Culture

Latinos Are Shattering Stereotypes As They Convert To Islam In Record Numbers

Camisa, pantalon, azucar. These are just a few of the more than 4,000 Spanish words that derive from the Arabic language. These few words highlight the complex similarities between the Latino and Muslim cultures.

And as Latinos continue to flock to Islam, Latinos currently make up the fastest growing group of converts to Islam, those similarities will only continue to grow.

Latinos currently make up the fasted growing segment of the US Muslim population.

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According to some estimates, there are between 89,000 and 250,000 Latinos practicing Islam in the country.

Latino Muslims are a particularly vulnerable group as the Trump administration takes cruel and discriminatory measures against both segments of the population. One of the administration’s first moves was a ban on Muslim refugees while a border wall and increased ICE patrols remain consistent threats.

From Houston to Santa Ana and Philly to Chicago, Latino Muslims are forming communities.

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In a mosque on Chicago’s North Side, you’ll find that alongside Pakistani and Indian dishes – daal, butter chicken and endless naan – are Mexican dishes like molé y arroz. Chicago is also home to a chapter of Islam In Spanish – an organization founded in Houston.

The group, which formed in 2001 to provide Qurans, pamphlets, and videos to people who wanted to learn about the religion in their native language, has seen 160 Spanish-speakers convert in the Houston area in the last three years.

In 2009, only 1 percent of Muslims identified as Hispanic. By 2018, it was 7 percent.

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According to the study, most Latino converts to Islam are women. Roughly 73 percent of participants were women. And many of them are leaders in their community, including women like Nylka Vargas who has helped develop some of the earliest Latino Muslim communities in the country.

Along with Jewish Americans, Latinos hold largely positive views of Muslims, according to a new study.

It was revealed that Hispanic Americans are fives times more likely to favorable views of Muslims as they are to have negative attitudes. This favorability rating is second only to the Jewish community.

Many Latinos have embraced Islam after discovering the hip-hop culture of the 1990s.

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Malcolm X, as a civil rights leader, was an instrumental figure in driving various communities to Islam. In an interview with LatinoUSA, Parada, 43, discussed how on a school trip to New York he saw friends greeting each other with “As-salaam-Alaikum.” He wanted to be a part of that.

Other reasons that Latinos have converted to Islam range from the search for renewed spirituality in a religion that rings true to a resurgence in Latinos exploring their Andalusian roots, when Muslims governed Spain for 700 years until 1492.

Some converts families worry about their choices.

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Parada was born to Salvadorean parents and was an altar boy at his family’s Roman Catholic church. His parents voiced concern about his choice to join the Islamic faith so he asked them to read a chapter in the Quran about Mary and Jesus. “Most Latinos think Muslims don’t believe in Jesus and Mary,” Parada told LatinoUSA. “That gave them a different perspective of Islam.”

Dangerous stereotypes about Muslims continue to create friction, even among Latinos.

Some converts from devout Catholic families say they sometimes are faced with skepticism and ignorance from their own relatives: “Oh, what are you an Arab now?” “Why did you join a black religion?” “Did you join ISIS?” “Take that thing off your head,” according to Parada.

But Latinos and Muslims are working hard to build bridges between the communities.

Like any good abuela, the way too make friends is with food. And that’s just what is helping connect the two communities.

From #TacoTrucksAtEveryMosque – a movement that began back in 2017 to show solidarity with the Muslim community – to community potlucks and asadas, connecting people through food is helping them find their similarities.

READ: Latinos And Muslims Are Having Cross-Cultural Exchanges During Ramadan Thanks To Halal Tacos

Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Anti-Immigrant Legacy May Have United Arizona Latinxs

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Anti-Immigrant Legacy May Have United Arizona Latinxs

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Joe Arpaio touted himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff” largely because of his anti-immigrant policies. His strategy worked, Arpaio would become a nationally recognized figure as his xenophobia found him “investigating” President Barack Obama’s birth certificate and supporting Arizona’s SB 1070 in 2010, a set of the country’s most draconian immigration laws which were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court. 

Eventually, Arpaio would be charged with criminal contempt of court, following several federal civil rights lawsuits. Only to be pardoned by Trump. In 2016, Arpaio was unseated by Democrat Paul Penzone. 

Today journalist Fernanda Santos writes, in Politico, there is a new wave of Latinx activists who have emerged in response to Arpaio’s policies. And they’re running for elected office.

Arizona Latinxs are fed up with the anti-immigrant policies. Now they want a seat at the table. 

“This is about stepping into the electoral space and saying, ‘Hey, not only can we put pressure from the outside, but we can infiltrate these systems and do something radically different,’” Lane Santa Cruz told Politico. “It sounds very subversive, but it is not. This is the way through the front door.” 
Tucson City Councilwoman Santa Cruz is one of many newly elected Latinxs in Arizona. Her seat was previously held by Regina Romero, a daughter of Mexican immigrants, who was elected Tucson’s first Latina mayor on Tuesday. 
Many Latinx advocates and organizers were elected in the past 10 months, which could be signaling a new Latinx wave in Arizona that could fundamentally transform the state’s politics.
Raquel Terán, a civic organizer, was elected into the state House of Representatives, Betty Guardado a former housekeeper was elected to the Phoenix City Council and Carlos Garcia, an immigration advocate, was elected to the city council. 

Arizona has not been too kind to its Latinx residents.

History shows Latinxs have always been forced to be at odds with their white Arizona counterparts. 

“Latinos, however, have long struggled for equal access and equal rights in Arizona. Their resistance took shape in the labor unions that opposed legislation in 1914 threatening to ban non-English speakers from working in mines, and then a dual-wage system that paid Mexicans less for doing the same work as Anglos,” Santos writes. 

Joe Arpaio, who has been the subject to multiple federal civil lawsuits, was federally barred from doing “immigration round-ups,” was found to have unfairly targeted Latinxs, and who the U.S. Department of Justice said oversaw the most egregious pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history, among numerous other crimes during his 1993-2017 stint as sheriff, appeared to be an extension of this Arizona history. 

Joe Arpaio’s insidious history with immigrants. 

Arpaio decided to take on illegal immigration in the early 2000s ushering him onto the national stage. 

“Arpaio’s deputies started arresting hundreds of illegal immigrants, after entering into a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security. The sheriff’s office blew through its budget on immigration efforts while violent crimes, including sex crimes, went uninvestigated,” according to the Washington Post. 

In 2010, SB 1070 took effect, while most provisions were struck down by the Supreme Court, one which allowed police officers of anyone they believed might be undocumented remained in effect until 2016

In 2011, the Justice Department found that Arpaio’s sheriff’s office systematically profiled Latinxs. In 2013, a U.S. district judge determined the same thing and ordered Arpaio to stop detaining people on the basis of racial profiling. In 2017, he was charged with criminal contempt of court for continuing to detain people. Months later, President Trump pardoned him. 

Arizona Latinxs continue to mobilize and fight back.

Just as often Arizona Latinxs are undermined, they have mobilized against racist efforts. Successfully beating segregation in the schools three years before the Supreme Court decided on the matter, and organizing young Latinxs against discriminatory practices like an absence of bilingual classes and overcrowding.

Garcia was born in Cananea Mexico and was undocumented until he was 14. He founded and ran Puente Human Rights Movement, an immigrant’s rights group. But like many of the advocates who have just been elected, Garcia wants to push things further. Five of his family members have been deported since 2009. 

“I got left with no options. And that’s what has pushed someone like me to actually run for office,” he said.  

As the Arpaios of the world made life increasingly difficult for Arizona immigrants, they fought back with increasing resolve.

“What really woke us up as a community were the anti-immigrant laws here in Arizona, and it was Arpaio, and it was Jan Brewer, and it was those anti-immigrant policies that they were pushing—that’s what took us to the streets,” says Romero. “But we also realized that if we wanted to change the systems that have oppressed us, we had to do it from the inside. We had to change the faces of these policymakers in Arizona.”

There’s A 70-Year-Old Mosaic Of La Virgen De Guadalupe Inside Of Notre Dame. Here’s Its Condition After The Fire

Culture

There’s A 70-Year-Old Mosaic Of La Virgen De Guadalupe Inside Of Notre Dame. Here’s Its Condition After The Fire

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It’s been just a week since the fire destroyed Notre Dame, and we now have more information about historical relics that survived the devastation. If you’ve been to Notre Dame, you may have been surprised, like many, to come across a section inside the cathedral that honors Mexican patron, La Virgen de Guadalupe.

The mosaic of La Virgen, which was placed inside the Notre Dame in 1949, has an extraordinary meaning for Latinos, in particular to the Mexican community.

In an interview with El Universal Father Jose de Jesus Aguilar Valdes said that the iconic mosaic of La Virgen survived the fire because of its location inside the church.

Valdes said that most of the damage occurred in the center of the church, and the altar dedicated to La Virgen was located on the left section. He added that most relics that were on the left and right side of the cathedral were thankfully salvaged.

When I first saw La Virgen de Guadalupe located in its own altar, adorned among Mexican flags, I was moved because it was as if a piece of my family was right before me in Paris.

I expressed my sadness over the devastation having just visited the Notre Dame a year ago.

Other Latinos also expressed their feelings about the destruction of the Notre Dame and La Virgen mosaic that lived there.

Alejandro Lugo of Las Cruces, New Mexico, told the New York Times about his poignant memory of La Virgen in Paris when he saw it for the first time.

“As a Mexican-American, I felt blessed and surprised to have found inside Notre-Dame an altar to the Virgin of Guadalupe, who is Mexico’s patron saint!” the 56-year-old said. “In 2003 my family and I went to celebrate the 15th birthday or quinceañera of my oldest daughter, who was blessed by the priest during the Notre-Dame mass.”

The mosaic in Paris is a replica of the legendary painting located at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

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The painting honors the apparition of La Virgen to Saint Juan Diego in 1531. According to the legend, Our Lady of Guadalupe told Juan Diego to build a shrine in the spot where he saw her, which is Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City. The shrine has been there since 1556 and been blessed by several popes. According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, the painter of that particular painting of La Virgen is unknown; however, in 1568, an English prisoner in Mexico City described the image.

According to Father Valdes, the replica in Paris was created by local artisans that worked with Mellerio jewelry. The mosaic also has a crown made of 18-carat gold and is decorated with gems and pearls.

“The presence of Mexico is made with the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe,” Father Valdes said, according to Televisa. “A beautiful image in one of the most visited chapels of Notre Dame. Fortunately, it has been saved, because the fire damaged the entire roof and the heat of the fire, as it, unfortunately, damages the windows.”

Other saved treasures from the Notre Dame fire include a 14th-century life-sized statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus and the cross at the center of the cathedral.

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France President Emmanuel Macron has already vowed to rebuild the church within five years. More than $1 billion has been raised for its construction.

I and countless of others look forward to visiting the Notre Dame once again and praying the altar dedicated to Mexico and La Virgen de Guadalupe.

READ: 9 Photos Any Catholic Latino Will Understand