Monday, March 4, 2013
Monday, February 2, 2009
Sometimes I feel like a Luddite. Months ago I began this blog with the intension of posting daily and contributing to a valuable dialog among Unitarian Universalists and other interested parties. Obviously that did not happen. A Facebook page was started for me and I have no idea what to do with it or what all the various requests mean. For months I have been struggling to make heads or tails of Second Life with the intent to found the Unitarian Universalist Church of La Raza. Instead of a virtual congregation that explores the synergy of Latino/Latina Liberation Theology and Unitarian Universalism all I have is an avatar in the shape of a large cosmic bunny and several suggestive messages that I am convinced would be anatomically impossible outside the virtual world of Second Life. So I will continue to struggle and attempt to post some worthy thoughts. And yes I know what a two-way is so please no more avatars dressed this way.
On a more serious subject I have come to understand that Latino communication and thoughts are heavily influenced by metaphors. This explains some of the communication misunderstandings. The dominant culture translates English words into Spanish but the metaphor may not produce the same understanding. When Unitarian Universalists speak of community they often mean individuals gathered together around a common interest. When a Latino/Latina speaks about “La Communidad” they refer to groups (families, tribes or other subset) united by either a common interest or situation. One metaphor is for individuals joining together, the other are groups gathering with other groups.
Junot Diaz, a Dominican-American writer, explains that being in the United States he knew more the history and culture of Star Trek than he did about the history and culture of the Dominican Republic. That comment made me realize that while I was familiar with much of the culture and history of Puerto Rico, I was more familiar with the subculture of those of us who grew up in New York City with parents born in Puerto Rico. I knew little about Dominan-Americans and less about many others from the various countries of South America, Central America, the Caribbean islands or Mexico. And combined I still knew more about Star Trek than all those countries and their people. In fact I can easily explain the problems of communication in metaphors by refereeing the reader to the Star Trek episode entitled “Darmok.”
And yet if I a Latino (Nuyorican) who speaks Spanish and interacts with other Latinos/Latinas admit that I am not fully capable of speaking for other Latino/Latina groups, how can those outside our cultures and metaphors truly understand all of us. American Reductionism tries to solve this problem by subsuming on group into another. Once we have this false sense of what is a Latino/Latina, American Reductionism further shrinks the individual by creating a false binary world where you are either “white” or you are something else. Speaking for myself, but believing others share my view I state that assimilation is an anathema (goggle: Borg.) I do not identify as a person of color, a Latino or even Hispanic. I am an individual who grew-up in New York City with parents born and raised in Puerto Rico. I am a Nuyorican Unitarian Universalist Minister
Friday, September 26, 2008
The second generation grows-up with Spanish at home and English outside the home. They are truly bi-lingual. As they progress through the educational system English begins to dominate; again following the old immigrant/assimilation patterns. However it is in adulthood that there is a change. This generation often seeks to regain what they had in the Spanish dominant culture. Bi-lingualism and access to Spanish reinforces the Latinos cultural identity.
Why is this pattern different: proximity to ancestral countries and continued population growth. In the old patterns the immigrant’s country of origin was far distant for travel in those eras. Furthermore while many of the groups came from a particular country, the Latino population in the United States can come from South America (12 countries with a total population of almost 380 million), Central America (7 countries, 41 million) or North America and the Caribbean (16 countries). What many people in the United States of America forget is that Mexico is a part of North America. Furthermore many people in the United States frequently travel to or vacation in Spanish speaking countries. Lastly much of the United States was at one time part of Mexico or a territory claimed by Spain and these areas often retain their Spanish names. Lastly there are places in the United States where Spanish culture and language predominate.
So Unitarian Universalists and others who wish to reach-out to the Latino community should remember that we retain Spanish because we want to. However those who would be attracted to our faith are typically bi-lingual, often with advance degrees and not necessarily former Catholics. Often we have children who are also bi-lingual to some degree or have taken Spanish in school. We don’t assimilate we adapt to our surroundings and in so doing transform our surroundings. So if you want to reach-out to the Latino community be prepared to be changed.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
When Barack Obama became the Democratic Party nominee for president of the United States. The pundits were quick to declare this as a historical moment where a major U.S. political party had nominated an African American for this office. Next they underscored how Obama was the son of an African Immigrant and an American mother. They stumbled over each other trying to reduce Obama’s identity to something historic and identifiable (Black, African American, Person of Color). Then the issue turned to the fact that his mother was white, so there were more identity questions (biracial, multiracial, mixed race). Thankfully no one has used the old term mulato but the campaign is still young.
In a recent report from a Unitarian Universalist Association committee the phrase “…people of color; Latino, Latina, Hispanic, multiracial, from a historically marginalized community…” was used several times. While I have been a strong proponent of more inclusive language even I stumble on these long phrases. This is not to say that group identity and self-identity are not important, it is a criticism on the inadequacy of our language and labels. At one time we used the phrase “minority groups” but some people complained that the term “minority” was somewhat derogatory and it has largely fallen out of favor.
In the 1990s American Reductionism assigned people to essentially two groups: People of Color and those who were not people of color, often called White and sometimes Euro-Americans. However this compromise formula has not been completely accepted as it is often an identity imposed on people and not necessarily a self-identity of individuals or ethnic groups.
In our Unitarian Universalist faith, reductionism has caused misunderstanding, conflict and disenfranchisement.