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55 Contemporary Ethnicity and Leadership T he Latino presence in Michigan increasingly involves integration into all areas of the state and integration into a wide variety of the state’s political, social, and cultural institutions. Michigan’s Mexican American communities, concentrated since the mid-s around Detroit, the “thumb,” and a few counties bordering Lake Michigan, now extend throughout the Lower Peninsula and even show some inroads in parts of the Upper Peninsula. Areas of largely Puerto Rican ancestry are similar, but more tightly bound to the cities. Cubans are dispersed more generally throughout entire metropolitan areas. The predominantly middle-class Cubans, Colombians, Argentinians, and others have tended to live outside of the barrio, sharing few socioeconomic characteristics with barrio residents. Among all Latino groups, the second generation has increasingly participated within both major political parties. Wherever they settle, Latinos defy facile racial and ethnic classification.67 The Catholic Church has historically organized diverse Latino groups while acknowledging their distinctive cultures, and, often pushed from within by its parishioners, it has helped spur important contributions. The Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican religious celebration held in memory of the deceased that combines Catholic ritual with pre-Columbian beliefs about life and death. In many homes a ritual altar is prepared to honor the returned dead souls on  and  November, and this is often combined with the Catholic Mass for the dead held in the local church. The more Americanized Mexicans observe the celebration of Halloween over the Day of the Dead. In December, the reenactment of the journey of Mary and Joseph, Las Posadas, is still celebrated in many parishes. The Virgin Mary is placed on a donkey with St. Joseph at the side on a platform. The pilgrims are taken from house to house and the rosary is prayed.Wherever Catholics of Mexican ancestry are found, the Virgin of Guadalupe evokes feelings of love, protection, faith, and hope, and in many mixed Latino communities Guadalupe celebrations reach out to Puerto Ricans and Central and South Americans as well. One second-generation Mexican American noted that “everyone is involved and there is a sense of unity. [We are not] just celebrating the feast of the Patroness of Mexico, but the patroness of all the Americas.”68 The church has only recently begun fully to address the broad spectrum of issues that affect contemporary Latino communities. Many of these concerns are of a secular nature, such as housing, unemployment , and the need to raise the level of educational aspirations and performance. Others deal with technology, migration, and the need to send remittances to family members south of the border. Indeed, Latino socioeconomic indicators are among the lowest in Michigan. Although many Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans enjoy the stability of middle-class life, many plan to return home. Unlike European immigrants, who frequently broke ties with the mother country , pioneer Latino migrants usually are fairly close—geographically and culturally—to their ancestral roots, a fact that the church and other institutions have come to understand. More Latino Catholics in Detroit are reaching out to other religions , while the church tries to figure out how to reach out to them. Although disenchantment has also been growing among non-Latinos, the Latino flight appears more alarming because of the historic loyalty of that group and the fact that they number over one-third of U.S. Catholics. Whereas Latinos in earlier eras belonged to mainstream Protestant denominations, an estimated  percent have joined David A. Badillo 56 Pentecostal and other evangelical congregations, which are usually led by Latino pastors. These churches in southeast Michigan often pool their resources and personnel. In response to the religious competition, as well as in an attempt to better to serve their members, Catholic parishes with Spanish or bilingual Masses are now found in communities throughout Michigan.69 Latinos of all backgrounds regain a sense of identity through participation in cultural events such as Detroit’s annual “Unity in the Community ” festival in Clark Park and the June Mexicantown Fiesta, featuring homeland remembrances in food and entertainment, artists’ exhibitions , and even the occasional Mexican rodeo. Other such events include Pontiac’s annual “Puerto Rican Festival,” featuring both Salsa and TexMex bands; and a separate Mexican Festival sponsored by the city’s Mexican Mutualista Club. Saginaw holds a Ballet Cultural Azteca that highlights mariachi music, and every September Grand Rapids hosts its Mexican Festival, one of Michigan’s longest-running ethnic events. The...


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