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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AP World Document-Based Question on Christianity in Latin America

Evaluate the extent to which Christianity changed society in Latin America in the period 1500-1800.

Sample Responses & Feedback

DBQ Submission 1

World history in the period 1500-1800 depicts a turbulent era of change. At this point in history the Americas have been newly discovered and experience much change as Europeans bring their culture, language, and religion over to the Americas. Christianity, being a prominent religion in Europe, becomes one of the most influential pieces of European migration and exploration of the Americas. Although a complete conversion of the natives to Christianity did not take place, because of the large-scale conversion in the Brazilian population and the prominence of a syncretic blend of Christianity and the natives’ religion, Christianity greatly changed religion in Latin American society.
As Jesuits came from Europe into Latin America to create converts, they encountered success in Brazil. In Brazil, the African slaves newly brought to South America to work sugar plantations were widely converted to Christianity. This can be seen in document 4. The Brazilians took to Christianity and created the brotherhood of enslaved and free Africans and the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Black People as well as the religious statue depicted in the photograph. This image shows that the Africans in Brazil took to Christianity and many were successfully converted, enough to warrant the creation of a Christian church. This, in fact, is not the only Christian statue created in Brazil. In modern day Brazil, the Christ the Redeemer statue stands proud in Rio, proclaiming Christianity’s still strong hold in Brazil. In addition, Christianity remains the dominant religion in Brazil. The large-scale conversion of Brazilians to Christianity had a large and long-lasting effect on Latin American society in the 16th to 19th centuries and into modern day.
Although the conversion of Brazilians was mostly successful, this was not the case everywhere. In fact, one could argue that Christianity had little effect on Latin American society based on the writing of Félix de Azaria [document 5] which describes a native society that did not take to the Jesuits teachings or practices in faith and only seemed to take part in ceremonies because they were made to take part in them. However, as this was the view of a Spaniard who did not spend most of his time around the natives, this is not an entirely accurate description.
The syncretic blending of Christianity and the natives’ religion greatly influenced Latin American society by creating a new version of Christianity that became popular among the natives. Fabián de Vargas, a Native American from the town of Betaza, [document 2] describes a scenario where natives who were converted to Christianity incorporate parts of the natives’ religion into Christian sermons and rituals. Vargas describes the priests using a feather that adorns the head of one of the native goddesses while singing a Christian song and preaching Christian sermons. Vargas’s viewpoint differs greatly from Azaria’s view as Vargas is a native who spent much more time among the native people. Vargas was able to witness the arrival of Christianity and the blending of it with his native culture in his village. This proves the syncretic blending of Christianity and the natives’ religion by combining parts of the old religion with the sermons and ideas of Christianity had a long-lasting effect on Latin American society.

Teacher Feedback

I would score this a 7. You couldn’t get all of the documents points, because you used only 3 docs., and you need to use 4. Because I cannot see the docs., I am not positive, but I gave you 1 point for outside evidence. If you had used 4 docs. and another outside evidence, this would be a 9 essay.

DBQ Submission 2

With the rise of European trans-atlantic exploration and the following assimilation of the Americans into Afro-Eurasia existing networks, global connectivity, for the first time, was truly global. Because of these new interactions, cultural sophistication spawned globally with the mixing and combining of different cultures. New networks of knowledge and interactions were made easier so that syncretic faiths such as Sikhism in India and Vodun in the Americas began to arise between two intersecting beliefs. Although the widespread exposure that Latin Americans had to Christianity during the 1500-1800 helped create syncretic religions like Vodun and helped create better labor conditions, native latin americans held strongly to their traditional beliefs and sometimes resisted the introduction of Christianity.
First, the interactions that Christianity had with native populations were beneficial in some instances and created new belief systems. With Spanish conquest and the imposition of the Encomienda system which declared all natives as subjects of the Spanish and used them for labor in often harsh conditions, Christianity helped to better these conditions. For example, people like Bartholome de las Casas, a Catholic Priest, judged the Spanish treatment as inhumane which helped to abolish the inhumane working conditions and system in the 1540s. Another positive effect that Christianity had on coerced laborers was the effect on enslaved Africans. Document 4 shows an African saint holding the infant Jesus which shows the influence Christianity has had on enslaved Africans. This church was built by enslaved and free African Brazilians which proves that Christianity was very appealing to the enslaved laborers who often liked Christ ianity’s doctrines such as heaven. Also, the interactions between Christianity and the culture of the Africans residing in Latin America and the Carribbeans created new syncretic faiths such as Vodun, due to the mixing of traditional spirit worship from west africa with some aspects of Christianity, and even elements of animistic native american culture. Another example would be the Latin American cult of saints, which was the native spin of European catholicism in which believers had their own deities based on the Catholic saints. Furthermore the Virgin of Guadalupe, a representation of Mary as a native girl had a huge influence on native society. Document 3 recounts the testimony of a man who believes that native girl Luzia was divinely influenced and could heal people. This shows that the Virgin of Guadalupe was very influential in Brazil as the girl seems to be a typification of her. However, it should be noted that this was an Inquisition trial of Luzia which means that the Catholic Church was most likely denouncing her which means that the official Catholic Church did not always support the native “spin-off” practices even though they were influential.
However, Christianity also had a limited effect on native latin american culture which often resisted it. Document 1 recounts a priest that laments about how the natives in some areas have warped catholicism and replaced some of it with “idol practices.” He goes even as far to say that the Devil was indirectly trying to persuade the people not to forget the ways of their ancestors. This shows that the natives had really tried to retain their traditional practices and culture even in the face of Christian influence. It should be noted that this document was written by a Catholic priest during the 1600s which explains why he would have a horrified view of the natives potentially mixing catholicism with extra practices. Document 2 recounts a native ceremony where they sacrificed animals. This was much against the Catholic teachings at the time and this document proves the natives knew that by recording that the natives posted guards to give warning if a Spaniard came near. This further proves the natives were trying to actively resist Christian influence on their traditional culture. Document 5 says that the natives were “deficient” worshippers of christianity. Felix de Azara notes that there were a few natives who learned sermons, but they were mainly nonsense which shows that the natives didn’t really fully embrace christian doctrines and there was “little true” religion among the population. It should be noted that this document, written by Felix de Azara, has the purpose of informing the King of Spain and other officials about the effectiveness of Jesuit missionaries which explains why he would be evaluating how many natives and to what extent were the natives “real” worshippers.

Team Fiveable Feedback 1

Just some thoughts. Your Contextualization was conceptual but make sure that you continue to use specifics. I would have moved the conversation to the Columbian Exchange and the Atlantic Ocean. You hinted at that but could have been more geographically focused. Solid and thoughtful thesis. I like how you wrote a complex sentence. Feel free to use two separate sentences if you feel like you are running on.
I encourage you to use sourcing words like purpose, point-of-view. You could have done POV on de las Casas but just addressing him as a Catholic Priest doesn’t thoroughly connect the person to the document.
We are not fulling grading DBQs here. However, I will say you are on the right track and I would be happy to have you in my classroom! Keep it up! If you have a specific question, feel free to ask!

Team Fiveable Feedback 2

Hey – your practice is showing through this! Great use of documents, and an easy way to improve it would be a frame out the analysis of the docs. Instead of just “Catholic priest” consider WHY de las Casas would have written that (what about him being a Catholic priest would have influenced his writing) Inserting the idea of other syncretic religions into the first para is great (Sikhism) because it goes beyond the region that this question is about.

Team Fiveable Feedback 3

Hey! Lots of great stuff to work with here. Solid thesis and doc use.
I would potentially give complexity here. You do a nice job of it, particularly at the end of the first doc-based paragraph, where you tie in the OE and docs and note both resistance and conversion.
Thoughts here - you gloss over Doc 4 a bit, generalizing that because enslaved Africans built churches, they “likes Christianity’s doctrines…” It’d be stronger to note HC here, notably that the enslavers forced conversion, or by tying in Voodoo and Vodun more clearly (which, you do afterwards). Noting that Papa Legbo in Voodoo for instance parallels St. Peter in Catholicism is noteworthy and connected to imagery used in the religions.
Finally, you can sharpen up context to give yourself a “leg up” in OE. Some graders would potentially see this as “double-dipping” since you note Vodun in the intro and then go back to it for OE (I wouldn’t, personally - it’s clear that you’re supporting something you’ve noted in a ‘preview’). However, by noting specific evidence for what you’re saying - here, you say things like “cultural sophistication” but I’d rather hear what you mean by that, or have you note navigational tech that gets Christianity to Latin America in the first place, or even the Columbian Exchange.
Really solid job! You’re going to kill it tomorrow!

Team Fiveable Feedback 4

 If you want to use the broad idea of expansion and how that gets folks to Latin America (and ultimately spreading Christianity), give specifics - dates, events, people - that get us there. That’s why I think Columbian Exchange, nav tech like the compass, or religious splits like emerging Protestantism/Inquisition would be good examples to use in contextualizing this topic.
I like to use ACE for everything. In this case, if you’re contextualizing: A = What’s your context? What’s the THING or -ism or trend that “sets the stage”? C = what’s an example of the thing? E = connect the dots - how do we get back to the prompt?
EX: Context for the impacts of Christianity on Latin America is the Columbian Exchange. Due to the ever-increasing desire for Asian luxury goods and trade access, European maritime empires expanded greatly; countries like Spain and Portugal, among others, rapidly colonized Latin America. As a result, they brought with them their beliefs, notably Christianity.

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