“En la Unión está la Fuerza” (In Unity lies Strength)
Latinos or Hispanics are far from being a homogeneous group. Immigrants come from different countries and ethnicities, speak a multitude of languages and celebrate diverse holidays and customs. A farmer from the mountains of Honduras will be very different from a businesswoman raised in inner- city El Salvador. However, there are some unifying factors that contribute to common values for persons of Latino or Hispanic heritage.
One principle is a tendency to embrace a communitarian worldview, to understand the individual as part of a larger system – a family or group. Latinos are taught people are at their best when they live in community and understand their responsibilities to others.
“We [the immigrant community] come together when someone has a problem,” says Hermilindo Roblero, a Guatemalan immigrant. “We may have our differences, but when we need to raise money for a funeral or help a family when the head of the household has been deported, we do it.”
Latin America is strongly influenced by this sense of community and still has physical reminders of unity with each other and with God. Today pueblos, a word that means both village and people, are laid out around a town square that includes a church facing a plaza, park, or common area. For over 500 years of Hispanic history, this has been the norm.
This is the place where the pueblo, or people, come together to worship, relax and catch up on the latest news and gossip. The plazas are popular on Sundays, when people gather for mass and spend time with family, sharing ice cream and snow cones or just people-watching. The plaza is a busy place and the heart of the town.
In the US, many Latin American immigrants struggle with the emphasis on the individual. As North Americans, we value independence and celebrate when our children can do things on their own and don’t need us anymore. We teach our kids to express their opinions and to take responsibility for themselves and the direction of their lives. And while this is all good, we see fewer physical reminders of our connectedness. There is no plaza where we gather together, and we have the tendency to become isolated and stop seeing the needs in our communities.
Despite the differences among Latin American immigrants, there are times when various groups come together and unite as one pueblo, one community. Unity comes easily around a common issue, such as immigration reform, or advocacy for DREAMers. This sense of community is particularly strong when someone is in crisis and needs strength to get through hard times.
“They are a culture that takes care of one another and will have someone sleeping on the couch or the extra bedroom before letting someone sleep on the street,” says Meghann Cotter from Micah Ecumenical Ministries, an organization serving the homeless in Fredericksburg.
It’s uncommon to see many homeless and hungry people in the Latino community. There’s always room for another person somewhere in the house and an extra bit of rice in the pot. This communitarian worldview is the salvation of many immigrants who feel very alone in the U.S.
This is also the spirit LUCHA promotes: the idea that we are family in Christ. It takes the pueblo, the many individuals and diverse groups working together, to become a pueblo, the village and community united in solidarity and support.