Academic journal article Theological Studies

Mestiza Spirituality: Community, Ritual, and Justice

Academic journal article Theological Studies

Mestiza Spirituality: Community, Ritual, and Justice

Article excerpt

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MESTIZA SPIRITUALITY is a spirituality that creates a new borderland space filled with a new meaning of self-in-community which bridges and balances two or more opposing worlds. It further manifests itself in the synthesis and reinforcement of regional popular religions practices and liturgical celebrations. Within this article, I seek to explore an understanding of mestiza spirituality and its relationship to ritual, community, and justice. I use the concept of an "oppositional consciousness" to shed light on the mestiza's dynamic and continuing process of navigation and negotiation between two and often multiple worldviews. By worldview I am referring to the U.S. dominated culture and a variety of Latino/a ethnicities. (1)

Critical to understanding the mestiza's worldview is oppositional consciousness that includes the access and filtering of a myriad of values, thoughts, feelings, and understandings. Fundamental to this mestiza consciousness is a spirituality harnessed by conquest, marginalization, and resistance. These factors are galvanized by the mestiza's borderland facultad that strategizes, translates, navigates, and bridges the self-in-community by means of forging a conjunctive, differential oppositional consciousness, and a tactical subjectivity. This subjectivity negotiates its survival, engages in shifting identities, becomes flexible and mobile, seeks to deconstruct binaries, develops solidarity and affinities, and allows contradictions in order to subvert these contradictions and dissolve them. Mestiza spirituality is a spirituality of conjunctive, differential oppositional consciousness that recognizes that "the experience of daily indignity at the hands of the dominant group" calls attention to a litany of injustices in a system of domination, exploitation, and oppression. These structures of oppression by the dominant group create an oppositional consciousness in subordinate groups that, in extreme cases, turns anger into hatred and these hatreds (racial, class, gender, etc.) in turn perpetuate other hatreds that lead to violence, intolerance, and separatism. Mestiza spirituality recognizes the ethical pitfalls and moral dilemmas caused by these hatreds, and counters them by subverting these contradictions through a "praxis of love" (Chela Sandoval), non-violent actions, and by taking seriously the Christian ethical command to "love thy enemy," and not by dehumanizing or destroying the oppressor, but by transforming the oppressor and the structures of oppression through an ethical praxis of love.

When one reflects on the next generation (18 to 35-year-old) of U.S. Roman Catholic Latinas, one finds a population of women searching and experimenting but still grounded in traditional values within this vida loca. La vida loca is an expression that historically refers to the urban gang life of Chicanos in large cities such as Los Angeles. I am aware that the Chicano community in general uses this term to refer to the drug and alcohol lifestyle of gang members and their code of loyalty, but I would like to expand the understanding of this term to include a more multifacetcd, complex interplay of values and challenges within the Chicano community. The expanded meaning of this term is manifested most clearly in a film titled Mi Vida Loca, produced in 1993, that depicted the life of las locas ("home girls") in Los Angeles. They were primarily single mothers in relationships with men who were addicts. The film also portrayed the women's independence, strength, and friendships. (3) If we were to apply this expression with its expanded meaning to spirituality we must ask, what would a spirituality that emerges out of this vida loca look like? We have seen how this is reflected in music and popular culture. Nonetheless, the role of religion has been marginalized.

There is a dramatic raising of consciousness taking place in the Latino/a community today. Young people are asking why they are not included in the history books of their country, why they do not see themselves represented in the upper echelons of power and authority of the Church, and why their "home religion" is at the periphery of their institutional churches. …

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