Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Latinas, Latinos, and Religion

This week we focused on thinking how latinidad (as ethnicity and identity) corresponds with gendered and religious identity.  We discussed various terms of engagement of this correspondence, such as comunidad, machismo, marianismo, en conjunto, and womanist theology / teología mujerista, among others. We sought to understand and read competently the ways in which religion, gender, and ethnicity/identity correspond with each other in the many worlds of Latinas.

The articles by Rosario Rodríguez, Dávila, Carmona, and Delgado on “US Latino/a Contributions” and Gonzalez on “nuestra humanidad” and Latina Theological Anthropology touched upon these questions.

By Sunday at 5pm, please post a brief reflection (1-2 paragraphs) with questions, comments, inquietudes (restlesness), or epiphanies you may have had while reading these essays and later on, while discussing them in class.


  1. After our first week of class, I realized how much more important lo cotidiano is to maintaining religion rather than the typical systems of “religion”. I realized the importance of maintaining religion as a daily life event in your way, and by not maintaining traditional versions based on what an “authorized person” expects us to do. I also found it interesting how a woman’s way of practicing religion is correlated to a woman’s “marianisma”. A Latina woman is only perfect if she embodies the traditional aspect of religion by the “authorized people” who define what religion is. The concept of marianisma is something that aggravates me personally.
    This concept is a way to control how women will portray themselves. A woman is only “enough” or “good” if she resembles the perfect woman and that means someone quiet, obedient, docile, and dainty. Whereas if a woman is active, outspoken, and confident that makes the woman problematic and not “enough”. This then leads them to not feel part of their religion just because of the judgment passed on to the Latinx community. This can cause Latinas to feel not connected to their religion because however they choose to portray themself, gives others the power to tell them they cannot be a part of the religious community because they do not fit the typical mold of a woman.

  2. I found the statement “Latino/a theology is interdisciplinary in its methodology as well as justice-seeking in its epistemology” (Rodríguez et al., 47) to be incredibly insightful, since it highlights the fact that Latino/a culture in general, and theology in particular, has been erased, forgotten, case aside, and ignored for far too long. Thus, it is imperative to seek justice, and ascertain the truth when it comes to giving notions and doctrines of Latino/a theology its due. Furthermore, I resonated with the statement, “religious celebration and sustenance, strong family and community bonds, a profound sense of justice that is intergenerational and expansive to other groups, activism, ingenuity, a strong work ethic, and an indefatigable spirit shape the Latino/a experience and theological imagination” (Rodríguez et al., 48) because it is starkly similar to my experience as an Indian Hindu. Similar to the central role that la comunidad or the community plays in the daily life or lo cotidiano of Latinos, the community and religion also plays a central role in the everyday lives of Indians. Additionally, I find myself pondering a question that Dr. Carrión posed to us during class, which states, “What happens when la comunidad is forgotten?” I think that this is a very interesting question that Latino/as, Hindus, and others that follow religions wherein the community is meant to be a central part of everyday life, must grapple with in today’s day and age, wherein we are taught to be independent, and to make unique, self-sustaining choices and decisions.
    The statement, “The inclusion of women’s voices will reveal the androcentrism of liberation theology, and involve women in the production of knowledge, calling liberation theology to expand its hermeneutics, epistemology, and social analysis,” (Gonzalez, 51) is very impactful because it illustrates the fact that for the longest time, theological analyses have been focused on the needs, thoughts, and beliefs of men, while conveniently discounting and ignoring those of women. In my opinion, the androcentrism of liberation theology is a key reason why Latino/a theology is “justice-seeking in its epistemology” (Rodríguez et al., 47).

  3. “US Latina/o Contributions” and “nuestra humanidad” have opened my eyes to the systematic ways in which Christian religious teachings affect lo cotidiano for Latinas around the world. As a Dominican American woman from a socially conservative family, I thought I had a great understanding of how religion affects Latinas and traditional ideals of how they “should” live their lives. I have always grown up with critiques of how I should behave and be the “ideal woman.” In class, I had several epiphanies as we discussed how religious teachings affected lo cotidiano. Throughout the lecture, I began to understand that the ideas that are communicated and interpreted from religious teachings, such as marianismo, are meant to dictate and control how Latinas are taught to behave. This is essential to understand because men, especially in the Catholic Church, have historically interpreted religious teachings that have been implemented in society. These teachings determine lo cotidiano for Latinas everywhere. As we discussed in the lecture on August 30th, exegesis is the process in which designated people interpret sacred texts. Because these texts have been colonized by people in power, these individuals have developed ideals and simultaneous societal controls against all women and Latinas.
    Learning about Sor Juana’s story in “nuestra humanidad” served as a powerful example of how religious values can be used to control women. Sor Juana was very much an outstanding woman who defied the established norms, which provoked much outrage among her community (63-64). Those in power tried to persecute her for criticizing the persecution of women by men. I found it interesting how people tried to manipulate and denounce her on the grounds of religion. It makes me restless to consider how certain “religious” narratives have been used to control and manipulate women. I think we must all be aware of how some of these values are being used to put women down.

  4. I always knew religion played a major role in latin women’s lives, but not to the extent that we talked about in class. Growing up, my family always criticised me for not following religion, or anything associated with religion, as close as they did. They also criticised anyone who didn’t fall into the “ideal woman” whether it was for their fashion style, sexual orientation, lifestyle, or something else. After this week’s class, I realize that most likely has a lot to do with the Marianismo ideology pushed by religion. Even my family members who aren’t really religions fall victims of this too because they grew up around people who really believe in marianismo and that’s all they know.
    Furthermore, the idea that religion is mostly in solidarity with marginalized groups is something that i never thought of before, yet also always thought was a given. To me, it just seems obvious that Jesus, being a poor Jewish man himself, would relate more to the disenfranchised people found in the Bible, thus the people that follow the Bible would do the same. However, so many of the readings from this week focused on how immigration, race, and social class affect the way people interpret some of these sacred texts.

  5. After the first week of class, I realize how much I overestimated my knowledge on how religion affects Latinas. While I have known about the pressure on Latinas to embody the “ideal woman,” this was my first time hearing the word “marianismo.” This ideology to be the perfect woman, to dress a particular way, to remain submissive and quiet is frustrating. Many of my epiphanies this week related to how religion shapes lo cotidiano and how there is a strong persuasion of maranismo ideology within religious texts. One of my favorite discussions we had this week was on agony, pain, and suffering. We talked about how the Bible fails the mention the agony that the Virgin Mary would have felt knowing her son was going to be sacrificed.
    Another thing that stood out to me in the “US Latino/a Contributions” article is the opportunities for Queer Latinidad to challenge traditional ideals. This resonated with me because last semester, I took a LatinX Literature writing course and my final project, which was to write a Wikipedia page, focused on Esta Noche, a gay nightclub in San Fransisco notable to the LatinX community. I researched a lot about queer night life and Latinidad around the LGBTQ community. I was particularly fascinated by the idea of the puta/virgin complex mentioned in the article and I would love to look more into that and how religion plays a role in that ideology.

  6. Before starting this course, all I knew was that Catholicism was the primary religion of Latin Americans. Never did I consider how this came to be or the depth of religion’s effect on societal norms as well as the joint experience Latinos have. Religion is not just one part of life that is only for Sunday mass, it is every day within everything people do. I thought it was interesting how the theologians and scholars we read from tried to take a broader view of the issue at hand because context does, in fact, matter. On page 6 of Segovia’s piece, “justice for all” was mentioned when talking about God’s wishes for people. That phrase is also in the American pledge of allegiance, which has caused controversy because justice is not served for all Americans. There is a parallel within the Latinx community as the system has not met the Bible’s expectations of equality for all. Women continue to be stuck in gender roles and endure hardships simply because of society’s expectations. I wonder why the Bible has been stable enough to control Latinas for centuries if, no disrespect to any religion, it is essentially a book. Why have men had the power to hold a holy text over women’s heads and control us?
    I found it interesting that in the Narcissus story, Human Nature was a female character and usually when one thinks of “human nature”, we think of imperfection. Little things such as the choice of gender by writers lead me to think about just how males began to think of themselves as superior. There is no way one can do thorough research into religion’s direct effect on the lives of Latinas without looking at everyone else religion affects. I would argue that religion’s effects on the colonizing countries also play a role in Latinas’ lives today since they brought Catholicism to the Americas. Connecting back to my earlier statement about context, this Latina experience did not come from an unknown place. All of the Americas, not just the Latin part were affected and we must make the effort to learn and grow from this traumatic history. It is the nepantla that makes life even more difficult because not only do Latinas have the struggles of their own culture but they must also deal with lo cotidiano as an American. But, people continue to believe that the American dream exists and Latinas are essentially stuck in this cycle of not feeling as though they belong and living a life of inferiority. In order for this research to make a difference, mujeristas and all Latinas should speak their truth and be heard. Women have fought and overcome the struggles caused by patriarchy and we will continue to do so.

  7. To me, I was amazed by how already in the first week of class we are discussing subjects that are relating material to a variety of other classes that I am taking. I made this realization in class when we were talking about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz and how her work as a woman and a scientist was not seen in the light it should’ve been. She was in a covenant, not supported by the church nor by the large group in society that did not believe in her work. Versus, a male who is mentioned in hundreds of textbooks today was able to have his own lab during his time being a monk and was encouraged to continue his experiments. Further, as we began to dive further and further into the responsibilities of the marianismo and how this way of life conflicted with teachings of Aristotle of how to be happy and how a political system should work in favor of this response. Rather, did Aristotle find what makes “man” happy with his teachings of leisure time to explore without utility? If so, the society very much reflects this as women, especially Latinas, were turned into the symbol of cooking and cleaning with no leisure time to work without utility. How has the University and departments continued to preach this without acknowledging how this actually reflected into society and onto half of the population that keeps this institution alive?

  8. All my life I have grappled with the issue of my comunidad and my individualism. My family’s control of my life and my individualism. My individualism has been my happiness ever since I was eight, but the more I come to grow the more I realize that it was also my deepest heartbreak. As Latinas I believe that a lot of the time, we have no choice but to leave one completely behind. We can’t have the best of both worlds because they are so inherently different. “Familia/comunidad for Latinas/os does not subsume the person but rather emphasizes the person is constituted by its entity.” (Gonzalez, 54) La comunidad and familia tells us what we should do to reflect who they are. These expectations are immense for Latinas as we know that marianismo is essential to being a “good woman.” All this time I have beaten myself up for deviating from my community leaving it behind for my education, for experiences, for a better future that it didn’t occur to me that it was also controlling me. Even after I have separated from mi comunidad and I know it might be for the best, individualism is like solitary confinement, and I’ve been in it for too long.
    An additional epiphany occurred when Dr. Carrion said “DEVOTION BY OMISSION” it is bold and underlined in my notes. Here I am as a Latina woman who swore she would never partake in any kind of religion writing a blog for a religion class. My omission from religion and my need to defend myself for treating as an object and for shoving me to the side brought me to learn about it. Sometimes I think that I should’ve paid more attention in my bible study so that I could understand the metaphors relating to the bible. Like the Latinas who have contributed to Mujerista theology have devoted their life to learning about religion because they have been excluded from it for so long, they had to fight and interpret the books for Latinas themselves because no one else will.

  9. From reading Both Flesh and Not, by Rivera Rivera, I think that the author made an interesting point when he made a clear distinction between the “flesh” and the “body”. The “flesh” has more to do with the core of one’s identity and place in the world while the body is a physical entity. The “flesh” also therefore extends to social hierarchies and the language surrounding how we refer to different groups of people. Following Rivera’s approach, I can appreciate how he chooses to not dismiss, but fully engage with the tradition Christain interpretations of the “flesh”, and extend that logic to show how the term “body” alone is insufficient. By establishing an essential metaphysical significance or value to human beings after seeing the fragility of human life. The Christian interpretation of the “flesh” seems to provide the basis for respecting and listening to the lived experiences of those in suffering in order to acknowledge their full humanity. The term “body” itself seems to imply a standard or limitation on the ways or types of human beings that we consider worthy or valuable, and therefore a more abstract term like “flesh” addresses this problematic underlying assumption. This broad concept of relating the Christain faith to the lives of everyday Christians was a broad concept that I also observed in our readings from last week regarding Christainity in the Latino world. With regards to the struggle of Afro Caribbeans to understand their heritage, I was able to understand how one’s skin color and group history of persecution/slavery had effects far deeper and long lasting than harm to the physical body. The idea of the “flesh” common to all human beings helps to humanize those of African descent and fight against ideas restricting “humanity” to white men. At the same time, it seems like the idea of their “flesh” is restricting them from acceptance due to deep seated social and cultural structures that views their “flesh” as inferior and unworthy.

    1. Mr. Ashwin, this week your post was supposed to be about the readings by González and Pineda, not about the reading by Rivera Rivera. Please, post the right comment here and move this one to the new week (am posting the prompter right after I finish reading these).

  10. I truly feel the passion within the classroom we all share, and I find that that isn’t necessarily the case in every class that I take. To date, this is the first non-Spanish class that I have taken with a Latina professor, and that fact alone makes me feel even more the lack of Latinx voices around me. I loved Pineda’s essay for the voices of Latina women of whom I was never aware. Growing up in a conservative, Catholic family in Mobile, AL, there were always the ghosts of segregation that haunted the city, but any race other than white or black was seen as inconsequential because it was understood (or enforced, rather) that Latinx people would stay complacent. However, when I begrudgingly walked into church each week, the majority of my congregation were Latinx… and they sat in the back: quiet, unnoticable. I didn’t interact with anyone Latinx until highschool, because the racial divides in my city were so enforced and maintained. Even in the classes I’ve taken in highschool and college, not once until this year have I had a Latinx teacher. I now hear these plights alongside the accomplishments of the few Latina women who make it into the academic literature my professors asign (sometimes more prominently if a woman teaches, or if it’s a WGS class, etc., though not always), but still, I cannot believe what I have absorbed in the first week. The events in women’s histories are things that often are treated like an umbrella teaching: as though all women may be assumed to have the same voice and therefore history. I have learned about Victorian womanhood and Womanism, but I had never heard the words “Marianismo” or “Mujerista.” I want to use these readings to further work and educate myself on the issues that intersectionally affect Latina women/of color, filling in those gaps where these voices were deprived of their right to speak for themselves.

  11. For a long time, Christianity was, for me, nothing but a source of existential dread, shame, and confusion. It’s refreshing to learn about the context and history of Christian liberation theologies in the Americas, and their reliance on the physical, daily experiences of poor people, Latinas, and Black women in the interpretation of doctrine and the formation of tradition. To embody the spiritual is a powerful thing, and it makes all the difference in the way I and others can see and experience religion and spirituality.

    I walked away from class with a greater appreciation for the role culture and material conditions have in the expression of spirituality. That alone helps me understand Christianity and its branch-offs in particular as greater than just the sum of canonized (by Latin-reading White men) texts and widely accepted (eurocentric) traditions that it is often perceived to be in “Western” civilization. It makes more sense to see religion as a way of knowing and being in the world rooted in experience and connection as opposed to the written word.

  12. Before this class I wouldn’t have considered myself a religious person. Religion in my eyes, at least Latino religion, was a slowly dying tradition of Catholicism, machismo, and patriarchy that I wanted no part in. Unfortunately, it felt like such a pillar of what Latinidad is that to abandon it felt like abandoning family and telling them their culture was wrong.
    When we discussed lo cotidiano this week it made me think about Latinidad as being intertwined with religiosity rather than religion–if that makes sense. Lo cotidiano seems to be a space where spirituality, community, and family meet, so that how we interact with each other is itself religious without having to tie so directly to Catholicism. More importantly it gives space to operate within belief and have a say in shaping it, which is what mujerista theologians have been doing. I was taught that religion must be practiced one way, eventually leading to my abandoning it, but mujeristas choose to own their religion instead.
    I highly doubt that after this course I will be any more religious in a Catholic sense, but in seeing the ability of mujeristas to commit to their beliefs and create a discussion highlighting a different narrative, it makes me feel that I can be religious in a way that transforms Latinidad.

  13. Looking at the course, the first thing that I try to fathom is the concept of Latinidad. As a Brazilian living in the U.S., I am always trying to understand more about my identity, but also how my identity defines my relationship with others. To my knowledge, Brazilians are also latinos, even if we are not hispanic, Brazil has many shared experiences with other Latin American countries, from colonialism to slavery, but we are constantly “ignored” or not taken into consideration when talking about being Latinx. As a Black Latina Woman, yes all of them capitalized, it took me a lot of time to fully unpack all of the layers in my identity and religion is definitely one of them. Growing up in an evangelical household that despised any mention of African religions, I feel a loss. Religion transcends the spiritual world, and the discussion about lo cotidiano made me realize that. So this class, to me, is about making up for that loss, for not knowing a big part of the lives and the routines of my ancestors.

  14. There were many takeaways from this discussion of cultura, communication, machisimo, and marianismo. Prior to this in-class discussion, I had a vague introduction to the terms machisimo and marianismo. However, I never received the full religious background and association of the terms. The root of “marianismo” is Maria, which refers to the Virgin Mary. This is a connection that I had not made before. The other term that was new to me was “familismo” and its connection to Latinidad. Through our class discussion, I understood familismo to refer to the rejection of cultural norms established by Latinidad to provide for one’s family. In a Latin family, it is more common, almost a duty or role, for women to make this sacrifice for their families wellbeing.
    In our second discussion, we shifted focus more to womanist theology and mujerista as a critique on first world white feminism. I found this discussion interesting because it demonstrated the need for both Latin women and Black women to create their own spaces because there are too many oppressive barriers to make a space under the confines of the systems created for and by men.

  15. I was very interested by how much power there seems to be in the organization of religious organizations like the Catholic Church. The arguments put forth in class and in the topics covered in Delgado’s piece regarding the contribution of US Latino/a in the realm of Christianity showed me that strict traditional hierarchies in religion are often a way to impose standards upon those below and fundamentally gatekeeper who should be deemed worthy of rights and respect. I learned for the first time about the standards of marianismo that rule over the lives of latinas and how deeply these notions are rooted in the Catholic view of the Virgin Mary. I was also for the first time surprised to notice the great lack of representation in Christian institutions given that there are so few Latinx people in positions of power even though they make up such a major body of the faith worldwide. The focus of US Latinx Christian theologians on liberative ethics strikes me as a major point of divergence from the traditionally eurocentric perspective.
    I would be interested to learn more about how liberative ethics influences the way that Christianity is understood and practiced in other areas of the world like Africa or India to see how similar or different their perspectives are.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *