Bonar Hernández

Latin America, Religion and Politics, Social Movements, Transnationalism


Office:603 Ross
527 Farm House Ln.
Ames IA


My teaching and research interests focus on the intersection of religion, ethnicity, and politics, the development of transnational religious movements, and the rise of revolutionary movements during the Cold War in Latin America. I received my Ph.D. in Latin American History from the University of Texas at Austin.

I am the author of Guatemala’s Catholic Revolution, which chronicles the resurgence of Catholicism among Maya communities, employing a transnational approach that incorporates elite and popular notions of religiosity by drawing on documents housed in Guatemala, the United States, and Vatican City. It examines the history of Church-state relations, the influence of papal power, the relationship between indigenous Maya communities and foreign Catholic missionaries, and the rise of Church-sponsored development programs in Guatemala during the Cold War. These projects, I argue, paved the ground for lay agency and the emergence of progressive Catholic communities in Guatemala and beyond during the Cold War.

My current research program is focused on two areas. First, I am working on a book project, tentatively titled The Making of Guatemala’s Religious and Political Activists during the Cold War, which builds on my first book and advances the scholarship of social movements and grassroots religious and political activism. It examines how Maya communities in rural, civil war-torn Guatemala developed a religious and a political identity that drove the formation of several popular organizations. These groups became a nucleus for radical forms of activism, solidarity, and mobilization among urban and rural peoples. A second project provides a transnational history of Latin American Catholicism. Using newly available sources located in Vatican City and Guatemala City, it explores relations between the Vatican and the Guatemalan Catholic Church during the years immediately before and during the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

My articles and book chapters have appeared in The Americas, The Oxford Handbook of Central American History, The Oxford Handbook of Christian Monasticism, The Cambridge History of Religion in Latin America, and Beyond the Shadow of the Eagle: New Histories of Latin America's Cold War.

My research and training have been funded by various sources, including the Social Science Research Council, the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship program, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and the Center for the Excellence of the Arts and Humanities and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University.

I have contributed to a diverse range of committees and programs at and beyond the university. I have served as a faculty senator and in several department and university committees at Iowa State. I have volunteered at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Iowa State University. Between 2023 and 2026, I will be serving as the Faculty Fellow for Hispanic/Latino Student Success at the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Iowa State University. In this role, I will contribute to the development and implementation of programs to support the academic success of Hispanic/Latino undergraduate, graduate and professional students, and support Iowa State’s engagement with the University Innovation Alliance. In addition, I will be part of the Book Award Selection Committee for the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association for the 2023-2025 period.



Guatemala’s Catholic Revolution: A History of Religious and Social Reform, 1920-1968 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, November 2018).


“Reforming Catholicism: Vatican Diplomacy in Guatemala during the 1920s and 1930s.”
The Americas 71:2 (October, 2014): 255-80.

"La historia de Guatemala en sus libros." Special Issue. Istor 23 (2006): 6-28.


"Religion, Politics, and the State." In The Oxford Handbook of Central American History, edited by Robert Holden. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2022.

"The Global South: Latin America." In The Oxford Handbook of Christian Monasticism, edited by Bernice M. Kaczynski and Thomas Sullivan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

“The Revival of Latin American Catholicism, 1920-1968.” In The Cambridge History of Religion in Latin America, edited by Virginia Garrard-Burnett and Paul Freston. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

“ ‘Restoring All Things in Christ’: Social Catholicism, Urban Workers, and the Cold War in Guatemala.” In Beyond the Shadow of the Eagle: New Histories of Latin America's Cold War, edited by Virginia Garrard-Burnett, Mark Lawrence and Julio Moreno. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2013.

Courses Taught

HIST 255: Introduction to Global History
HIST 340: Latin America, I (Colonial Latin America)
HIST 341: Latin America II (Modern Latin America)
HIST 441: Mexico and Central America
HIST 442: Rebellions and Revolutions in Latin America
HIST 513: Proseminar in Latin American History