Hispanic and Latino Spirituality
Garcia (2000, p.52) said, “Hispanic spirituality, with its emphasis on family and community and its ability to celebrate life in the midst of sufferings, models spirituality as a public pursuit of wholeness rather than as private religious experience”. Therefore, spirituality, magic, and myths are emphasized in Latino and Hispanic literature frequently and in various forms. This is because spirituality remains at the forefront of many Hispanic people’s thinking, views, and attitudes as opposite to situations when spirituality is shifted to the periphery of one’s existence. Concepts of spirituality among Latino people support the importance of cultural values. In Hispanic literature, the importance of spirituality in one’s life is recognized across a variety of populations (Christie, 1998). Popular religiosity is crucial to Latino psyche (Garcia, 2000).
One of the modern books about Latino people is Drown by Hispanic author Junot Diaz (1996), the Latin American writer. The book describes the life of Dominican family that immigrated to the US. The main character is a person by the name Yunior who experienced hardships, poverty, violence, and loss of hope for a better life. Nevertheless, he preserved part of his heart for kindness and tolerance. The reader can choose whether to attribute Yunior’s positive qualities to the influence of spirituality or not. However, the book has elements of Hispanic spirituality in the form of popular elements of Hispanic religiosity that sometimes appear unexpectedly, like attending church services, considering a priest to be a special person, using particular words, acknowledging one’s spirituality in various settings. For example, “The man squeezed my bicep… the way my friends would sneak me in church” (Diaz, 1996, p.12). “I was a Pentecostal” (p.289), and, “Papi would gladly share a drink with the Devil rather than go out alone” (p.240). These elements of Hispanic religiosity (as a manifestation of spirituality) are incorporated into the story casually, harmonically, and without the air of religiosity. These elements are perceived by the reader as a genuine part of a life, not as a strange identity. Importance of these elements to the story is in that elements of spirituality serve to accentuate one’s Hispanic identity and explain Latino perception of death, suffering, concern about an individual’s family and loved ones, and connectedness with God. Also, main character’s inclination to be kind to others may be attributed to the influence of religion and spirituality on his life through culture and social values.
In Hispanic and Latino literature, spirituality is often described as an important factor that guides persons’ decisions and behaviors serves as a source of personal strength, and a part of one’s relationship with the community and family (Christie, 1998; Campesino & Schwartz, 2009). In literature, spirituality among Latino people is often manifested through Latino culture. Hispanic cultural values of close and affectionate relationship explain the essence of the active personal relationship with God. In Hispanic literature, spirituality is often depicted as connectedness of faith and immediate and extended family where traditional and spiritual values are nurtured and preserved, and presence of God in everyday situations and communication is acknowledged (Christie, 1998). Representation of spirituality, magic, and myth differ in the Hispanic literature from traditional American literature. The main difference is in that Hispanic spirituality is often associated with the role of community, family and celebration of life. To the contrary, traditional American literature often describes spirituality as one’s own affair and personal connection with God. Spirituality in traditional American literature is often associated with rigidity, seriousness and adherence to rules and the letter of the law (whether religious or secular). However, Hispanic literature portrays spirituality as a happy, vibrant and alive phenomenon (spirit of the law) that contributes to one’s happiness and gives meaning to life (Christie, 1998).
- Campesino, M., & Schwartz, E.G. (2009). Spirituality among Latinas/os. Implications of culture in conceptualization and measurement. Advances in Nursing Science, 29(1), 69-81.
- Christie, S.J. (1998). Latino fiction and the modernist imagination: Literature of the borderlands. (rev.ed.). New York, NY: Garland Publishing.
- Diaz, J. (1996). Drown. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.
- Garcia, L.A. (2000). Christian spirituality in light of the U.S. Hispanic experience. Word & World, 20(1), 52-60.
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