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.

Credit: islaminspanish / Instagram

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

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

Latinos You May Not Have Known Were Jewish

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Latinos You May Not Have Known Were Jewish

Although Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion in most Latin American countries, we all know by now that Latino culture is not a monolith. In fact, Latinidad comes in all shapes and forms, and it’s a total misconception that all Latinos are Catholics. Latinos follow a variety of religions, from Islam to Buddhism to Judaism. And while most people don’t think of Judaism when they think of Latin America, there is, in fact, a small but proud population of Jewish peoples living throughout Latinidad.

Although the Jewish population in Latin America is relatively small (only an estimated 300,000), Jewish Latinos keep their culture alive through tradition and a strong sense of community. The largest Jewish community resides in Argentina, which is considered to be the “center of the Jewish population in Latin America”. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of famous and influential Jewish Latinos who have made their unique mark on the world. Take a look below!

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