Hispanic heritage in the United States is tied entirely to the Catholic faith

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The country celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. It is a month rooted in the Catholic faith.

Hispanic Heritage Month has begun in the United States. It is a month rooted in the Catholic faith and the deep cultural influences of Spain and Latin America. Aleteia spoke with Arturo CepedaAuxiliary Bishop of Detroit and Chairman of the Commission for Cultural Diversity in the Church; Mar Munoz-Visoso, executive director of the Commission for Cultural Diversity in the Church; and Elizabeth Roman, president of the National Hispanic Pastoral Council. Hispanic Catholics have special reasons to celebrate.

It was President Lyndon B. Johnson who, in 1968, started the Hispanic Heritage Celebrations, although it only lasted a week; in 1989, the Reagan administration increased it to a full month.

Since then, the country celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15. It is a month that celebrates the contribution of Hispanics to the United States in all areas: history, culture, economy and art.

The entire national territory, especially in the south and west (Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California) is full of names of cities and towns and institutions that reflect the great heritage of the Hispanic and Latino heritage in the country. , socially and ecclesiastically.

Joan Martinez – Biblioteca Digital Hispanica (CC-BY-NC-SA)

September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Additionally, Mexico and Chile celebrate their Independence Days on September 16 (Grito de Dolores) and 18, respectively. Finally, the month closes just after October 12, Columbus Day, commemorating the European discovery of America. But significantly, October 12 is also the feast day of Spain’s patron saint, Our Lady of the Pillar.

However, despite the various initiatives launched in the media, institutions and universities, Hispanic Heritage Month is still far from significant in popular culture. It even remains somewhat invisible in church circles, despite the fact that Hispanics, 19.5% of American society, already make up nearly 50% of Catholic parishioners in the country.

A visible heritage

“In this celebration, the most important thing is to present to the country who we are, our Hispanic heritage in the United States, and to celebrate our union as brothers and sisters in this societysaid Bishop Arturo Cepeda, auxiliary bishop of Detroit and chairman of the Commission for Cultural Diversity in the Church. Aleteia.

“Celebrating our heritage is essential for our new generations, and that is why these celebrations are very meaningful for us, for our Church and for our society, which must also learn and value what Hispanic Catholics bring to our country,” said added the prelate. .

For the executive director of the Commission for Cultural Diversity in the Church, Mar Muñoz-Visoso, Hispanic Heritage Month is “an opportunity to celebrate and show the public our religious and cultural traditions.”

“Few people know that Hispanics have been responsible for about 70% of the growth of the Catholic Church in the United States over the past 35 to 40 years. And that today, already more than 50% of all Catholics in the United States under the age of 18 are Latinos, the vast majority were born and raised here,», explains Muñoz. “In many states and cities, there are folk festivals, food festivals, cultural activities, conferences, and ‘people’s masses’ celebrated in the open air and at shrines across the country. Celebrations begin in September to commemorate the national independence holidays of many Latin American countries and end in October around Día de la Raza, as it is called in Mexico (Columbus Day in other places), celebrating our common roots and our cultural identity. Among us, there have been and there are great artists, doctors, scientists, athletes, civil servants and businessmen. It is time to celebrate them!

historical memory

Catholicism came to the United States through the Spaniards, long before the 13 colonies even existed. And he hasn’t left since then, because the descendants of those Spaniards continued to live in Florida, California and New Mexico, even when the borders changed. This is what Elisabeth Román, president of the National Hispanic Pastoral Council, tells us.

But how do you celebrate Columbus Day when Christopher Columbus has become a “politically incorrect” figure and his statues are being torn down across the continent? “It’s painful for us,” says Román. “We try to judge the past with today’s values. How will they judge us in the future? We Hispanic Catholics believe in dialogue, in listening, in looking for the bright side of things.

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“As long as there are grandmothers, this faith and this culture will be transmitted. As long as our faith, our language and our culture are rooted as they are in the Hispanic and Latin American people, our young people, even if they do not speak Spanish, will have this faith.

AFP PHOTO/JUAN CEVALLOS

The history of Hispanics in the United States, says Mar Muñoz-Visoso, is “a great history that has not yet been known. Early evangelism, especially in the southern and western United States, was carried out in Spanish and by missionaries from Spain, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

The Spaniards “founded missions and towns and built chapels and churches. Their apostolic zeal led them to be very creative in order to spread the Gospel message among the natives. The entire national territory, especially in the south and west (Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California) is full of names of cities and towns and institutions that reflect the great heritage of the Hispanic and Latino heritage in the country. , socially and ecclesiastically. The establishment of the missions gave birth to colonies which are today among the great cities of the American West and which still bear their names (San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Rosa, Santa Clara, San Antonio in Texas)” , he adds. .

But America’s Hispanic roots aren’t limited to the Spanish era, Mar points out.“After the establishment of new frontiers, with successive waves of migration from Latin America and the Caribbean to large urban centers and rural areas, Catholics of Hispanic origin brought much of our religious, ecclesiological heritage and cultural, and we have distributed it throughout the national territory.

Caring for our roots

Is Hispanic culture in danger of being diluted in the United States? “As long as there are grandmothers, this faith and this culture will be transmitted. As long as our faith, our language and our culture are rooted as they are in the Hispanic and Latin American peopleour young people, even if they don’t speak spanish they will have that faith“, explains Elisabeth Román.

This culture and these beliefs are transmitted in the family environment, in everyday life: in the way of cooking, in Marian devotion, in prayers.

“We’ve been here for many generations of Hispanics and you can still see those things in our young people; even if it’s a rosary, even if it’s a tattoo of the Virgin or a cross. These are expressions of faith that have not disappeared and will never disappear, because the roots of this country are Catholic and Hispanic“says the president of the National Hispanic Pastoral Council.

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