Holy Holes: Mining and Religion in the Americas

Holy Holes: Mining and Religion in the Americas

History Hangout: Conversation with Rebecca Janzen


When miners go underground, they enter a spiritual realm distinct from that aboveground. Across time, places, and cultures, miners have made religious observance part of their work, building shrines, making offerings, and naming places after sacred personages. What connects these practices, and how can we access the meaning behind them? 

The latest research of Rebecca Janzen, professor of Spanish and comparative literature at the University of South Carolina, addresses this cultural phenomenon as it has been manifested by miners in the Americas from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Studying cases in the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and others, Janzen pulls together numerous kinds of sources, including church documents, public records, and corporate archives such as the Bethlehem Steel collection held at the Hagley Library. Janzen offers us a glimpse underground and into the hearts of miners and mining communities. 

In support of her work Dr. Janzen received funding from the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society at the Hagley Museum and Library.

The audio only version of this program is available on our podcast.