Tag: Catholic Church

Going Incognito

In the good old days, you could always tell who was what.

For example, just a few decades ago, every Latino in America — at least according to pop culture — was Mexican with dark brown skin, and probably worked as a gardener. I mean, it was pretty simple for Americans to get out their handy bucket of clichés and then start stuffing Latinos into them.

Life was simple.

But then things got messy. Hispanics started coming in different shades, with terms like “second generation” banded about, and not all of them spoke Spanish, and some even went to college when nobody was looking. And don’t even get us started on “Latinx.”

Yes, it’s gotten so complex that very real questions about identity and culture are cartwheeling through the Latino community, with the result that voices get raised, metaphysical quandaries turn into quagmires, and your basic simple-minded racist can’t even keep straight whom he is supposed to hate now.

Because the truth is that “Hispanic identity is fluid to begin with,” and “the gray area that Latinos inhabit in this country’s historical black/white binary inevitably leads to shifts in identification.”

Basically, who or what is Latino has always been a question, and it has never been more open to debate. Even age-old signifiers of culture are fading away.

For example, even in my generation, just about every Hispanic person was also Catholic. Being a member of La Raza and displaying an almost fanatical devotion to the pope was a natural combo.

But leave it to those wild, trend-setting, selfie-lovin’ youngsters — the millennials — to mess with that.

You see, “Latino millennials, overall, are becoming less religious the more they assimilate to American culture.”

Yes, we could point out that this might not be Latinos assimilating to America, as much as the other way around, but let’s save that debate for another time.

The basic truth is that “the longer Latinos are in the United States and the more Americanized they become, the more secularized they become.” In fact, “the fastest growing [religious] group among millennials is the nones” (i.e., those who align with no specific religion).

Of course, many of these Latinos are still spiritual, in their own individualistic kind of way, but many others are becoming straight-up atheists, a trend that is also true for America overall.

I guess many Hispanics are finally asking exactly what, other than eat up a lot of their Sundays, has the Catholic Church ever done for them. Personally, I believe this is a very fair question.

However, for now, let’s turn our attention to another sign that it is getting more and more difficult to pinpoint those Latinos among us.

A recent study has found that “although recent immigrants identify as Hispanic at a rate of almost 90 percent, this number drops to around 50 percent after the fourth generation.”

The reasons for this are complex. One motivator is simple self-loathing, as many Latinos who can pass for white sometimes prefer to do so. Another variable is fear, because slipping below the radar of Trump supporters is “a strong motivation for avoiding identification as Hispanic.”

Some commentators theorize that the lessening of ethnic pride “in later generations can be due to increased assimilation.”

Finally, there is the fact that the longer Latinos live in America, the more likely they are to intermarry with other groups and produce multiethnic children, and this can lead to “U.S.-born Hispanics who sometimes find their identities challenged by natives of their home countries who don’t think they’re Hispanic enough, and come off as too American.”

Regardless of the specific reason, at present, “11 percent of adults with Hispanic ancestry do not identify as such, and 23 percent of Hispanics most often refer to themselves as ‘American.’”

So what does it all mean? Well, it could indicate that in the near future, Latinos will be considered white Americans, whether they want to be or not.

Indeed, many people have pointed out the historical parallels to the Irish, the Italians, and the Jews — all of whom were considered non-white until the intensity of cultural change and the force of societal pressure suddenly made each of them, more or less, white.

Or maybe white people just got together for a secret vote and decided to let the O’Reillys and the Rizzos and the Goldsteins in — I don’t know for sure.

Regardless, it is undeniable that it is a time of great change for Latinos, and this shift can be difficult to notice when Hispanics have more concrete issues on their minds — like surviving three more years of a xenophobic toddler who would gladly depart everyone with a Z in their last name.

But it is happening.

Life is no longer so simple.

 


Who’s Next?

As I’ve mentioned before, my family is from El Salvador. I’ve never been there, but I hear that it’s nice.

Actually, I don’t hear that at all. In fact, I hear the direct opposite.

My mom and aunt came to America decades ago, and they have surprisingly little positive to say about their childhoods in El Salvador. One of my cousins came to the United States when he was a kid. He has vowed never to set foot in El Salvador the rest of his life, because the place holds such dark memories for him. And my brother has lived in that country for years now, and he has told me about the struggles of raising a family there.

So no, this isn’t going to be an up-with-the-motherland kind of article.

Because in addition to my family’s subjective experiences, there is also the fact that El Salvador is arguably “the murder capital of world.”

And that is definitely not a phrase to put on the travel brochure.

You see, the legacy of U.S. intervention, a horrific civil war, and a stagnant economy are all major reasons for the country’s problems. And of course, “violence by so-called maras – gangs that originated in the United States and spread to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – is thought to be the major push factor” in propelling the tiny nation into “a lethal cycle that the government’s current rhetoric and strategy will not be able to break.”

In short, it’s a messed-up place.

What’s interesting is that, as bad as El Salvador would be under most circumstances, a couple of stray variables have turned a horrific situation into a pure cataclysm.

Back in 1999, the government thought the best way to fight the skyrocketing crime rate was to arm its citizens. It was that whole fantastical scenario of a good guy with a gun coming in to save the day. Well, that didn’t exactly work out.

The laws “permitted the private possession of heavy weapons. Instead of reducing violence,” however, these laws “fuelled its escalation.”

Another factor in El Salvador’s demise is its hyper-religious culture. The Catholic Church has such sway over the inhabitants that abortion is “illegal in all circumstances, without exception, punishable by up to eight years in prison. Sentences of up to 30 years have been handed down when a judge determined that ‘homicide’ rather than abortion had occurred.”

When women are denied basic rights over their own bodies, the culture notices. And today, “El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women,” with “the highest rate of femicide in the entire world.”

Now, you might say that this is all very depressing, but that’s life in the third world — right?

Well, look at some of those factors again: a country where citizens are heavily armed, religion is all-powerful, abortion is illegal, and strongmen run the place.

This is the dream of everyone who voted for Roy Moore yesterday. Fortunately for America, they were outnumbered… this time.

For all the fear and paranoia that white right-wingers have about Latinos, they seem absolutely hell-bent to adopt the very worst ideas of Hispanic culture.

Perhaps El Salvador has bottomed out, and can only improve.

But the United States, if handed over to zealots, can get a lot, lot worse.


Going Green, Staying White

Lots of people lost their minds recently — I mean, really went bugfuck loco — when Pope Francis said climate change is a real and grave threat to humanity.

popefranics

Yes, a position that is supported by 97% of the world’s scientists and most of the industrial world’s citizens is somehow controversial. But then again, I’m not Catholic — at least not anymore — and of course, I’m Latino.

But why should the fact that I’m Hispanic matter on something as racially neutral as climate change?

Well, as I’ve written before, Latinos are more likely to revere nature and to support efforts to combat global warming. In fact, one study says that “54 percent of Latinos see climate change as something that is extremely or very important to them personally, much higher than the 37 percent of whites who answered in the same way.”

And Hispanic Catholics, who are naturally among Pope Francis’ biggest fans, are twice as likely as white Catholics to be concerned about climate change.

There are, of course, several reasons for this discrepancy. For starters, environmental racism is a factor. Toxic waste sites, landfills and polluting industries are located disproportionately in minority communities.

Basically, Latinos care more about the environment because they are more likely to be breathing in all that carcinogenic shit.

But there is more to it than simple self-preservation.

Some studies find that Latinos’ are more likely to be environmentalists because of beliefs that “grew from connections to their ancestral homelands and an understanding of nature as inseparable from God.” In addition, Hispanics’ concern about environmental degradation often arises “from values like love and respect — values they’d learned through their families, culture, and religion, which are inextricably linked.”

Well, that all makes sense. But there is even more to this complex relationship.

Some commentators have speculated that being part of a minority — any minority — makes you more empathetic to environmental concerns. For example, one survey found that 55 percent of gay people care greatly about the environment, compared to just one-third of heterosexuals.

The idea is that you are more likely to care about the planet if you don’t feel like you own the world.

Still, groups like the Sierra Club tend to “remain predominately white in part because they are not connecting with the actual concerns of minorities.”

So we have a situation where the people who are most passionate about environmentalism, and have the most to lose in a warming world, aren’t being heard.

How messed up is that?

 


And No Religion Too

One of my fondest memories of childhood is attending Christmas Midnight Mass at my family’s Catholic Church. My cousins and I would bask in the glittering pageantry, well aware that as soon as we got home, all the presents beneath the tree would be vanquished under our attacking hands.

I’m about to become a father. Naturally, I should look forward to taking my own son to Midnight Mass.

Well, I’m not. Because he will not be raised Catholic. In fact, he will not be raised with any religion at all.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 



Principle, Ploy, or Pandering?

Earlier this month, some polls implied that President Obama’s support among Latinos was so high that he was “close to maxing out” his lead over Mitt Romney. Think about that — Obama statistically could not get any more popular with Hispanics. The president might explode or something.

But then Obama went ahead and said that he supported gay marriage, and Republicans shouted that Latinos were so outraged that they were going to abandon the Democratic Party and vote for Romney, who of course, is semi-pseudo-quasi Mexican. The only problem with this GOP wishful thinking is that it is not based in reality.

To continue reading this post, please click here.

 


Why the Bombshell?

OK, this is going to come out as self-righteous, but I’m going to say it anyway.

I’m a straight guy who was raised Catholic. I grew up doing things like Boy Scouts and high school football. When I was a kid, depictions of gay people were rare, and overwhelmingly negative. But despite my relentlessly religious, hetro background, even as a teenager I couldn’t understand why anybody had a problem with gay people.

So I’m mystified why, after decades of social pressure, grown adults are only now saying, “I guess it’s not cool to hate on gays.” Of course, even more amazing is the fact that millions of Americans are still saying, “Yes, it is, because God told me to.”

President Obama’s decision this week to come out in support of gay marriage is breathtaking not only for its boldness, but for the fact that there is any controversy at all. I’m sorry, but try as I might to respect everyone’s religious beliefs, I can’t get past the idea that the supposedly principled stance against homosexuality is nothing more than fear, ignorance, and prejudice.

Now, those are subjects that Latinos know a thing or two about. Perhaps because we’ve felt what it’s like to be on the receiving end of those emotions, support for gay marriage is higher among Hispanics than among the general population. Yes, as I’ve written before, Latinos are no longer as socially conservative as they once were, and Republicans who insist that Obama will lose the Hispanic vote because of his announcement are deluding themselves.

In essence, twenty or so years from now, when gay marriage is legal in every state, you will have a hard time finding anyone who will admit that they once voted to deny fellow Americans their civil rights. It will be just like the old Southerners who insist they never called a black person a derogatory name in the 1970s.

Who knows, maybe even Arizona, by that point, will stop frisking Hispanic kids. We can dream.

 


Sez Who?

We all know about Martin Luther King Jr.’s resistance to the unjust laws of the Jim Crow South. King believed that achieving justice sometimes necessitated breaking the arbitrary rules that flawed humans had devised.

Similarly, in Latin America, where many of our families originated, priests often took a stand against the repressive authority of the oligarchies. Sometimes, as with Archbishop Oscar Romero, they paid with their lives.

So it’s clear that religious leaders should urge their followers to disobey laws that are unjust or run counter to the principles of their faith…right?

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Fourth and Long

Two recent polls caught my attention.

The first was taken at the height of Tebow-mania, when many otherwise rational adults believed that a mediocre quarterback could actually win the Super Bowl.

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Crystal Clear

Just a short drive from my apartment in Los Angeles stands a monument to religious excess.

It is the Crystal Cathedral, built back in the 1970s when an evangelical preacher named Robert H. Schuller had a great idea to rake in the parishioners. All he had to do was spend millions on an architectural marvel that undermined everything the Bible says about modesty and humility.

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