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LATINA ACTIVISTS TOWARD AN INCLUSIVE SPIRITUALITY OF BEING IN THE WORLD Latinas have a unique contribution to make to their communities, churches, and nation. As the foundation of the family, pillars of our communities , preservers of the culture, and transmitters of the faith, Latinas are particularly suited to lead their communities forward. Theologian Elizabeth Dreyer states, “A sense of community is both a prerequisite and an outcome of meaningful work. Beyond one’s intimate circle the road of spirituality leads to consciousness and care of ever wider community groups.”1 As a U.S. Latina feminist theologian influenced initially by political theology as well as by U.S. Latina feminist theology, I am particularly interested in the context out of which Latina women manifest and live out their faith.2 What role does spirituality play in their commitment to service, activism, and leadership? In this chapter I intend to explore how spirituality may inform a Latina’s style of service/leadership in her family, faith community, the marketplace, society. Feminist theologian Ann Carr provides a helpful framework for understanding spirituality . Carr writes that spirituality in its broadest sense “can be described as the whole of our deepest religious beliefs, convictions, and patterns of thought, emotion and behavior in respect to what is ultimate.”3 For some, the “ultimate” is identified as God, spirit, work, or family. While C H A P T E R 6 jeanette rodríguez 06-T1918 11/19/2001 11:07 AM Page 114 spirituality embraces, contains, and manifests our deepest beliefs, thoughts, and behavior, theology articulates these processes in a more systematic, intellectual, and reflective way. U.S. Latina feminist theology as articulated by theologian María Pilar Aquino draws its inspiration both from Latin American liberation theology and feminist liberation theology.4 Theology in general is a coherent discourse which seeks to respond to the great questions of humanity: who or what is God, what is humanity, what is our relationship to God, what does it mean to live a good life? These questions in and of themselves do not belong solely to the realm of theology . However, these questions become theological when they arise out of a community of believers and their possible responses are grounded on faith. In this case the believers are Latina women. Theology done by women, in this case by Latina women, deals with concrete experiences. Daily life is their point of departure.5 For Latinas, a religious view of faith as mediated through their culture has played a primary role in their lives. Through their faith as lived out in their spirituality, they have found a source by which to recognize significant values that they draw from for developing self-esteem, confidence , and a commitment to resist all forms of sustained injustices.6 Latinas living in the United States face a daily struggle to maintain their identity as Latinas and as women in a society that explicitly discriminates against both. They are constantly being challenged to define themselves, their roles, desires, assets, and liabilities . Hence my interest: is there a connection between their community involvement/activism and spirituality? If so, what does it encompass? What motivates, ignites, fuels their commitments to serve their communities? The interest in the relationship between service and spirituality came to me when I met Latina women from the National Hispanic Leadership Institute. These are highly motivated, well-educated women committed to service and justice while working in a white, male-dominated environment, and yet they retain their cultural identity or Latinidad. Research on identity, politics, and women connects these issues to discourses and movements organized around questions of religious, ethnic, and national identity.7 In our conversations , I found them to reject most kinds of institutionalized religious affiliation. As I got to know them, I witnessed a deep, private, intimate spiritual motivation for what they were doing. Although many were raised, educated, and/or supported by their churches, they had LATINA ACTIVISTS 115 06-T1918 11/19/2001 11:07 AM Page 115 become disillusioned by the perceived lack of commitment to the poor or to sustained indigenous leadership on the part of the church. As these Latina leaders grew in knowledge and confidence, they began to function as creators of their destiny, engaging in social critique and church reform. Perhaps this is where the disillusionment began. Nevertheless, most of these women credit their churches, primarily Roman Catholic, as being instrumental in identifying them as...


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MARC Record
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