Hispanics/Latinos: Peoples of many cultures

Editor’s Note: During National Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month people in the U.S. celebrate the heritage, culture and contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the nation and throughout the Americas. September 15 was chosen to begin the observance because it is the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. They all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively.*

Enjoy this article by the Rev. Brunilda Martinez, pastor of El Redentor & St. Paul’s UMC in Lancaster, Pa.

I was just 8 years old when U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaimed National Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968. President Ronald Reagan extended the celebration in 1988 to last a month, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. (I guess he understood that Hispanic/Latino peoples love to celebrate and have long “fiestas.)

In the United States Hispanic/Latino people number about 54 million. Their impact on U.S society is not only in numbers but also in the richness of their different cultures.

If we speak about food, who does not know what a “taco” is? Or how many love the “empanadas,” “churrascos,” and rice and beans. In terms of music, our popular dance lessons are not complete until we have learned to dance the “salsa,” “merengue” and “tango.”

Their cultural diversity is one of the beauties of Hispanic/Latino peoples. In fact, they are not one people but many. Latin America is different from North America. The Latin American population is a mixture of cultures that grew from native or indigenous peoples and the Europeans who came to conquer their lands and lived among them.

For centuries that history transformed their societies and created dynamic social tensions among entities. From the time of colonization even to this day the cultures have been blending, clashing, and changing. In the 21st century, globalization brings quick and drastic cultural changes. What it is today is not what it was, and tomorrow it will not be what it is now.

For Native Americans in North America the historical picture has been different. Native Americans are keepers of their distinct culture. But newcomers are more into blending, trying to fit into one culture like a melting pot.

These dynamics in North America and Latin America challenge religious groups as they try to address the spiritual needs of Latino/Hispanic groups. According to Arnoldo Mora, in his book “La filosofía latinoamericana, Introducción histórica” (Latino American philosophy. Historic introduction), these differences in history and cultures challenge theologians, as spirituality is also a mixture and fusion of cultures, traditions, and streams of thought.

There is not a set model to reach out to Hispanic/Latino communities. One model alone is not going to work. Hard work needs to be done, harder if you are not from the culture.

We Methodists have a great model to address the multiplicity of spiritual needs among Latino/Hispanic people. (Of course you can apply it to any other complexities in your life.) Our Wesleyan Quadrilateral in full function will take Tradition, Experience, and Reason in order to relate it all to Scripture.

Latin Americans have been implementing these concepts unconsciously throughout history. That is why spirituality and religion are so important, even if people do not practice their faith.

Spirituality is in the roots of the ancestors of the Hispanics/Latinos. Among the mixed cultures were people from Spain, Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, the Soviet Union, Africa and more countries. We can add the cultures of our indigenous people: the Mayans, Aztecs, Bokotas and Tainos in the Caribbean. In Mexico alone there were around 46 different indigenous groups. We can talk about cultural abundance, don’t you think?  No wonder we are so diverse!

There is a difference between people from the Latin American “mainland” and people from the Caribbean islands. The islanders are more expressive, animated and unrestrained. The cultures that blended left a rich legacy of actions, believes, music, food, and folklore. I know firsthand; I am one of them.         

Do you know that: 10 percent of the Latino American population is Protestant, that not all Latinos/Hispanics like spicy foods, and that about 30 percent of Latino Americans are considered middle class1. Of immigrants coming to the U.S. about 64 percent are educated2, Latinos/Hispanics constitute 11.1 percent of the U.S. workforce, and that is expected to increase to 36 percent3 in this decade.  

•    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1.    http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2012/11/13/crecimiento-clase-
2.    http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=821
3.    http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED481480

The Rev. Brunilda Martínez, PhD, is the pastor of El Redentor & St. Paul’s UMC in
Lancaster, PA. “El gozo del Señor mi fortaleza es.”