By Rev. Goyo De la Cruz
The United Methodist Church recognizes Hispanic Heritage Month beginning September 15-October 15. The Rev. Goyo De la Cruz, a member of the Commission on Religion and Race for the Mississippi Annual Conference and senior pastor of "The Connection" a new multi-cultural United Methodist Church in Senatobia District, shares his thoughts as it relates to this period of observance.
Hispanics, the largest and fastest growing minority in the United States (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), have made progress in different fields of society in different
Rev. Goyo De la Cruz
branches. No one can deny that there is a fascination with our unique culture as evidenced by attention given to Columbian singer/songwriter Shakira's or the most famous television and film actress Eva Longoria. It is well known that Rafael Nadal has overtaken Federer in tennis and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, the powerful soccer player, attracts more fans than David Beckham. Furthermore, Hispanics are among famous names associated with the political class of this country.
As I began writing this article, I could not stop thinking about what has happened during these last two weeks. Narciso, a member of our new multicultural church, is in prison in Louisiana and facing deportation. Little Liz, a daughter who adores her daddy and who is faithful to attend Sunday School, will suffer much by this separation. Also, recently, I spent all day looking for money to pay the bail of a Hispanic male. After paying $805 for his release, I went to recover his car and paid $165 more. In a few weeks, he will have to go to the court and he will need to pay three tickets that police gave him. Days later, I paid a similar amount of money to get another Hispanic male out of jail.
This is the situation in which millions of Hispanics live every day. In my position as a Methodist pastor of a multicultural church, I have to think about the "Hispanic Heritage" in America. There are the famous and respected Hispanics named in the first paragraph of this article and then there are the three members of our multicultural mission. It seems that there are Hispanics that are considered first class citizens and others who are scorned and downtrodden.
When we speak of Hispanic Heritage Month, I think we have to be more realistic. The present government has deported more Hispanics than any other administration and there are many broken homes and families in constant fear. Talking about Hispanic Heritage Month, brings to reality the broken system of immigration policy and approval and the urgent need for immigration reform.
The past 10 years of pastoral work in the United States of America has been challenging for us, and I see Hispanic Heritage Month as an important opportunity to direct national attention to the contributions of the Hispanic-Latino community to the American society. Much of the activities scheduled during this month help spread the Hispanic culture and serve to celebrate the individual and collective achievements of Hispanic-Latinos in this country.
Latinos come from at least 20 countries in Central and South America. They each have different histories, social and political organizations, climates, environments and customs.
|Festival of Cultures|
Although the Latino community is heterogeneous and is constantly moving, there is a strong sense of cultural identity, language and Castilian (Spanish) remains as a common element that unites them. However, I must emphasize that the pre-Columbian languages are also part of the indigenous immigrant communities of Mexico, Central and South America, although the indigenous cannot be considered Latino.
Many Latinos and indigenous people have lived in the U.S. for generations, while others are relatively new to the country. They all came here in search of the American dream and with a desire to integrate and contribute fully to society.
Community Values from Latinos and Indigenous: They struggle to preserve their cultural heritage and in most cases the Spanish and indigenous languages. They are entrepreneurs doing their jobs and looking to be economically self-sufficient to own a home, to have a safe place for their families and access to quality education for their children so the next generation may achieve a fruitful life. They have strong family values that are expressed through their strong sense of community connection, their concern for the fair treatment of others and interaction that is beneficial to all and their solidarity because they see the individual as being less important than the group. They place a high value on fellowship.
Multiculturalism: The Mississippi Conference currently has three Hispanic missions and we can see the strong support that the Episcopal office is providing to the multicultural issue. This support will give greater impetus to the Latino community and the indigenous that communicate through the Castilian language (Spanish). We work to have unity of all races and respect for the cultural diversity of each.
From our experience as a multicultural church pastors, I must say that the challenge is great and the obstacles to such ministries are also common. However, with God's help, we will continue looking for the Gospel to be more pluralistic and accessible to all people, regardless of their ethnicity.
Festival of Cultures: Every year around the time of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage month, our multicultural mission "The Connection" celebrates a special day in north Mississippi. This is a joint activity with the Anglo community, African-American community, Latinos and indigenous communities as we come together to share music, dance and food and to participate in cultural exchanges. This activity takes place in the framework of the search for peace and racial reconciliation.