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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hispanic Culture: Roles

Hispanic culture follows traditional roles ("roles" is spelled the same in Spanish but the "e"  [and s] is pronounced with the equivalent of the short sound in English). Normally, the father is the bread winner outside of the home. He works really hard to provide for his family. Usually, this involves long days and coming home tired.  Arriving at home he expects his wife, who is a homemaker, to greet him with a good "cena" (dinner). Evening will involve watching TV (e.g. "deportes" - sports or "noticias" - news) and relaxing. In his home he usually is the one who "lleva los pantalones," the one who is in charge. This means that he is mostly involved in major decisions but delegates the running of the home to his wife. He is also involved in major discipline issues. The roles are clear cut and no inter mixing (e.g. men don't do dishes, don't cook, don't do laundry).

The wife is involved in caring for the children, educating, and disciplining them. She runs the day to day operations of the home. She wears many hats including being the official cook. It is also the wife that also will make sure the children are following the traditional religion (Catholicism for the most part). She is often involved in church activities.

Traditionally, roles are tied with idea of respect both to parents, grandparents and any adult. Children are expected to respect parents and not question any decision. The same is the case with grand parents. Contradicting, raising your voice or yelling to parents or grand parents is strictly forbidden. This reminds me of the constant lectures to our children concerning how they (i.e., children their age) speak to parents today and what we got if we spoke back to our parents in the same manner when were were growing up. It usually starts with "Si you le hubiera hablado a mi mamá o papá como tu me hablas..." ("If I had spoken to my mom or dad the way you speak to me..")

Changes are taking place the Hispanic culture, especially relating to family. With this follows the neglect in the basic values taught to children. Respect to parents and grand parents has eroded. Behavioral issues in children have become more prevalent (as a teacher in public schools this has been my observation as well) and in my opinion, much because of the lack of instruction and discipline in the home.

There are several implications for the Gospel relating to roles. First, we need to make sure that we engage males when sharing the Gospel. It is important to get them involved in spiritual things and help them become servant leaders, not just providers in their homes. This has been a struggle in many Hispanic churches. Male leadership is lacking and more needs to be done to engage the males in our Hispanic culture. Second, we need offer family training. We need to have clear and explicit Bible instruction concerning the roles of husbands, wives and children. Thirdly, we need to provide a structure in the church that helps affirm the traditional values which includes respect for everyone and especially for the things of God (Hispanics who attend a Catholic church show great respect for everything they encounter). Fourth, we need to show leadership ourselves. They understand the concept of leadership (most Latin American countries have been influenced by the idea of "caudillo," one man who leads the way). American culture asks permission for everything to make sure they are not offending. Hispanics are not offended when a leader is forthright. Many times they won't do anything unless they are "forced" to do it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hispanic Culture: Aquí Se Habla Español

In Hispanic culture, the Spanish language is considered just as important as all other values. Not speaking Spanish, which usually happens with grand kids, is anathema and will incur the title of "Gringo" (a slang term for White American). The idea is that you are forgetting your language (your roots) and do not want to be associated with the Hispanic culture. This is not acceptable in Hispanic culture.

Why is Spanish so important to Hispanics? Spanish is an extension of the Hispanic culture. It is considered the "mother" tongue by which everyone is united and values are communicated. Many parents (like mine and my wife's) and grandparents are monolingual and only speak Spanish and everyone is expected to speak Spanish to them. It is the language of family. It is interesting that, in our case, where both English and Spanish are part of our daily lives, each has a different role. English is used for most day to day conversations and for work. Spanish is usually reserved for more personal communication. It is never used for disagreements or arguments. English is for that!

Spanish is not only spoken to interact with family members, but it is watched on TV. Spanish is the language of novelas (soap operas), news and sports (i.e. fútbol).  It is no wonder that Univisión has one of the best ratings in the United States.  Spanish is also used to listen to music such as your typical folk music mariachi and a variety of genres.

As much as we think that the fact they are in America will make them learn English, the fact is that this isn't the case. In fact, Spanish speaking in the United States has increased and remains the most spoken next to English (Use of other languages have tripled. Chinese is the second most spoken) and almost 39 million people speak it. Most of the people that speak Spanish are from or have their roots in Latin America. Will Spanish decrease as the first generation passes away and subsequent generations become monolingual? It is possible but trends (i.e., immigration) seem to point otherwise. There is also a significant percentage of non-Hispanic Spanish speakers which also has an effect. If Spanish will become less prominent, it won't happen soon.

The implication for the Gospel is that we need to reach Hispanics in both languages. Our churches need to offer services both in Spanish and English. Many churches today have either an English service but nothing in Spanish. The fact is that while this seems adequate to reach English speakers, most English speaking Hispanics do not feel welcome in a church that is culturally distinct. In fact, about 62% are not Christians (They consider themselves Catholics. The biggest group not religiously affiliated are US born ages 19-29 [55%]).They are the biggest non-reached group in the United States.

Then you have Spanish churches that have no English service. They are able to reach the Spanish language speakers but are losing those whose English is their dominant language. I have observed that even those who speak Spanish are not literate in Spanish and often are not fluent readers or writers. Having one church with services in both languages seems to me the most effective way and a better way to use resources. Furthermore, having services in both languages reinforces the cultural distinctive of keeping family together. There is a great harvest to be reaped but it requires intentional and strategic steps to reach all generations of Spanish speakers.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hispanic Culture: Familia Es Familia - Staying Close

I have another blog over at Word Press which I started a while ago related to the Hispanic culture (the term "Hispanic" is also used in general way and though many nationalities-including non-Hispanics- share most of the distinctives, there are exceptions) titled Stuff Hispanics Like and Do. In it, I shared some generalizations, some humorous, that for the most part are true in our Hispanic culture. As Hispanics become part of the American culture, change happens especially in subsequent generations and they become bi-cultural, thus exceptions become apparent. However, many of the generalizations remain true and some will always be part of the Hispanic culture.

These series of posts will continue the topic of Hispanic culture disntinctives in a more serious tone and also include some implications in sharing the Gospel.

In Hispanic culture family is the most basic and important unit. Nothing is more important than family. Individualism is discouraged over the benefit of the whole family. It may not be a perfect family, but Hispanics have a saying, "Familia es familia." This means that though the family experiences difficulties and problems, family is always there for you. Members in the family are expected to support each other and help each other. Children once grown up are encouraged to stay at home or close to home. Going far away for school is discouraged (I
tried). Even when married, parents expect their children to stay close. Some even encourage them to stay in the same home. Grandparents or "abuelitos" play a very important part after their children are married. Usually grandparents raise their grand kids while the parents are working (it happened in our case).

During special events, all of the family gathers together usually at the grandparents home or whoever are the patriarchs of the family. Food is plentiful (a matter for another post) and everyone enjoys the time together.

The implication when sharing the Gospel with Hispanics is that we have to address them as a unit and not as individuals. The family should be seen as a unit when presenting the Gospel. This means using their primary language to share, attending social functions to get to know them, and providing church events (including the church service in Spanish) that focus on the family as a unit is indispensable. This is key in church growth among Hispanics churches. Hispanics churches usually are made up of extended family units, this all a result of the unity that binds them together.