Latinas and Liberation Theology

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Reading about Teresa Urea reminded me a lot about a topic I was really interested in and researched a lot a few years ago–liberation theology. Basically, in the early/mid 20th century, a lot of Latin American revolutions often went hand-in-hand with support from the church. Not officially, of course–but many priests and nuns would provide sanctuary for revolutionaries as well as convey radical messages within their parishes. This led to a lot of government-sanctioned denouncing and killing of religious officials that dared to question their authority. In turn, many idols of the Catholic church became integrated into revolutionary symbols, especially Jesus Christ.

I always found this interesting because the Catholic church is always seen as a monolithic oppressive entity when in fact many Latin American countries have utilized the Catholic church as a way to radicalize the masses, for many of the most disenfranchised people will readily listen to messages from the church. While I agree that the Catholic church has undeniable roots in Spanish colonialism, I also think it’s interesting how Latinos have weaponized it regardless.

When I think of many of the Latinas I know, I think of their strong ties to religion. The fact is, while most of my Latina relatives consider themselves devout Catholics, they do believe in things that my Irish-Catholic family members don’t agree align with true Catholic practices. For example, on Dia de los muertos, my mother puts out an alter with velas and food as an offering to any deceased relatives that may pass through our home. My Irish family members always remark about how spooky that tradition is, and often say that believing in ghosts is nonsense. Mi abuela has always told me stories of supernatural things that have happened to her, miracles that she swears she witnessed, much like the ones that Teresa Urea performed.

Overall, it appears as if there is something inherently radical in religion, as long as it is truly used to cure the sick and help further the causes of those that are marginalized. I also believe that religion among Latinas is less about maintaining the status-quo upheld by the Vatican (although there are usually exceptions when it comes to matters of contraception and abortion) and has more to do with using religion to further cultural traditions.

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