by Amy L. Sherman
Good News from the Hispanic Church
We've heard it many times now: Hispanics are America's majority minority. Newspapers have reported the spectacular growth in the numbers of Hispanics living in the United States, especially in nontraditional locations. We've learned that from 1990 to 2000, the Hispanic population swelled 300 percent in Georgia, 278 percent in Tennessee, and 117 percent in Indiana. National Geographic recently noted that Alaska is now celebrating Cinco de Mayo and that Grand Island, Nebraska (Nebraska?) boasts a Spanish-language radio station. According to the business magazines, corporate America is increasingly underwriting Spanish-language advertising while firms puzzle out how to communicate effectively to the 17 different Hispanic subcultures now represented in the United States. Political pundits speculate about the impact of Hispanic voters and policymakers argue about immigration. We've been regaled with stories of Hispanic superstars like Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez (who seems to have appeared on more magazine covers than anyone since Jackie Kennedy). What we haven't heard very much about is the Hispanic church.
Two recent studies shed some light on this subject. Interim findings from the three-year investigation, "Hispanic Churches in American Public Life" (HCAPL), funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, offer some counterintuitive insights about Hispanic Christians' political opinions and activities. And the Hudson Institute's Faith in Communities initiative, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, has conducted a year-long study revealing much about the community-serving activities of Hispanic Protestant churches. Neither of these studies provides exhaustive information, but they do offer some intriguing snapshots—welcome indeed when a subject of such importance has been so conspicuously under-reported.
Religious Hispanics in the Public Square
Gaston Espinoza, a Latino studies scholar at Northwestern University, oversaw the HCAPL project. Its study of over 2,000 Hispanics ...