Cultural Corner: Language and Religion

Hispanics consider language as the most important element to be preserved. The most universal and culturally unifying characteristic of U.S. Hispanics is their use of Spanish, either as a primary or as a secondary language. The same language is used by every one of the 21 Spanish-speaking nationalities comprising the U.S. Hispanic population. However, nationality colorations relate to pronunciations, cadence, and the meaning of individual words.  Many Hispanic immigrants are fearful that their children will forget their native language.                                 

A recent poll estimates the use of Spanish in 80 percent of the U.S. Spanish households. Despite this estimate, you will find within the Hispanic community different levels of Spanish language usage: those who speak at least enough Spanish to get by; others who speak Spanish fluently or as a primary language; those who are bilingual; many who know only Spanish; and then a smaller percentage of those who know English only.

Religion is a serious matter in the Hispanic community. Church attendance is more common among Hispanics than among native-born Americans, and substantially higher than among other immigrant groups. The family’s religious beliefs and traditions are considered the second most important element which should be preserved by Hispanics. Part of that tradition is the works-based theology ascribed to by the vast majority of Hispanic adults and fostered by the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism is a strong bond among Hispanics that crosses all lines of national origins and levels of assimilation. Some 70 percent of Hispanics are Roman Catholic.
The strength of the influence of Catholicism upon the Hispanic is not so much­or even primarily­ based on religious belief. It has more to do with how much it has become a part of the culture. A person does not leave the Catholic church without also leaving the culture and a way of life. Every aspect of life is incorporated and integrated into the religion. Births, marriages, rites of puberty, holidays, even names involve religion. Thus, it is no easy matter for a person to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, many have become part of faith communities of Protestant denominations.
Copied with permission from Hispanic Ministry in the Carolinas.