Latinos Transforming US Churches in the Late 20th Century

AHA Session 41
Thursday, January 3, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Wilson Room (Palmer House Hilton, Third Floor)
Felipe Hinojosa, Texas A&M University
Felipe Hinojosa, Texas A&M University

Session Abstract

Our panel underlines the role of religious life for U.S. Latino communities. Our subjects, Latin American immigrants and their U.S.-reared children, created identities, social networks, and communities in churches throughout the nation, from the rural Southwest to the urban Midwest. Now comprising 17% of the U.S. population, Latinos are transforming the landscape of religion in the U.S. and challenging conventional paradigms of immigration. While most immigrants were Catholic and established a place for themselves in extant parishes, a growing number of Latino Protestants and evangelicals forged intimate religious communities throughout the late twentieth century. Our panel highlights multiple religious traditions that flourished within the U.S. Latino population. We position Latinos’ diverse faith beliefs in relation to and in conversation with each other. While each paper considers a local case study, our time frame (1950-2000) unifies the research. Especially after 1965, our research calls attention to the ways that Latinos transformed local church communities, be it with a social justice agenda or a push for inculturation. Latino religious communities retained adherence to traditional devotional forms, but also demonstrated a push to make churches culturally relevant and attentive to their socio-economic needs as marginalized people. Our panel offers possibilities for bridging scholarship on a crucial topic, often understudied in both U.S. religious history and Latino history. . The panel asserts religion’s critical role in immigrants’ adjustment and racial politics. We also recast Eurocentric assumptions of immigration and religious history narratives. With a story of ongoing immigration as the papers’ backdrop, together we examine how the movement and reordering of people, religion, and cultural practices drove the creation of spaces open to cross-cultural, intracultural, and transregional interactions that transformed U.S. churches in fundamental ways.
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