In the late fifteenth century, Queen Isabella of Spain ordered that the indigenous people of the New World be converted to Christianity. To her chagrin, the people of the New World clung strongly to their own spiritual practices and traditions. Eventually, the Spanish missionaries, often through violence and destruction of indigenous symbols, made inroads converting the indigenous people of South & Central America as well as the Caribbean. The result, however, was not entirely as expected. Rather than replacing the indigenous traditions outright, a unique brand of Catholicism manifested, one which blended Catholic iconography, beliefs and traditions with indigenous practices, deities and rituals. For example, it is said the stories of the Virgin Mary and the Mexica fertility goddess Tonantzin were merged into the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patron Saint of the Americas.
Curious to find out more? Check out this great essay via the PBS.