Hispanic Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists in Texas

Hispanic Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists in Texas

Hispanic Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists in Texas

Hispanic Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists in Texas

Synopsis

The question of how one can be both Hispanic and Protestant has perplexed Mexican Americans in Texas ever since Anglo-American Protestants began converting their Mexican Catholic neighbors early in the nineteenth century. Mexican-American Protestants have faced the double challenge of being a religious minority within the larger Mexican-American community and a cultural minority within their Protestant denominations. As they have negotiated and sought to reconcile these two worlds over nearly two centuries, los Protestantes have melded Anglo-American Protestantism with Mexican-American culture to create a truly indigenous, authentic, and empowering faith tradition in the Mexican-American community. This book presents the first comparative history of Hispanic Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists in Texas. Covering a broad sweep from the 1830s to the 1990s, Paul Barton examines how Mexican-American Protestant identities have formed and evolved as los Protestantes interacted with their two very different communities in the barrio and in the Protestant church. He looks at historical trends and events that affected Mexican-American Protestant identity at different periods and discusses why and how shifts in los Protestantes' sense of identity occurred. His research highlights the fact that while Protestantism has traditionally served to assimilate Mexican Americans into the dominant U.S. society, it has also been transformed into a vehicle for expressing and transmitting Hispanic culture and heritage by its Mexican-American adherents.

Excerpt

The Reverend Roberto Gómez, pastor of a Mexican-American United Methodist church in Mission, Texas, on the Texas-Mexico border, commented that the Anglo-American visitors to his church in December 1998 expected to find worshippers who looked like them. He experienced other instances like this throughout his tenure at the church. He noted that winter visitors from the north typically remarked to the pastor after the service that they never anticipated seeing such a large congregation of Mexican-American Protestants because they assumed that all Mexican Americans attended Catholic churches.

In addition to addressing these visitors’ perceptions, Rev. Gómez must address his own self-perceptions. He represents many mainline Hispanic Protestants who inevitably confront a crucial question of identity: how can they be both Mexican American and Protestant? Straddling this identity divide, Mexican-American (and Hispanic and Latino/a) mainline Protestants find themselves negotiating two worlds—the world of the Anglo-American dominant society, represented in their Protestant denomination, and the world of their (generally Catholic) Mexican-American community. It is in this negotiation between their two primary frames of reference—the Anglo-American Protestant denomination and their Mexican-American Catholic community—that Hispanic Protestants work out their religious and cultural identities.

Because the very terms used to denote Protestants of Hispanic background vary, it is necessary to specify how terms are used in this work. “Mexican-American Protestants” in this study refers most spe-

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