Pearsall's Books

This blog is defunct! Check out my new music blog at

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Latino Pentecostalism

Just to add to yesterday's post, there's an article in this week's Newsweek about the growth of Pentecostal Christianity in the American Latino community through the lens of the situation in Chicago's immigrant neighborhoods. The same dynamic is visible here in New York, too, as there are quite a few storefront Iglesias Pentecostales in the neighborhood where I live.

Forty million strong and deeply religious, Hispanics are traditionally Catholic. But, research shows, the longer they are in the United States, the more open they are to other faiths. While 72 percent of first-generation Hispanics are Catholic, according to one study, that figure drops to 52 percent by the third generation—a trend that has long troubled the Catholic hierarchy. Latinos remain the Catholic church's fastest-growing ethnic bloc, but they are also one of the fastest-growing segments among Mormons, Methodists and most other denominations. The result: all faiths are courting Hispanics with a marketing savvy more often associated with corporate America. These churches "have plans to grow, and they're aggressive," says Edwin Hernandez of the University of Notre Dame. "The competition is rampant."

That's especially true among Pentecostals. With their cathartic, music-filled worship style and aggressive proselytizing, they've made deep inroads in Hispanic communities. Of the 610 Latino churches that Hernandez and a research team have mapped in Chicago (as part of an ongoing study of how the churches attract and retain congregants), 202 are Pentecostal, compared with 119 that are Roman Catholic, though the latter are much bigger on average. In Humboldt Park—a neighborhood filled with Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and Central Americans—Pentecostal churches abound in rich variety, from storefront outfits with strict codes governing dress and behavior, to warehouse operations with more lenient approaches. While the leaders tolerate one another, rivalries simmer close to the surface. From her perch at the tiny Iglesia de Dios Peniel, Pastor America Garcia eyes Rebano down the street—where female congregants might sport tight pants and belly rings—with suspicion. The place is rife with "libertinism," she says. "When people leave, they go to orgies, to movies, to dances!" Rebano's Lynette Santiago has heard all this before. Back when her parents led the congregation and replaced old-school coritos, or spiritual songs, with a salsa band, a disapproving pastor labeled her mother "the Devil."

|| RPH || 12:49 PM || |