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Via Media

Hispanic Immigration in the NE

Another article on the growing Hispanic immigrant presence in supposedly surprising places, this this time in the NE US

Meanwhile, in New York’s Finger Lakes region, "there are tensions between Mexican immigrants and the Puerto Ricans," said Alejandra Molina, a professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva. "You go to (the Spanish-language) Mass and the Puerto Ricans will sit on one side and the Mexican families will sit on the other side."


Longtime residents are generally welcoming in Newburgh, a city of about 28,000, but there remain challenges: a shortage of affordable housing, inadequate health care and nearly nonexistent public transportation. It is not unusual, said Carmen Vazqueztell, director of bilingual education in Newburgh schools, to see Mexican immigrants walking or riding bicycles along country roads at night.

Some see the lack of services as business opportunities to sell Oaxacan groceries, soccer supplies and airfare to Mexico City.

"You drive up and down Broadway and say, ‘Wow, look at this new business, and this one and this one and this one,’" Vazqueztell said. "They’ve really made a mark in this community."


Of course, nothing new, but the revitalization of formerly dead business areas is worth noting. I see it in our area – the main roads leading from our part of town (the south) to downtown are full of empty storefronts which are slowly being filled with businesses, mostly catering to Hispanic customers, and some to Asian (in case you don’t know, Fort Wayne has one of the largest concentrations of expatriated Burmese in the country). In our drive on Friday, it was quite noticeable in…Lingonier, I think. (don’t quote me. It was one of those towns). The outskirts were, of course, all Arby’d and Wal-Marted, but the downtown, obviously dead for a while, was now filled with shops with Spanish-language signs. Fascinating.


Meanwhile, Sandra sends along this story from the Indianapolis Star and remarks that in her view (I didn’t save the note and can’t quote directly – of course she said it much better herself!), the diminished role given to Catholic institutions in this story is part of the perspective that would like to convince Latinos that being "American" = being "not Catholic." Am I misquoting you, Sandra?

The Rev. Samuel Ruiz says the cross, with its vertical and horizontal intersecting beams, is more than just a sacred symbol of the Christian faith.


He sees it as a fitting symbol for his ministry to Indianapolis’ immigrant Hispanic community: Point them upward to God, while helping them get by here on Earth.

Ruiz, who is pastor of the Hispanic ministry at Emmaus Lutheran Church on the Near Southside, leads one of the more than 50 Hispanic congregations in the Indianapolis area.

The job involves not only conducting baptisms and preaching the Gospel but also helping new immigrants find jobs, learn English and keep their kids out of gangs.

"People who are in that survival environment, they need more than a church," said Ruiz, a 57-year-old Cuban immigrant whose congregation numbers about 40 people on Sundays.


More than 20 religious leaders, Ruiz among them, have banded together to form the Alliance of Hispanic Pastors in Indianapolis, which involves clergy from Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and other denominations.

While Hispanic pastors say they serve both spiritual and earthly needs, it is often down-to-earth problems such as unemployment, hunger or immigration problems that bring new arrivals to the church doorstep.

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posted August 1, 2005 at 2:18 am

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said the Mexican government should re-examine why so many of its residents are leaving.
Meaning? Hmmm…why did so many Irish leave Ireland? Why did so many Italians leave Italy? Germans from Germany? etc.
If he’s really worried about illegal immigration, perhaps Mr. Levy should examine how so many Mexicans get jobs in his area.

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posted August 1, 2005 at 8:00 am

As someone who works with Hispanic Catholics and Hispanic children everyday, I can assure you that they are an asset to our country.
Unlike other immigrants, they bring with them an appreiciation for democracy and affirm the tradtional Judeo-Christian values of our nation. The only change they might bring to this nation would be idiomatic, but they certainly would not impose their system of government upon American society once emmancipated.
Conservatives have nothing to fear about our brothers and sisters south of the border, only unless they become militant extremists like Jose Padilla and we can avoid that by welcoming and helping them in their jounrey to the United States.
Catholics, more so, should be very hestitant to embrace some of these more negative attitudes toward immigration. The Gospel demands it.

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Michael Tinkler

posted August 1, 2005 at 8:04 am

HEY! That’s MY parish Alejandra is talking about — and, of course, she teaches at the same school I do.
this is nothing new. Until quite recently in Geneva, the building where the Spanish Mass takes place was the “Italian Parish” and the other one was the “Irish Parish.” They only merged in 2000, and there are still people who talk about them that way.
Why should we expect people who speak related dialects of the same language (Puerto Ricans and Mexicans) to automatically get along? That’s the kind of silly thinking that leads to promoting Esperanto as a source of World Peace.
By the way, we do have two Spanish-language protestant churches in town (probably one Mexican and one Puerto Rican), but we also have an Anglo Pastor of the RC Parish who is pretty fluent in Spanish and has a burning devotion to Oscar Romero. I think it helps.

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posted August 1, 2005 at 8:27 am

why did so many Irish leave Ireland?
Because they were starving and oppressed?
I wonder how many people favoring so much immigration consider (a) what immigration is doing to Mexico and (b) whether what happens to immigrants when they come to the U.S. is good for their souls. If they’re abandoning their Catholic religion in favor of some Protestant sect, then the answer to (b) is frightening.

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Sandra Miesel

posted August 1, 2005 at 9:03 am

No, you’e not misquoting me, Amy. For the past several years I’ve watched stories like this appear in the local paper. Protestant Hispanics are always highlighted–even for Day of the Dead ceremonies. Catholic Hispanics are usually not mentioned at all. Note that this article quotes no Catholic source. The subtext is that being American means being Protestant.
Indianapolis has at least one Hispanic parish, a huge old church now packed on Sundays, as well as plenty of Spanish Masses. Catholic social services of many kinds are readily available.
Even my affluent suburban parish north of Indy has a Spanish Mass and celebrates Hispanic festivals. All priests in the diocese of Lafayette are required to be fluent in Spanish. There is a Hispanic deacon assigned to their needs.
But Indy is starting to get Hispanic gangs. Their illegitimacy rate is running 50% in the county. So much for renewal.

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posted August 1, 2005 at 10:21 am

open book: commentary on Hispanic Immigration in the NE

article in English / artículo en Ingles o en Español usando Google o Altavista/Babel Fish
from hispanictips.comhispanic news & commentary

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posted August 1, 2005 at 12:04 pm

Indianapolis has Spanish Masses regularly taking place in at least 5 parishes in the city, and several more in the Archdiocese. It is shocking to see that none of the efforts of these churches, or programs run by Catholic Charities are acknowledged. We have currently 6 Hispanic men in various stages of discernment/formation considering the priesthood. The Archdiocese is constantly working on ways to do more for this community.

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James Kabala

posted August 1, 2005 at 12:52 pm

I think there is naievte about Hispanic immigrants among some Catholics. Some write about them as if they were Our Lady of Guadelupe’s Catholic army, but their politicians have generally proved as pro-abortion as any Irish Kennedy, Italian Pelosi, Polish Mikulski, German Daschle, or French Landrieu.

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Steve Jackson

posted August 1, 2005 at 5:02 pm

Hispanic Americans have higher rates of divorce, abortion and illegitmacy than “anglo-Americans”. The rate of illegitimacy in Mexico is the same as in the US. Mexican Americans have double the rate once they get here. Whether that has to do with our depraved culture or the types of Mexicans that leave Mexico, I don’t know.
I don’t know if Sandra is right that there is a strong emphasis in these types of stories on Hispanics who become protestants, but on the other hand the fact that hispanics are not socially conservative seems to be ignored.

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Sandra Miesel

posted August 2, 2005 at 10:27 am

I’m only judging by articles in our local paper, not nationally. But year after year, the STAR runs stories about Protestant Hispanics and virtually never about Catholic ones. They also routinely quote a Protestant Hispanic minister on general religious stories. This pattern has carried through regardless of who was on the religion beat so it has to be a policy of the newspaper.
Lest we think all Protestants are welcoming, a college classmate of my son, who became a Methodist minister, lost his first pastorate in a small Indiana city because he was letting a Hispanic Protestant congregation (not sure if they were also Methodists) use the church as a meeting place.

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Sandra Miesel

posted August 2, 2005 at 10:28 am

I’m only judging by articles in our local paper, not nationally. But year after year, the STAR runs stories about Protestant Hispanics and virtually never about Catholic ones. They also routinely quote a Protestant Hispanic minister on general religious stories. This pattern has carried through regardless of who was on the religion beat so it has to be a policy of the newspaper.
Lest we think all Protestants are welcoming, a college classmate of my son, who became a Methodist minister, lost his first pastorate in a small Indiana city because he was letting a Hispanic Protestant congregation (not sure if they were also Methodists) use the church as a meeting place.

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posted August 2, 2005 at 2:24 pm

I think a big reason that the Church loses so many spanish language immigrants is that it takes their Catholicism for granted. In a typical day, I am scheduled around 20 patients, of whom 7-10 will be Spanish language (often Spanish only), another 2-3 Portugese speaking (from Brazil) and the balance either low-income Anglophones or immigrants from Africa, Asia, or (rarely) Eastern Europe. shows 9 parishes in the community – a total of 34 weekend Masses – 3 of these are in Spanish – and 2 of those are in the same downtown parish. There are also 2 French Masses, one Signed Mass (ASL)and one Portugese Mass. Only one parish makes a real effort to have any Spanish speaking staff in the office to help with inquiries about sacraments, and religious education (for kids and adults)is pretty exclusively in English. I have been trying for nearly 5 years to find a Spanish speaking NFP teacher to refer patients to – I don’t even care what method of NFP. The local “Catholic Hospital” has an excellent NFP teacher, but they aren’t willing to spend the money to train a Spanish or Portugese speaking woman to teach these classes.
By contrast, the storefront churches have made a concerted effort to reach out with not only church lively worship services, but also with Bible studies, community based social work, and always a listening ear. Many immigrants come here poorly catechized, (as many USA natives were poorly catechized as well during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s) and in looking for a replacement for the social support networks they left behind, end up as enthusiastic Evangelical and Pentecostal protestant christians.
The population planners have also run rampant through Latin America – where birth control pills and shots are sold over the counter in neighborhood pharmacies and require no medical exam. Brazil has a high cesarean section rate at least partially because it was how elective sterilizations were ‘snuck in’ to the populace in the face of Church opposition. It was in Brazil that the first reports came out of the use of the drug misoprostil for part of medical abortions.

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