September 26, 2012

DAY 11: Hispanic Heritage Month 30 Day Challenge


There’s no doubt that Latinos love God – especially the ones who don’t go to church. Latinos’ love for God isn’t just spiritual, it’s cultural. How many other ethnic groups name their kids Jesus?

La Virgincita
But more than God, Latinos love the Virgin Mary, or La Virgin. Sure you’ll see a papi with a cross tattooed on his forearm or maybe the face of Jesus on his chest but who gets put on a full back tattoo? La Virgin de Guadalupe, that’s who. She’s on aprons, iPad cases, teddy bears, cowboy boots, watermelons, and, yes, boxer shorts.

Culturally, Latinos love rosaries, those candles with the saints on them. We love old chipped statues of los Santos that remind us of our youth.

I attended Alamo Catholic High School and loved it. Never in my time there did I ever hear that being Gay was bad or that God didn’t love me. It wasn’t until I left school that I learned of the church’s intolerance of the LGBT community.

As a Gay Latino, I love all that religious iconography and religious folk art. It’s beautifully created, comes from the heart and it usually serves up the drama.

I’m particularly fond of this retablo:

"One day I discovered that my boyfriend David fell in love with my brother
and I was offended, felt angry, and disillusioned. But, thanks to St. Michael the Archangel,
I met Jose Antonio and I fell hopelessly in love with him. Now it gives me much joy that
my brother and David love each other so much and are happy as I am. 
I offer this retablo to give thanks to St. Michael."

I didn’t fully leave the Church until my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s not that I was angry with God because my mom had cancer, although I was. I left the church because I saw how my mom suffered.

Her church friends encouraged her to suffer and to offer that pain up to God. I’m not talking about discomfort, I’m talking about gut-wrenching pain. Pain that comes from being eaten alive by tumors. Pain that comes from radiation and chemo treatments that kill healthy cells along with cancerous ones. Pain that no one but God or death can take away. My mother endured needless pain because the Church told her to offer up her pain to God for the conversion of sinners.

Encouraging people to endure pain for God is technique to control people and it’s from the dark ages. You want to convert sinners? Go out and show God’s love by helping the poor, by comforting the sick, by standing up for justice, by educating about the incredible world created for us. Don’t force people to endure suffering.