Our Faith Is Brown

Catholicism with a unique character.

Latino Catholicism has uniquely adapted the faithLatino Catholicism is the religion that resulted from the clash between the Spanish colonization and the native Nahuatl culture. This religion survived thanks to the adaptation and transformation of the Catholic message, a process that also affected the message itself as well as those evangelizing, since they had to adapt the message to their audience.

The colonized peoples listened and accepted the Christian message in part because they thought that the god or gods of the colonists must have been more powerful than their own. But listening and accepting Christianity did not inevitably mean a radical conversion or an absolute rejection of their own beliefs.

What emerged from such adaptation and clash was a mestizo view of the world with elements from the native and new cultures. Within this view and way of understanding reality, sometimes the two worlds (that of the colonists and of the colonized) met each other, sometimes they did not, and other times they completely mixed. Nevertheless, despite the reforms and new ways of understanding Christian doctrines, the result was a religion that never fully synthesized both cultures.

Popular Latino religiosity therefore is a valid form of Catholicism. The message proclaimed was in turn reshaped by those who listened to it. They made it their own and lived it with faith within the framework of their culture, their experience, and their way of thinking and understanding the world.

Latino Catholicism is not an "ignorant" adaptation of the truths of our faith but a true expression of Catholicism. It represents the effort (natural, spontaneous, and often unconscious) to adapt the message through the lens and perspective of a different way of seeing the world.

Latino Catholicism is not the same as Roman Catholicism but the result of a blend and its adaptation to a new and often hostile environment. The imagination of the 16th century present in the Nahuatl culture and affirmed and accentuated by the Spanish baroque could find tensions and ambiguities on the road to adaptation, but within its own nature there exists the ability to superimpose the elements that generate great harmony.

Your turn:

  • What do the different expressions of popular religiosity say to you?
  • Do you participate in them?

The power of popular traditions

The first missionaries to America did not know the language of the people they wanted to evangelize. They had to look for creative ways to transmit their message. Dramatizations and images helped them to do this.

On the other hand, since most liturgies were in Latin, and since the majority of laypeople could not read and thus had no access to the Bible, they looked for their own ways to express their faith. Dramatizations of the search for lodging in Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph or the Stations of the Cross have remained a part of the imagination and devotion of the people. But Posadas and Via Crucis go far beyond mere representations and have become agents of social transformation because they speak to the here and now, challenging people to action.

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