I found this article about the growth in Pentacostal churches in Tucson. I can understand why Latinos leave the Catholic church. Catholicism is mysterious, old, and often quite serious. Then of course, there are the abuses of the Catholic church, but I think that you can find abuses in almost all major faith organizations. I was struck by this particular quote by Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, in that same article, “We Hispanics are emotional people. We are telenovela, Ricky Martin, J Lo, salsa and habañero chiles. We are fireballs, and here is this religion that is fireball. It engages emotions.” Oh dear Jesus, help us. Can you say “stereotype” any louder? Basically, he is equating the faith needs of Latinos with entertainment and emotional drama. Now, I don’t think that Latinos should be bound to any one faith or church. There are Jewish Latinos, Catholic Latinos, Muslim Latinos, Latinos who practice indigenous beliefs, and so on. We are a diverse group, but I’m bothered that Mr. Rodriguez is playing into a stereotype of our people to describe our religous preferences or needs. He certainly doesn’t speak for me or my social group of Latinos that I interact with. I’m sure that if I repeated this quote to any of my friends or family member that they would be offended too.
This quote also raises another issue for me in the broader sense of how we are perceived by the mainstream establishment. If we have our own people describing us as chiles, fireballs, J. Los, and Ricky Martins, how are we ever going to be taken seriously when it comes to public policy issues and the political agenda of this country? I never hear black religious leaders speaking this way about themselves. Could you have imagined Dr. King or even Rev. Jesse Jackson saying such a thing about the black community?
For the record, I believe that J. Lo is still a Catholic, and I have read that Ricky Martin admires Buddhist philosphy.