MARCHA mexican folklore dancers

Hispanic Heritage Month: A time to celebrate and learn

September 15 to October 15 is recognized as Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month both nationally and in The United Methodist Church. Congregations are encouraged to celebrate the importance of Hispanic/Latino culture, traditions and other contributions to our church and society. Visit the Discipleship Ministries Webpage to find articles (some in Spanish) for this observance and worship resources that can be used throughout the year.

Latinos are a growing segment of the U.S. population and our denomination. The annual observance begins in mid-September because the 15th is the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua; the 16th for Mexico; and the 18th for Chile.

Visit our Latino Ministries Webpage to learn about Latino Ministry news, events, churches and resources in our conference.

MARCHA focuses on equality, justice

Celebration, contemplation and conversation punctuated the August 2015 gathering of MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic Americans). Members of United Methodism’s Hispanic/Latino caucus discussed:

  • urging annual conferences to develop strategies for establishing more ministries with Hispanic/Latino communities;
  • establishing a financial covenant model for sharing local church facilities;
  • economic, environmental and immigration concerns along the U.S.-Mexico border;
  • the new UM Hispanic/Latino Scholarship Fund, created by the 2012 General Conference;
  • the political status of Puerto Rico, the fate of a revered political prisoner there, and U.S. policy on the island of Vieques; and
  • lobbying Congress to lift the U.S. economic embargo in Cuba and continue efforts toward diplomatic restoration and trade relations.

MARCHA Communications Coordinator, the Rev. Hector Burgos, of the Greater New Jersey Conference, shared his observations of the meeting in Madison, Wis. He welcomed “a new generation of Hispanic/Latino leaders that is rising and making its voice heard within the church and in society as agents of change, actively working with their communities for a more inclusive church and society.”

2015 MARCHA WorkshopDuring a “Social Holiness” workshop, youth and young adults focused on biblical analyses of why God calls people to seek justice for the oppressed. Read more of Michelle Maldonado’s coverage.

Also, at their recent gathering, MARCHA members were asked by a young video production team to briefly explain the mission and importance of their organization. Watch their diverse, insightful comments along with scenes from the annual caucus meeting in “What MARCHA means to United Methodists.”

Esperanza chief promotes Hispanic culture, pride

Finally, the Rev. Luis Cortes Jr., Founder, President and CEO of Esperanza, a multi-faceted community development and leadership agency in Philadelphia, has published a letter honoring his people’s heroic past but focusing more on their hopeful future. Esperanza hosted a meeting of the Eastern PA Conference’s Urban Commission in 2014 and provided members with a facilities tour and presentation on its programs.

Esperanza Academy“For Esperanza and our community at large, this is a time of pride, historical reflection, and thoughts about the future and how we impact the landscape of our great nation,” Cortes writes. “As we move toward the next Presidential election, national discourse characterizes our community as criminals who have cheated the system and stolen from hard-working families, or thugs whose mission it is to destroy the very fabric of this country. It labels human beings as illegal. Contraband personified.”

But, he says, “Most Americans, consciously or unconsciously, know that this is not true. There are 54 million Hispanics in the United States, the vast majority of which are here as legal citizens, first- and second-generation American families. While the rhetoric creates a perception of an all-time high of illegal immigration, it is actually been decreasing and remained stable for the past five years.

Cortes calls for a corrective response to the “negative commentary,” and cites some of Esperanza’s initiatives as examples. They include the local #YoSoyLaCara campaign to create a sense of cultural pride, self-expression and self-esteem among young people.

“Hispanic faith is also recognized as an important attribute of our identity,” writes Cortes, announcing that Esperanza will join Oprah Winfrey at a meeting for faith leaders at her home on Sept. 17 and also help welcome Pope Francis, an Argentinian, when he visits the at the White House in Washington, DC, Sept. 23. Finally, the agency and Warner Bros. will host an advanced screening of The 33, “the harrowing story of resilience, personal transformation, and triumph of the human spirit when 33 Chilean miners were buried alive 200 stories beneath the surface by the collapse of a gold and copper mine.

“We are actively seeking to change the way America sees Hispanic populations,” Cortes writes. “We know the truth about Hispanics in America. We know that we are academics and artisans, politicians and plumbers. We know that we are not a monolithic mass of stereotypes. And that is why we cannot sit idly by as caricaturizations of our ethnicity go unchallenged in mainstream media.”

Esperanza, located at 4261 N. 5th St., Philadelphia, operates a college, academy and charter school; a musicians and artists association; immigration legal services; and community economic development programs in housing, business, real estate, workforce development and neighborhood planning.

For more information visit their Website at www.esperanza.us.