Martín Báro & the Theology of Liberation

As a theologian and psychologist, Martín Báro held a deep passion for the spiritual, physical and mental well being of all individuals, specifically those that have been subjected to colonialized systems of government, including and especially with respect to their systems of intellectual development. Báro’s view of these social mechanisms include an understanding of how such mechanisms function to indoctrinate those living under its control. In most instances, such mechanisms lead to the acceptance and belief about one’s own inauthentic identity in a manner completely susceptible to their own continued domination and oppression. In the philosophy of Karl Marx such mechanisms are designed to produce what Marx referred to as a “false consciousness” (Christopher Pines: 1993). As a trained psychologist, Báro believes that the field of psychology operates under such mechanisms to perpetuate a false or fictionalized image of being human. In this context, then, the objective of these mechanisms is to produce decontextualized individuals that are completely ahistorical and in this way serve to perpetuate oppression. In Báro’s personal encounters with such social mechanisms and his own critical analysis of how they function, he finds three ideological components that serve to sustain them:

1) Scientistic mimicry; 2) Inadequate epistemology, and; Provincial dogmatism.

Most often, one lives in a culture of domination, whether it be over a conquered people outside of the motherland, or internal to North American society over racial, ethnic and gender differences not favored by the power structure in control of the social, political and economic spheres of influence in the daily lives of its citizenry. In this context, psychological health and well being is represented as an abstracted concept that is subject to the whims of society and the interplay of social, political and economic influences. In the psychology of liberation, Báro believes that the primary objective of psychology should be directed towards the dismantling of colonial structures whose domination over the social, political and economic spheres are still governing  the  consciousness  of  Latin  Americans  and  to  help  facilitate  the  liberation  of individuals and communities to achieve personal and collective freedom in the form of a critical consciousness (Freire:1968).

In this context, Báro provides us with three programmatic objectives that serve to contextualize the psychologist’s efforts at liberating individuals from the colonial domination and oppression of their authentic beings and their psychological health and well being. Specifically, Báro believes that we must strive towards the following: 1) the recovery of our own historical meaning or memory. Báro believes that the Latin American’s negative self-image is a result of internalizing the colonial structures of oppression rather than a more true and authentic self-image provided by their own true history; 2) the de-ideologizing of consciousness which he equates with the development of what Paulo Freire refers to as a form of “critical consciousness”, and; 3) in utilizing the virtues of the people. Through the critical consciousness of the people, even the conventional instruments of social research and opinion polls can be used against the dominant colonial structures.

Báro differs from other philosophers in that his efforts are entirely invested in social action and implementation. To this end, Baró has always included in his objectives a proposed course of action. It was because of the concrete application of the psychology of liberation that he and his entire family were murdered by representatives of the colonial power structure against whom he so valiantly fought. The sacrifice he made on behalf of all Latin Americans cost him his life and that of his wife and children. Báro gave his life in the hope that all Latin Americans would be able to realize a better and more authentic sense of being that he believed all Latin Americans deserve.