Reaching the Hispanic world

¡Que Dios bendiga a su pueblo en el mundo hispano!

Last month I was delighted to receive in the mail a hefty copy of Visiones e Ilusiones Políticas, the Spanish translation of Political Visions and Illusions, which had just come out days earlier. Published by Teología para Vivir in Lima, Peru, it is a hard-bound volume running to 420 pages in eminently readable print and an attractive cover. I was surprised to see that it was assembled in, of all places, Monee, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago not far from where I was born and grew up.

A changing population

Why the publisher chose this location I have no idea. But the last time we were in the Chicago area, three years ago, I was struck with how heavily hispanicized the western suburbs had become since I left the region decades earlier. While driving east on Route 64 from the Fox River valley towards the city, I noticed that most of the billboards were in Spanish. The cities of West Chicago and Aurora, the second largest city in the state, have many Mexican groceries and restaurants. According to the 2020 census, Aurora’s population is more than 41 percent Hispanic, while Latinos form just over half of West Chicago’s population.

Sources differ on the numbers of Spanish speakers in the United States, but their presence is enough to make that country one of the largest hispanophone nations in the world, possibly outranking Spain itself. Indeed, automatic teller machines in banks will prompt you to choose between English and Spanish, even though Spanish is not an official language of the United States.

Hispanic faith

Until two years ago my parents were living in Aurora, and one of my sisters still resides there. During visits with family, I was struck by the huge number of active churches in the community. Every corner seems to be graced with a church building, placing virtually every resident within walking distance of a local gathering of God’s people. Many of these boast signs in Spanish. And while Latinos are traditionally Roman Catholic, all the indications here are that they are embracing an evangelical or pentecostal form of the faith.

In 2014 the Pew Research Center reported that the Catholic share of the Latino population was declining, with evangelical and unaffiliated numbers growing. According to the report, Hispanic evangelicals attend church at higher rates than Catholics and are more involved in related activities such as Bible studies and evangelism. With the Latino population increasing in the U.S., it seems likely that Christianity will become more Hispanic as religious observance declines among the white middle class.

This makes me grateful that my book is now in Spanish. I have begun to brush up on my knowledge of the language, which I studied just under half a century ago. ¡Que Dios bendiga a su pueblo en el mundo hispano! May God bless his people in the Spanish-speaking world!


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