Mexican-American and Latino Religions

Gastón Espinosa

in Latino Studies

ISBN: 9780199913701
Published online March 2013 | | DOI:
Mexican-American and Latino Religions

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  • History of the Americas
  • US Cultural History



This bibliography traces the origins and historical development of Mexican American and Latino religions in the United States and then discusses some of the most important publications in the field. The Spanish established the first diocese in the Americas in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1511. Catholic missions and parishes were then established in Saint Augustine, Florida, in 1565, four decades before the founding of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. Throughout the 16th century, Spanish Catholic explorers traveled through the entire region, from Florida to Missouri, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, and California. In 1598 they reached the site of the modern-day town of El Paso and that same year established a mission outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1769 they established the first Catholic mission in San Diego, California. The first English Catholics established Maryland in 1634. After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, Mexico ceded the Southwest to the United States, and the Mexican Catholics living there were granted US citizenship. The United States acquired Puerto Rico after the Spanish-American War (1898–1899). Latinos have faced discrimination in the United States because of their mixed race, Spanish language, and popular Catholic and “superstitious” traditions. Because the Euro-American Catholic hierarchy often replaced retiring native Latino priests with non-Latino priests, the Latino community was often left without outspoken Latino civil-rights advocates. As a result and unlike in the African American community, in which black churches were the base of political activism, Latinos created largely secular organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, until the rise of faith-based organizations, such as the Alianza de Ministerios Evangélicos Nacionales (AMEN) in 1992 and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) in 2001, both Latino Protestant Evangelical organizations. The academic study of Mexican American and US Latino religions can trace its origins to 1968, through the writings and intellectual ferment of César Chávez, Reies López Tijerina, Gustavo Gutiérrez, Enrique Dussel, Carlos Castañeda, and Virgilio Elizondo, although important historical, sociological, and anthropological writing on the topic stretches back more than a century. The Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC), cofounded by Virgilio Elizondo in 1972, published many of the first academically oriented histories, biographies, and studies in the field of Mexican American and US Latino religions. The study of Mexican American religions received a boost in 1987–1988, with the publication of the work of feminist-informed Chicana/o literature and theologies. The next major turning point came in 1994–1996, with Anthony M. Stevens-Arroyo’s four-volume series on US Latino religions published by the Program for the Analysis of Religion among Latinos (PARAL), Jay P. Dolan’s three-volume series on the history of Latino Catholicism, and Gastón Espinosa and Mario T. García’s 1996 conference “New Directions in Chicano Religions” at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Espinosa and García subsequently published Mexican American Religions: Spirituality, Activism, and Culture (Espinosa and García 2008, cited under Introductory Works).

Article.  14323 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; US Cultural History

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