Saints, Spirits, and Madonnas: The Everyday Religion of Latina Culture

Submitted by Genevieve Bleidner '13 on April 22, 2010

On April 7, 2010, Fairfield welcomed to its campus Michelle Gonzalez, Ph. D., assistant professor of Religious Studies at the University of Miami, for a talk titled “Saints, Spirits, and Madonnas: The Everyday Religion of Latina Culture”. The event, which took place in the Dolan School of Business Dining room at 7:30 p.m., was co-sponsored by the Latin American and Caribbean Studies, the Center for Catholic Studies, Campus Ministry, Women’s Studies, Office of Mission and Identity, Department of Religious Studies, and Patricia Brennan.

Ms. Gonzalez discussed several topics, from what the image of Mary means to Latinas in different Latin American countries, to the many cultural and ethnic differences between the historical Mary and interpretations of Mary today. She noted that Mary is not only a spiritual figure in the majority of Latina communities, but she is also a person with whom Latinas speak and turn to for strength and guidance. She acknowledged the Latina emphasis on suffering, but also emphasized that Latinas never allow suffering to be the last word. Justice is also a key aspect of Latina spirituality.

Those who attended learned about the spiritual intimacy that Latinas have with religious figures such as Mary, and how Latinas view everyday things as sacred. This wedding of Catholic ideas and values with daily life is important to Latinas and their culture. The ownership of their faith and deep engagement with their spirituality is amazing and inspiring.

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