A guide to Hispanics and religion in the U.S.

Hispanics, already the nation’s largest ethnic minority, are expected to double their U.S. population in less than 50 years. That will have profound effects on religion, many of which are already evident. ReligionLink offers an expansive guide to Hispanic religion, including scores of interview sources and links to organizations and surveys.

Background

Why it matters

The hispanic population in the U.S. is expected to continue increasing at an impressive rate. The growth of the Latino community also means the increase of their strength to influence the economic, political and social aspects of the nation. What Hispanics they gain in numbers, they also gain in influence, so understanding their values and beliefs is an important part of understanding what is shaping the nation.

Questions for reporters

  • How large is the hispanic demographic in your area? Are they active as a community?
  • How does religion play a role in shaping their activity and influence in the U.S.?
  • What kind of religious traditions and practices do hispanics in your area engage in?
  • What kind of political influence does the hispanic community have in your area? Is it dramatically similar or dissimilar to their national influence?

Developments

Polls

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops posts demographics on Hispanic Catholics. The dioceses of Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Galveston-Houston, San Bernardino, Chicago, Brooklyn, Fresno, San Antonio, and Orange have the largest Latino populations. Other statistics:

  • 71 percent of the U.S. Catholic population growth since 1960 is due to Hispanics
  • 35 percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic
  • 72.6 percent of U.S. Latinos are Catholic
  • 20.6 percent of U.S. Catholic parishes have a majority Latino population
  • 6.3 percent of U.S. priests are Hispanic
  • 25 of 281 active U.S. bishops are Hispanic

  • Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown

    For statistics, see the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown, the nonprofit research organization that conducts social scientific studies for the Catholic Church.

    Its reports include Ministry in a Church of Increasing Diversity: A Profile of Diocesan Hispanic/Latino Ministry, and a report on “How Many Hispanics Are Catholic?” and more.

    Contact: 202-687-8080.

Organizations

National sources

  • Arlene Sanchez Walsh

    Arlene Sanchez Walsh is an associate professor of church history and Latino church studies at Azusa Pacific University in Azuza, Calif. She is an authority on Latino evangelicals. Her books include Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self and Society (Columbia University Press, 2003).

     

  • Manuel A. Vásquez

    Manuel A. Vásquez is an associate professor of religion at the University of Florida and an expert on immigration, especially Latino immigration. He was an editor of the volume Immigrant Faiths: Transforming Religious Life in America. 

  • Fernando Segovia

    Fernando Segovia, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., has written about the challenge and promise of Latino spirituality. He co-edited A Dream Unfinished: Theological Reflections on America from the Margins (Orbis Books, 2001).

     

  • Raúl Gómez Ruiz

    The Rev. Raúl Gómez Ruiz, a Catholic priest who teaches at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis., can talk about liturgy, worship, language, clergy and popular traditions.

  • Otto Maduro

    Otto Maduro, professor of Christianity at Drew University in Madison, N.J., has written from a sociological perspective about the liberating option for the oppressed in Latin American Catholicism and on the relations between Marxism and religion.

  • Daisy Machado

    The Rev. Daisy Machado is Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, New York. She has written about Latina feminist theology, the border, immigrant issues and globalization.

  • Allan Figueroa Deck

    Allan Figueroa Deck is a lecturer of pastoral studies in Spanish at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He has commented on the importance of Hispanics to the Catholic Church in the United States.

  • Gastón Espinosa

    Gastón Espinosa, assistant professor of religious studies at Claremont McKenna College in California, specializes in Latino religion and politics.

  • Gilberto Cavazos-González

    The Rev. Gilberto Cavazos-González, a Friar Minor (Franciscan), is associate professor of spirituality and directs the Hispanic ministry program at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. He writes a weekly column on Hispanic/Latino faith traditions.

  • Peter Casarella

    Peter Casarella is a professor of Catholic studies at DePaul University in Chicago. He wrote the book El Cuerpo de Cristo: The Hispanic Presence in the U.S. Catholic Church (Crossroad Publishing, 1998).

  • María Pilar Aquino Vargas

    María Pilar Aquino Vargas is a professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego. Her specialties include Latina feminism, both in the United States and in Latin America. She wrote Our Cry for Life: Feminist Theology From Latin America (English translation Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002).

  • José David Rodríguez

    José David Rodríguez holds the Augustana Heritage Chair of Global Mission and World Christianity at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where he also teaches systematic theology and directs advanced programs of study. His interests include Hispanic Christian theologies, Latino ministry, ethics, world Christianity and missions.

  • Jean-Pierre Ruiz

    The Rev. Jean-Pierre Ruiz, a Catholic priest who teaches biblical studies and Hispanic theology at St. John’s University in New York, is editor in chief of the Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology. Hispanic religious issues he can discuss include Bible translations, end-times perspectives, ecumenism, relations with Jews and Muslims, immigration and immigration, and clergy.

  • Milagros Peña

    Milagros Peña teaches sociology and directs women’s studies at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Her expertise includes women’s issues, border issues and Hispanic ministry in the United States. Her books include, as co-author, Emerging Voices, Urgent Choices: Essays on Latino/a Religious Leadership (Brill Academic Publishers, 2006).

  • Juan Martinez

    Juan Martinez teaches Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., where he is assistant dean for Hispanic church studies. He is a Mennonite whose expertise includes Hispanic Protestantism and immigration.

  • Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado

    Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. Her interests include Afro-Cuban studies, feminist theologies and Hispanic religiosity. She wrote Sor Juana: Beauty and Justice in the Americas; Afro-Cuban Theology: Religion, Race, Culture and Identity; and Embracing Latina Spirituality: A Woman’s Perspective.

  • Miguel H. Díaz

    Miguel H. Díaz, who teaches theology at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., is president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States. His specialties include Cuba, popular religion and U.S. Hispanic theologies. He wrote On Being Human: U.S. Hispanic and Rahnerian Perspectives (Orbis Books, 2001) and co-edited From the Heart of Our People: Latino/a Explorations in Catholic Systematic Theology (Orbis, 1999).

  • Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández

    Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández is professor of Hispanic theology and ministry and director of the Hispanic Theology and Ministry Program at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. She is a past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States and has co-chaired the American Academy of Religion’s Latina/o Religion, Culture and Society Group. Her expertise includes pastoral theology, immigration/migration, public theology, language and popular culture.

  • Orlando O. Espín

    Orlando O. Espín teaches systematic theology at the University of San Diego, where he directs the Center for the Study of Latino/a Catholicism. He is president-elect of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States. Espín’s specialties include popular religion, and he recently opened a dialogue between Catholic theologians and followers of Lukumi (Santeria).

  • Miguel A. De La Torre

    Miguel A. De La Torre teaches social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, where he directs the school’s Justice and Peace Institute. Issues he can discuss include religion’s effects on class/race/gender oppression, Santeria, Cuba and liberation theology. His numerous books include, as co-editor, Rethinking Latino(a) Religion and Identity (Pilgrim Press, 2006) and Handbook of Latina/o Theologies (Chalice Press, 2006).

  • Ana María Pineda

    Sister Ana María Pineda teaches Hispanic theology, spirituality and ministry at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif. Her interests include women’s issues and pastoral issues. She co-edited Dialogue Rejoined: Theology and Ministry in the U.S. Hispanic Reality (The Liturgical Press, 1995).

  • Edwin David Aponte

    Edwin David Aponte is a research professor of Latina/o and Latin American Christianity in the Center of World Christianity at New York Theological Seminary. He co-edited Handbook of Latina/o Theologies (Chalice Press, 2006).

  • Efrain Agosto

    Efrain Agosto is a professor of New Testament and directs the Hispanic ministries program at Hartford Seminary. His expertise includes Bible scholarship and Hispanic theology across the U.S. Christian denominations.

  • Nancy Pineda-Madrid

    Nancy Pineda-Madrid is an assistant professor of theology and U.S. Latino/a ministry at Boston College. Her interests include Hispanic theologies and feminism.

  • Ada María Isasi-Díaz

    Ada María Isasi-Díaz is a professor of ethics and theology at Drew University in Madison, N.J., and founder and co-director of the Hispanic Institute of Theology. Her interests include mujerista theology and Cuba. She is also a leading voice on Latinas and justice.

  • Louisville Institute

    The Louisville Institute is a seminary that works to enrich the religious life of American Christians and to encourage the revitalization of their institutions, by bringing together those who lead religious institutions with those who study them, so that the work of each might inform and strengthen the other.

Clergy

  • Gary Riebe-Estrella

    The Rev. Gary Riebe-Estrella is a Catholic priest and dean emeritus at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Ill. He can discuss education and placement of clergy, congregational issues, U.S. Latino Catholics, and Mexican popular religion. He co-edited Horizons of the Sacred: Mexican Traditions in U.S. Catholicism (2002).

    He can discuss education and placement of clergy, congregational issues, U.S. Latino Catholics and Mexican popular religion.

Culture and arts

  • Francisco Lozada Jr.

    Francisco Lozada Jr. chairs religious studies at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Issues he can discuss include Latino/a religion and culture.

  • Jaime Lara

    Jaime Lara is a research professor at the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Tempe, Ariz., where he works in the intersection of the visual arts and religion through various media (architecture, painting, sculpture, prints). He can discuss Hispanic theology and the arts.

    Contact: 480-965-5900.

Hispanic theologies

  • Harold Recinos

    The Rev. Harold Recinos is a professor of church and society at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas. He has worked with immigrants in the United States and abroad and studies issues related to immigrants and refugees in the United States.

  • Hjamil Martínez-Vázquez

    Hjamil Martínez-Vázquez is an assistant professor of religion at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. His expertise includes Latino/a religions in the United States and Latin America, Latina feminist theory and Latino/a Muslims

  • Albert Hernández

    Albert Hernández teaches the history of Christianity at Iliff School of Theology in Denver. His interests include Latino/a theologies.

    Contact: 303-765-3180.

Immigration / migration

  • David Badillo

    David Badillo is associate professor of Latin American and Puerto Rican studies at Lehman College at the City University of New York and author of Latinos and the New Immigrant Church, about the Catholic Church.

  • Monsignor Arturo J. Bañuelas

    Monsignor Arturo J. Bañuelas is the pastor of St. Mark’s Catholic Church in El Paso, Texas. He founded the Tepeyac Institute and is nationally known for his expertise on border issues and culture. Bañuelas edited Mestizo Christianity: Theology from the Latino Perspective (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004).

  • Elizabeth Conde-Frazier

    Rev. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier is Dean of Eastern University in Penn. Her interests include immigration/migration and ecumenism. She is founder of the Orlando E. Costas Hispanic and Latin American Ministries Program at Andover Newton Theological School. She wrote Hispanic Bible Institutes: A Community of Theological Construction (University of Scranton Press, 2005) and co-wrote A Many Colored Kingdom: Multicultural Dynamics for Spiritual Formation (Baker Academic, 2004).

Interfaith / ecumenism

Islam

Judaism

  • Abraham Lavender

    Abraham Lavender is president of the Navon Program for the Study of Sephardic and Oriental Jewry and professor of sociology at Florida International University in Miami, Fla. He is also president of the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies.

  • Gregory Lee Cuéllar

    Gregory Lee Cuéllar is curator for rare books and manuscripts at Texas A&M University’s Cushing Library in College Station, Texas. He can discuss Mexican colonial history, the Mexican immigrant experience and crypto-Judaism (practicing Jews publicly passing as Catholic) in the New Spain.

  • Dina Le Gall

    Dina Le Gall is an assistant history professor at Lehman College in the City University of New York. Her focus is in Islamic and middle eastern studies. She is the author of A Culture of Sufism, a history of the origins and spread of Sufism through 1700.

Politics

  • John García

    John García is a research professor at the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan. His research interests are minority group politics, especially Latinos; political behavior; political mobilization; urban politics; social survey research; and public policy-health. He wrote Latino Politics in America: Community, Culture and Interests.

  • Jorge Ramos

    Jorge Ramos, anchorman for Noticiero Univision and author of several books, wrote The Latino Wave: How Hispanics Are Transforming Politics in America (Rayo, 2005).

Regional sources

In the Northeast

  • Benjamin Valentin

    Benjamin Valentin teaches theology and culture at Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, Mass., where he directs Latino/a studies. He co-chairs the AAR Latina/o Religion, Culture and Society Group. His expertise includes the intersection between Latinos and African-Americans, liberation theology and Hispanic theology. Valentin authored Mapping Public Theology: Beyond Culture, Identity and Difference (Trinity Press International, 2002); edited New Horizons in Hispanic/Latino(a) Theology (Pilgrim Press, 2003);and co-edited The Ties That Bind: African-American and Hispanic-American/ Latino(a) Theologies in Dialogue (Continuum, 2001).

  • Jean-Pierre Ruiz

    The Rev. Jean-Pierre Ruiz, a Catholic priest who teaches biblical studies and Hispanic theology at St. John’s University in New York, is editor in chief of the Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology. Hispanic religious issues he can discuss include Bible translations, end-times perspectives, ecumenism, relations with Jews and Muslims, immigration and immigration, and clergy.

  • Joanne Rodríguez

    Joanne Rodríguez directs the Hispanic Theological Initiative, which is an ecumenical endeavor mentoring Hispanic students in doctoral work. It is on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary.

  • Nancy Pineda-Madrid

    Nancy Pineda-Madrid is an assistant professor of theology and U.S. Latino/a ministry at Boston College. Her interests include Hispanic theologies and feminism.

  • Jaime Lara

    Jaime Lara is a research professor at the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Tempe, Ariz., where he works in the intersection of the visual arts and religion through various media (architecture, painting, sculpture, prints). He can discuss Hispanic theology and the arts.

    Contact: 480-965-5900.
  • Efrain Agosto

    Efrain Agosto is a professor of New Testament and directs the Hispanic ministries program at Hartford Seminary. His expertise includes Bible scholarship and Hispanic theology across the U.S. Christian denominations.

In the South

  • Hjamil Martínez-Vázquez

    Hjamil Martínez-Vázquez is an assistant professor of religion at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. His expertise includes Latino/a religions in the United States and Latin America, Latina feminist theory and Latino/a Muslims

  • Francisco Lozada Jr.

    Francisco Lozada Jr. chairs religious studies at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. Issues he can discuss include Latino/a religion and culture.

  • Miguel A. De La Torre

    Miguel A. De La Torre teaches social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, where he directs the school’s Justice and Peace Institute. Issues he can discuss include religion’s effects on class/race/gender oppression, Santeria, Cuba and liberation theology. His numerous books include, as co-editor, Rethinking Latino(a) Religion and Identity (Pilgrim Press, 2006) and Handbook of Latina/o Theologies (Chalice Press, 2006).

  • Gregory Lee Cuéllar

    Gregory Lee Cuéllar is curator for rare books and manuscripts at Texas A&M University’s Cushing Library in College Station, Texas. He can discuss Mexican colonial history, the Mexican immigrant experience and crypto-Judaism (practicing Jews publicly passing as Catholic) in the New Spain.

  • Arturo Chavez

    Arturo Chavez is president of the Mexican American Cultural Center in San Antonio, Texas. The center is a leading advocacy group for Latino Catholics and immigrants.

  • Fernando Segovia

    Fernando Segovia, professor of New Testament and early Christianity at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., has written about the challenge and promise of Latino spirituality. He co-edited A Dream Unfinished: Theological Reflections on America from the Margins (Orbis Books, 2001).

     

  • Daisy Machado

    The Rev. Daisy Machado is Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, New York. She has written about Latina feminist theology, the border, immigrant issues and globalization.

  • Manuel A. Vásquez

    Manuel A. Vásquez is an associate professor of religion at the University of Florida and an expert on immigration, especially Latino immigration. He was an editor of the volume Immigrant Faiths: Transforming Religious Life in America. 

  • Milagros Peña

    Milagros Peña teaches sociology and directs women’s studies at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Her expertise includes women’s issues, border issues and Hispanic ministry in the United States. Her books include, as co-author, Emerging Voices, Urgent Choices: Essays on Latino/a Religious Leadership (Brill Academic Publishers, 2006).

  • Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado

    Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado is an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. Her interests include Afro-Cuban studies, feminist theologies and Hispanic religiosity. She wrote Sor Juana: Beauty and Justice in the Americas; Afro-Cuban Theology: Religion, Race, Culture and Identity; and Embracing Latina Spirituality: A Woman’s Perspective.

In the Midwest

  • Theresa Torres

    Theresa Torres is assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, religious studies and anthropology at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.  She studies U.S. Hispanic Catholics, Hispanic women’s religious and civic activism, and immigration/refugee issues.

  • Raúl Gómez Ruiz

    The Rev. Raúl Gómez Ruiz, a Catholic priest who teaches at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wis., can talk about liturgy, worship, language, clergy and popular traditions.

  • José David Rodríguez

    José David Rodríguez holds the Augustana Heritage Chair of Global Mission and World Christianity at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where he also teaches systematic theology and directs advanced programs of study. His interests include Hispanic Christian theologies, Latino ministry, ethics, world Christianity and missions.

  • Luis Rivera-Rodriguez

    Luis Rivera-Rodriguez, associate professor of theology and director of the Center for the Study of Latino/a Theology and Ministry at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, wrote the article on “Liberation Theology” in the Encyclopedia of Religion and War (Routledge, 2004).

  • Gary Riebe-Estrella

    The Rev. Gary Riebe-Estrella is a Catholic priest and dean emeritus at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Ill. He can discuss education and placement of clergy, congregational issues, U.S. Latino Catholics, and Mexican popular religion. He co-edited Horizons of the Sacred: Mexican Traditions in U.S. Catholicism (2002).

  • Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández

    Carmen M. Nanko-Fernández is professor of Hispanic theology and ministry and director of the Hispanic Theology and Ministry Program at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. She is a past president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States and has co-chaired the American Academy of Religion’s Latina/o Religion, Culture and Society Group. Her expertise includes pastoral theology, immigration/migration, public theology, language and popular culture.

  • José Irizarry

    José Irizarry is a part-time professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa. He can discuss public theology, religious education, ecumenism, intercultural issues and the arts.

  • Miguel H. Díaz

    Miguel H. Díaz, who teaches theology at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., is president of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States. His specialties include Cuba, popular religion and U.S. Hispanic theologies. He wrote On Being Human: U.S. Hispanic and Rahnerian Perspectives (Orbis Books, 2001) and co-edited From the Heart of Our People: Latino/a Explorations in Catholic Systematic Theology (Orbis, 1999).

  • Gilberto Cavazos-González

    The Rev. Gilberto Cavazos-González, a Friar Minor (Franciscan), is associate professor of spirituality and directs the Hispanic ministry program at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. He writes a weekly column on Hispanic/Latino faith traditions.

In the West

  • Elizabeth Conde-Frazier

    Rev. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier is Dean of Eastern University in Penn. Her interests include immigration/migration and ecumenism. She is founder of the Orlando E. Costas Hispanic and Latin American Ministries Program at Andover Newton Theological School. She wrote Hispanic Bible Institutes: A Community of Theological Construction (University of Scranton Press, 2005) and co-wrote A Many Colored Kingdom: Multicultural Dynamics for Spiritual Formation (Baker Academic, 2004).

  • Allan Figueroa Deck

    Allan Figueroa Deck is a lecturer of pastoral studies in Spanish at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He has commented on the importance of Hispanics to the Catholic Church in the United States.

  • Orlando O. Espín

    Orlando O. Espín teaches systematic theology at the University of San Diego, where he directs the Center for the Study of Latino/a Catholicism. He is president-elect of the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States. Espín’s specialties include popular religion, and he recently opened a dialogue between Catholic theologians and followers of Lukumi (Santeria).

  • Gastón Espinosa

    Gastón Espinosa, assistant professor of religious studies at Claremont McKenna College in California, specializes in Latino religion and politics.

  • Juan Martinez

    Juan Martinez teaches Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., where he is assistant dean for Hispanic church studies. He is a Mennonite whose expertise includes Hispanic Protestantism and immigration.

  • Ana María Pineda

    Sister Ana María Pineda teaches Hispanic theology, spirituality and ministry at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, Calif. Her interests include women’s issues and pastoral issues. She co-edited Dialogue Rejoined: Theology and Ministry in the U.S. Hispanic Reality (The Liturgical Press, 1995).

  • María Pilar Aquino Vargas

    María Pilar Aquino Vargas is a professor of theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego. Her specialties include Latina feminism, both in the United States and in Latin America. She wrote Our Cry for Life: Feminist Theology From Latin America (English translation Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002).

  • Arlene Sanchez Walsh

    Arlene Sanchez Walsh is an associate professor of church history and Latino church studies at Azusa Pacific University in Azuza, Calif. She is an authority on Latino evangelicals. Her books include Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self and Society (Columbia University Press, 2003).

     

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